Gender/sex Markers, Bio/logics, and U.S. Identity Documents

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Ibrahim, Arlette
Clarke, Julianna
Beischel, Will
van Anders, Sari
Policies about changing gender/sex on identity documents provide insights into definitions of gender/sex, and impact especially transgender and/or nonbinary lives. We investigated these on U.S. driver's licenses and birth certificates to understand variability in these policies, including in comparison to an earlier report in 2014, and to explore what kinds of “bio/logics” (decision rules rooted in biological or biologistic thinking) might be at play. Results show that the most common requirements in 2020 included proof of gender affirming surgery, a letter from a medical doctor, and hormone therapy. Compared to 2014, results showed an increase in requirements for hormone therapy and letters from therapists or medical doctors, and a decrease in requirements for gender affirming surgery. We highlight how this suggests a shift to “pubertal bio/logics”: rooting gender/sex definitions in secondary sex characteristics. This contrasts with previous requirements that pointed to “newborn bio/logics”: rooted in genital definitions of gender/sex affirmed by a surgico-medical authority. Both support policy framings of gender/sex as a biophenomenon, though with different impacts for trans and/or nonbinary livability. Our study provides insights into U.S. state definitions of gender/sex, and their multiple and contradictory biological views on gender/sex, with implications especially for transgender and/or nonbinary individuals’ lives.