I signed up for college a few weeks ago and was instructed to confirm my registration online around this time of year. A while ago I tried to do it: I typed in my ID number, found my legal name, and proceeded to answer several statistical questions: Which secondary school did I attend? Do I have a car? Does my home have a computer? Am I male or female?
At first I answered “male”; went back and marked “female”; decided it was just for statistical reasons and clicked “male”. But when my registration was almost complete, I was asked to confirm my personal data: I was going to need it to pick up my student ID. I found out that my sex wasn’t just a statistical fact: it was one of the three or four pieces of information that the college considers important. What would happen if I marked “male”? My whole application might be considered invalid, although my full legal name and ID number should be enough to prove my (legal) identity. This university has a quarter million students; if I mess up, fixing my mistake would be a bureaucratic nightmare.
So, why not pick “female”? After all, my legal name is already there; it’s not like choosing “male” would fix the identity mismatch. If the system had classified me as female from the beginning, I wouldn’t have minded so much; I wouldn’t have to mis-identify myself. But having the choice right in front of me –and nobody physically present to ask “Are you sure you’re male, Rosa?” (not my real name)– is sooo tempting. It’s hard, not being able to choose what feels right; having to define myself in a way that’s grossly incorrect.
I’m going to think this over, but I know I’ll probably mark “female”; I don’t want to risk missing a semester because my info wasn’t processed correctly. In any case, I have to argue with the registration people to let me include my preferred name somewhere, so I can fight this battle when I do that. At least my student ID picture will look like me.