Topline: The X-tacy of non-binary gender markers

As a non-binary person of trans experience in the U.S., Tre’vell Anderson is looking forward to options beyond “male” and “female” on government-issued ID

Hey there beautiful people! Tre’vell Anderson here, Xtra’s Los Angeles-based editor-at-large bringing you my special brand of slay this week. The team here always has a lot on our minds—as you’ll read below— and the best way to get our good good each week is to subscribe to our newsletter, Xtra Weekly.

What’s the buzz 🐝?

I’ve been misgendering myself a lot in the last couple of months. As a non-binary person of trans experience, it almost comes with the territory. Our world isn’t yet a safe space for gender transgressors, so we sometimes are forced to acknowledge the oppressive gender binary as a means of survival. I used to just chalk it up to the game, marking the “M” box because it’s what I’m supposed to do. I’ve done it so much by now that it should be second nature. It was, until it wasn’t.

A couple weeks ago, I applied for TSA Precheck, which expedites security checkpoints at airports. The process involved filling out an application online and showing up to an in-person appointment to have my identification verified. On the application, they asked for my gender. Seeing only “male” and “female” as options, I selected “male” because that’s what my drivers license and passport says. It was fine, as a means to an end. When I arrived at my appointment days later, the agent searched my name in the system and pulled up my application on a tablet. He turned it in my direction to have me verify the information displayed in successive slides. But when I got to the slide that wanted to confirm my gender as “male,” I hesitated. My gel-manicured hands waffled for a moment, unsure and unsettled at being confronted with this decision in public, before hitting the green box to approve.

I immediately felt uncomfortable. By the time I made it back to my car, my hands were clammier than usual and my stomach was churning. My heart was racing. It was at one a new and familiar feeling, one I had only ever allowed myself to feel a few times before. But this time, whatever control I once exercised to navigate these emotions was out the window. My body was reacting on its own, telling me that it, too, did not like what we just had to do. 

What were we thinking 🥴?

Back in June, the Biden administration announced that we’ll be able to have an “X” gender marker on our passports—instead of the obligatory “M” or “F”—by year’s end. For some of you reading this, it’s another opportunity to note the ways America is behind other countries, as places like Canada, India, Pakistan and Australia all already issue passports with “X” designations. That said, 20 states and Washington, D.C., already allow for non-binary markers, and Illinois, Indiana and New York have passed laws to do the same in the coming months or years.


I remember when California first floated the idea of, and eventually implemented, the use of “X” gender markers on documents. At the time, I was at a place in my gender journey where, though I acknowledged my non-binary-ness and exhibited gender nonconforming behaviour, I still allowed people to use masculine pronouns for me and was, on the surface, comfortable with being gendered as a man. Over the years, I’ve transitioned away from masculine language to describe my brilliance, but I ultimately decided not to pursue updating the gender on my license because other documents, including my passport, would still read “male.” 

I did that thing that trans and non-binary people sometimes do, which is unknowingly rationalize our way into suffering. We can sometimes be complicit in our own trauma, perpetuating the various violences we’re used to the world enacting on us: misgendering ourselves because the doctor was going to do it anyway; butching it up to go to the airport because being flagged by the machine TSA uses is entirely too much; letting people use the wrong pronouns time and time again because their journey to acceptance is somehow more important than honouring our truth. 

I know that the things we do to survive and navigate the hellscape that is gender are means to an end. But upon reflection, it all hurts the same. It might even hurt more when I do it, because I know my truth better than anyone else—and the mental gymnastics I have to do to justify it all isn’t truly in service of my happiness. 

Since the Biden administration’s announcement, trans, non-binary and intersex folx have debated at length about the decision. Many—and rightfully so—have brought up concerns about how having an “X” on documents might subject people to more violence and marginalization. Others question what future administrations, those led by trans-antagonists, might be able to do with this gender information, such as tracking people. All of these reservations are legitimate and valid. (Hopefully there will be proper training and education about the new rule to help limit issues for folks, and the chance to access said training is afforded to as many people as are interested.)

But for this visibly non-binary person who already has to navigate a slew of potential issues just by stepping out their front door, I’m no longer interested in merely doing what I need to do to survive. I’m no longer interested in marking “male” on documents that don’t provide gender expansive options just to avoid whatever potential issues may come as a result. As I write this piece, I’m pulling up the forms to update the gender listed on my license. When the option becomes available for my passport, I’ll do the same. 

I’m no longer going to help the world erase my full existence. 

In other Xtra news 🌎

👉Contributor Shanese Indoowaaboo Steele talks to Mary Galloway about the groundbreaking Indigiqueer love story that is Querencia.

👉The best TikToks by and about queer Olympians. Need I convince you further?

👉The pandemic has been (still is?) a shitshow. Here’s how one contributor found light in the the darkness via a WhatsApp group chat

👉And here’s everything queer and trans streaming this month. 

👉Want more headlines? Subscribe to Xtra Weekly.


The energy I’m giving when I submit my gender marker change:

Tre'vell Anderson

Tre'vell Anderson, Xtra's former editor-at-large, is a Los Angeles-based culture and entertainment journalist, social curator and world changer who always comes to slay!

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