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You know on forms where they ask you what your sex or gender is? (Like those are interchangeable.) And they ask you ‘male’ or ‘female? (In that order.) Those really irritate me. I thought a few weeks ago about adding more options or writing a note about how limited that is on the form.

Because it is very limiting. If it’s medical and it asks for sex, is a trans man who hasn’t transitioned meant to tick ‘female’? What about genderqueer people or intersex people or…? And not only that, but there’s so much more potential for harm, from humiliation to inappropriate medical care.

The other day, I took a survey. I ticked the ‘F’ box, because I identify as female and am in the sort of body conventionally defined as female, but added a note about how limited the binary options provided were and suggested an ‘other’ space to fill out. Which is problematic, obviously, but that’s what I thought of at the time, in the initial excitement of subversion and in the tradition of forms. Maybe ‘Something else’ would have been better. I felt pretty good.

A few days later, I was filling in a medical form when I came across the same thing. This time, I just kept my head down, ticked the ‘F’ box and quietly moved onto the next thing. As suggested by the nature of the form, I was feeling a little vulnerable and just wanted to do it “right” so that I got what I needed.

So I feel like I failed all of you out there, those of you who don’t fit the gender binary. Yeah, I’m one of those perfectionist people. But this got me thinking. There are times when I am an activist and there are times when I just let it go. Sometimes I speak my mind about sex education or exploitation of workers or contraception and sometimes I just stay quiet. I know you’re all going to say that that’s acceptable, of course, we can’t be switched on constantly. I still want to think about it.

We none of us live up to our ideology. We can’t. It’s good to do good work where we can. If it’s a question of safety, I like to employ the ‘live to fight another day’ principle. This includes burnout; you do what you can, when you can, where you can.

I’m going to try looking for the gaps. There are probably patterns in the things I leave out, maybe a certain issue I don’t feel safe speaking up about or certain people I don’t feel safe speaking up among. Probably? Who am I kidding? I know that for a fact. There are plenty of “progressive” spaces I don’t feel safe speaking up in as well. In finding the patterns, maybe I can work out ways to bolster my safety and work on what I want to work on.

I also get irritated when they ask for marital status when that has absolutely no bearing on anything they could need to know. Isn’t asking for one’s title good enough? Are they trying to determine whether to defer to a woman’s husband in “important matters” or something? Maybe I should write in ‘no business of yours’ next time.