General Musings

M or F Why Do You Need to Know?

By Tammy Plunkett

It’s census season in Airdrie. Have you filled yours out yet and noticed the change in language? I didn’t copy and paste the language, but it went something like “With which gender do you most closely identify?” Kudos! We’ve come a long way, Airdrie! Yet, we have to ask ourselves how much farther we need to go.

How many forms do we fill out that have boxes to check off with M for male and F for female, and how often is it relevant to the services provided? Do my teeth get cleaned differently if I check M or F? Is the trampoline park bouncier if I check M or F on the waiver?

Not only does it feel like an invasion of privacy to ask us what’s between our legs before we receive services, it deters from the long-sought equality of the sexes. Why does a city need to know how many boys there are versus girls in our community? The census serves to know how to allocate funds for services, but will schools change because of the number of boys and will the construction of a new sports complex happen sooner or later because of the number of girls?

While there can be some debate around insurance companies needing this information for statistical purposes, in order to justify charging young single men more for car insurance compared to married women, I know many young men who would prefer equality to women and not have to disclose their gender. I won’t bore you with a list all the places women pay more than men for services, let’s just say still don’t know why a blouse costs more to dry clean than a men’s dress shirt.

When We Do Need to Check Off a Box

There are instances when the service provider does need to know your gender for health and safety reasons and to satisfy those pesky insurance companies. In those cases, adding the third option of X is a helpful way for the person filling the form to be comfortable not identifying as either male or female. Adding the third box also validates the identities of transgender people, who are victims of harassment and violence at a higher rate than those whose gender identity or expression matches the gender they were assigned at birth.

In a survey conducted by NCTE in 2015 of more than 28,000 transgender individuals, 32 percent of respondents reported being verbally harassed, denied benefits or service, asked to leave, or assaulted when they showed an ID with a name or gender that didn’t match, and two-thirds of those surveyed didn’t have their preferred gender on identification documents.

I challenge you the next time you are faced with an M or F to check off on a document to ask yourself and the person handing you the form why they need to know. And I challenge the city of Airdrie and all its business and service providers to add a third X option to protect the gender non-conforming population in our fair city.

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