Gender is complicated. I think we’ve all realized that. Even defining the word is hard. The meaning changes in different contexts. (For example, what pronouns am I going to use while speaking Latin? It’s freaking hard to decide. But the Romans did somewhat use a weighted nonbinary system. More on that later; end ecphrasis.)
But the main problem a lot of people have with gender is ID and documents. Out in the “real world,” it’s pretty binary. If you’re DFAB, have a feminine name (mine’s feminine in pretty much every Indo-European language out there), but present as masculine/male (which I’d likely do if I ever have time to get a proper binder), the discrepancy can make people very upset. I have to dress relatively femininely around my hometown, so I haven’t encountered this problem yet, but I fear that someday soon I’ll have my credit card or check refused because my name doesn’t match my gender presentation.
So that brings me to gender in terms of Identification. The other day, I got my PA ID out of my wallet and looked at it. SEX: F. I laughed wryly. “Sex” refers to physical anatomy, and in that regard, I am definitely female. A good deal more so than I want to be. But the purpose of an ID card is identification. If I’m binding and in full guy drag, “F” is not going to help anybody identify me because that won’t be what I’ll look like. So I thought, “How the f*** do I solve this linguistic problem?” Removing the gender marker doesn’t work. For cis people with gender-neutral names, it would make identity theft much more likely. Headshots can look surprisingly gender-neutral. Changing the marker is the other obvious solution, but that requires enough paperwork to kill a paper factory. Adding the option of a gender-neutral or non-binary mark is another option, but such a mark would undoubtedly invite cissexist discrimination. You’d have to out yourself every time you…pay with a check, get pulled over, buy alcohol…you name it.
The trouble with the sex markers is that they are a form of identification that can only be verified by stripping you naked–perhaps not even then. ID is about what can be seen–in other words, gender presentation. Instead of “sex,” why not have the marker be for “usual gender presentation”–abbreviated, perhaps, as “UGP”? Same number of letters. Does this individual present as male or female? In this society, we’re going to be read–identified–as one or the other. If an ID card is about physical identification, it might as well be set up so it works as such.
Edit on Dec. 11: And then the Sage Smith story broke. The police put a male gender marker on the missing posters even though she presents as female. How likely is she to be found?