Navigating Sex, Gender, & Formal Documents
There have only been a handful of times in Zoomer’s life (two years so far) where we have had to navigate formal documents and requests for a sex or gender designation, on things such as a birth certificate, a passport, taxes, etc. There have been a few times when a gender is requested, and we have bypassed the drop down box, like when we scheduled Zoomer’s second birthday party. As I always try to highlight, no two gender creative families are alike, and I encourage people to do what feels right for them in regards to sex markers on formal and informal documents and situations. Here is how we’ve approached situations that ask for sex or gender designations.
Hospital & Health Records
Zoomer was born in a hospital (you can check out our birth story here). I had already told our doctor that we were going to practice gender creative parenting and we did not want Zoomer’s sex to be disclosed and we would be using they/them pronouns. I had a scheduled C-section, so I was cool as a non-laboring cucumber and I had a conversation with the charge nurse and asked what our options were for the birth info cards (you know… the blue “Welcome Baby Boy _____” and pink “Welcome Baby Girl _____” cards that go in the little cots that newborns are wheeled around in). The nurse said the hospital only had pink and blue cards. I nicely asked, “What do you do for intersex babies? Or for parents who don’t want to immediately gender their newborns? Is there a green card somewhere that we could use?” The nurse was really kind and just said, “No, sorry. We’ve never thought about it before.” So… unfortunately, Zoomer got a gendered info card during our hospital stay. The analogy I give for gendered newborn cards is this… Would you have cards segregated by race? Cards for Black babies and cards for White babies? Nope, that would be ludicrous. But gender segregated cards make sense in a hospital setting? My advice to expectant parents would be, ask this question in advance at a prenatal appointment and bring your own card if they don’t have a gender-neutral option for you. I think it brings attention to an antiquated practice that should be reconsidered. It is on health care institutions to make these changes, and for champions in Ob/Gyn and pediatric departments to fight for.
Zoomer’s sex is in their health charts and that does not bother me. It does bother some other gender creative parents. Brent and I are ok with Zoomer’s sex being documented in their medical records. Different families have different feelings about it.
The hospital staff put a note in our chart that we use they/them pronouns for Zoomer and the staff were AWESOME about it and still are to this day. Zoomer’s health care provider uses they/them pronouns for Z with ease and discusses things with us related to their sex without using gendered language or stereotypes.
Zoomer has a birth certificate and we did not have a problem listing their sex on it. As a population-level health sociologist, I see the value in there being data related to sex of infants, so that we can study infant mortality rates by sex, for example. However, I think it is important to ensure there are options for unknown and indeterminate sex, because Male and Female options are not enough and not reflective of the reality of how sex chromosomes manifest in external genitalia. Zoomer does not have indeterminate or unknown sex that we know of, so we personally felt it was important to not skew any data that could capture rates of intersex births. I also think it is very important that birth certificates say “Sex” and not “Gender” where they mean sex. Again, different gender creative families have different opinions about this and I encourage people to do whatever feels best for them. That said, I think it is on state health departments and other government agencies to ensure they use correct terminology on birth certificates (sex, not gender), and provide options that reflect the diversity of the sex spectrum. When Zoomer is older, if they want to change the information on their birth certificate, we will help them do that.
Passport & Visas
Zoomer has a passport and we did not have a problem listing their sex on it. It is only seen when we travel, and only briefly, and airport security officers don’t go on gender stereotype rants during the 5 seconds Z’s passport is being checked. Like the birth certificate, Z’s passport says “sex” not “gender” – so it isn’t that big of a deal to us, especially because no one ever sees it, except when we travel.
We do have to select a sex for Zoomer when we purchase airline tickets. I get a little peeved when the drop down box says “Gender?” and then gives a binary option based on sex, “Female” or “Male.” I think airlines need to catch up with the times and really ask themselves why they need this information. If airlines believe they need to know a passenger’s sex, then they should ask about sex, with numerous options, and if they feel they need to know about gender, then they should ask about gender, with numerous options. I haven’t seen a sex marker on the actual boarding pass, but maybe it’s in the computer system for security. My gut tells me they ask about sex and gender because of security reasons. That doesn’t make it any better though, when their binary options exclude many individuals’ gender identities and likely make for an uncomfortable or even unsafe encounter for people who are not cisgender. So, Delta representative… if you’re reading this… please do something!
Now that we are parents, we include information about Zoomer for taxes. Our accountant, who is aware we are gender creative parents, told us that unfortunately, he can’t select just “child” on his software, but can only select from these options: “Son; Daughter; Stepchild; and Foster child.” Why step children and foster children get to be gender neutral, but “child” has to be split into a “son” or “daughter” binary is beyond me. We begrudgingly choose a gendered label for Z on our taxes once a year and move on. Again, software code is written by humans, and humans can update options to be more inclusive.
Our daycare fills out a form for each child to register them in their system, and the form asks for gender, however, the field is not required. Our daycare director left the field blank, we both said “cool,” and we went on with our lives. There have never been any gender questions since at daycare. Our daycare knows that diaper changes and potty training are the only things that slightly differ for kids based on their anatomy, and in every other situation, just treats kids as kids. You can read more about daycare here.
Sundry drop down boxes where gender is irrelevant
Very rarely, we are asked about gender on a sign-up form. For example, when I was trying to book a gymnastics venue for Z’s birthday party, the online form had a required gender drop down box. So I just called and booked over the phone instead and said Z is gender creative, so we don’t fill out that box yet, because we don’t know, and gender is irrelevant for booking a birthday party venue. The gym was cool about it, it was no big deal, and Z had the best birthday and the party hosts used they/them pronouns, a couple of assumed gender slips, and everyone was fine. For Zoomer’s dance and music classes, there were no questions about gender on the sign-up sheets.
We hope this helps answer some questions for people who may be interested in doing gender creative parenting or are just curious about how we navigate these situations.