America is a strange place these days.
While the government is slowly trying to take away women’s access to affordable health care and contraceptives, and simply ignoring national events, such as Pride Month, the American public is beginning to accept people who don’t identify as traditional male or female.
Another box to check
In June, Oregon’s Transportation Commission chose to add a third gender option to the IDs and driver’s licenses it issues. Now, Oregonians can choose male, female, or non-binary. The non-binary option is signified by a “X”.
“There are daily interactions such as checking out at a grocery store, checking in at a doctor’s appointment—and an incorrect gender marker means the potential to be misgendered and have painful and very uncomfortable experiences at all of those stages,” J. Gibbons, a 26-year-old college counselor who supports the change, says.
California also may add a non-binary option soon, too. The state’s senators recently passed the Gender Recognition Act, which will allow a third gender—non-binary—on all government forms.
Additions such as the formerly mentioned ones are technically small, but important for anyone who has never felt traditionally male or female.
Political candidates who represent the people
While small changes, such as a new box to check on government forms, are important, larger ones, such as transgender political candidates on ballots, are almost a bit bigger.
The U.S. government should reflect the country—that’s what makes democracy work, Joshua Goodman, political consultant in LA and Democratic Party activist, says.
“We need people who have the lived experience of being transgender or non-binary in government. Policies that effect their lives aren’t being made by people who can’t possibly understand them,” he says.
Although having transgender politicians on ballots isn’t as important as general cultural tolerance and expansion of the rule of law to include transgender and gender non-conforming people through criminal justice and bureaucratic reforms, there is something to be said for having transgender people in respected roles, Meg Arnold, a non-binary resident of California, adds.
“That helps to bridge the gap from fear to tolerance and, hopefully, to acceptance.”
Changing public opinion
Although having an inclusive political landscape is important, the landscape can’t change unless the public evolves a little quicker. What can speed up that evolution? Education about tolerance.
Transgender and non-binary are legitimate classifications. Once the public can accept these classifications, they also begin to support inclusive politics, rights, etc., Arnold says.
“A cornerstone of American culture is tolerance, and even if individuals are not able to accept trans and gender non-conforming people, there is something to be said for toleration,” Arnold adds.
Tolerance can help remove political barriers to self-expression and individual dignity. And understanding the bureaucratic hoops involved in transition is vital. But let’s not forget how expensive those hoops are. Hoops cost taxpayers; transgender and cisgender alike.
So, when tolerance wins, we all win.
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