Open letter: Dutch trans ID bill

A hand holding an envelope in the colours of trans flag

DWH Delft organised a letter writing campaign to advocate for the passage of the trans ID bill in the Netherlands.

As much as I'd personally prefer to remove gender markers from official documents entirely, I believe that if it has to be there, it should at least be reasonably easy for trans people to make it reflect their real gender. So here's my letter:

Dear representative,

When most people think about trans folks, they focus only on the gender incongruence of our bodies – the aspect in which we do indeed require and appreciate the expertise of medical professionals. There are, however, so many other aspects of life where all that’s needed for our happiness and wellbeing is just understanding and acceptance. Human gender is not defined by our bodies – we all express it through things like clothes, makeup, language, name, etc.; we all care how other people see us; we care if our official documents properly describe facts about us.

Being trans is not just a medical issue. For many of us the social and legal aspects of transition might actually be more important than the medical side. What we need first and foremost is respect for our identity. That’s why I’m voicing my support for the proposed self-ID bill (wijziging vermelding geslacht in geborteakte).

Each person knows best what gender they are, it’s as simple as that. The very same way that you know which gender you are, trans people do too. It might take a while to figure out, gender is a complex concept after all, but eventually we arrive at a conclusion that’s as obvious to us as the air we breathe.

But there’s an important difference between the transgender and cisgender experience: nobody requires a doctor’s opinion to confirm that a cis person is really the gender they say they are. Our society and our government just take it for granted that if someone’s declared gender matches the genitals they were observed to have at birth, then they must be telling the truth. All the trans community is asking for is for the same respect and trust to be extended to us. We know who we are – and we need the government to acknowledge that.

It's been confirmed by multiple studies that gender affirmation improves mental health and saves lives. The government has the moral responsibility to listen to the voice of science. Requiring expert assessments not only is an unnecessary hurdle for trans people, but also isn’t supported by the experts themselves. Simplifying the procedure of changing the gender marker on the birth certificate is going to make it easier for trans people to participate in public life and government services. It costs nothing to respect someone’s identity, and it costs next to nothing to make one’s official documents reflect that reality.

Allowing an “X” marker would be an amazing step towards affirming people like myself, whose gender doesn’t fit neatly in the categories of “man” and “woman”. Making the public life inclusive for intersex and nonbinary people is an important part of the Netherlands staying a progressive and diverse country – which are some of the most important qualities that made me fall in love with this place and call it my new home.

Opponents of this bill make a lot of arguments that aren’t reflected in the reality of what the actual effects of such self-ID legislation would be. They claim that fairness in sports would be negatively affected, even though most associations already have their own rules and don’t rely on a gender marker in documents. They claim that bathrooms would become less safe, even though there’s no evidence that being trans inclusive had increased sexual violence in bathrooms anywhere in the world, and even though this legislation doesn’t even affect the rules regarding access to gendered bathrooms – it’s still just as legal to enter a bathroom regardless of one’s gender, and it’s still just as illegal to harass and rape people. Painting the entire community of trans people as potential rapists is just despicable, and arguing that the only thing stopping actual rapists from harassing people in bathrooms is somehow the gender marker in their documents, that’s simply ridiculous.

There’s no evidence of potential systemic abuse of a self-ID system, and the bill has safeguards in place to ensure that people don’t change their marker on a whim. It also addresses the rare situations of detransition. Essentially – there’s no reason to believe that simplifying the way that trans people can adjust their gender marker to better reflect reality would in any way be a systemic issue or otherwise harmful to the society. What is harmful, though, is all the disinformation and unethical attacks targeting minoritised groups, such as trans people.

We just want to live our lives in peace, being true to ourselves. We just want our identity respected and the reality reflected in our documents. We just want the government to simply believe us that we know who we are. Because no one knows our identity better than we do ourselves.

— Andrea Vos

A photo of me

About the author

Hi! I'm Andrea (they/them). I tell computers what to do, both for a living and for fun, I'm also into blogging, writing and photography. I'm trying to make the world just a little bit better: more inclusive, more rational and more just.