By Glynis Christine
Almost four years ago, Jessica and her lesbian partner, Robin Wicks were married in San Antonio. `See "Here come the brides," September 14-20, 2000`. Although same-sex marriage is illegal in Texas, the state's 4th Court of Appeals ruled that you are legally acknowledged based on your sex at birth, regardless of whether you've undergone sex-reassignment surgery since. Because Jessica is a male-to-female transsexual - she had reassignment surgery in 1992 - from the state's point of view, the Wicks' marriage is a heterosexual one, even though they both live in the world as women and self-identify as lesbians.
In the debate over gay marriage, it is ironic that laws meant to prohibit Wicks' marriage have allowed it to happen in the first place. The Defense of Marriage Act, adopted by the federal government in 1996 and by Texas in 2003, permits marriage only between "a man and a woman." The loophole in this language is that the terms "man" and "woman" refer to a person's gender, not sex. Simply put, a person's sex is determined at birth, based on external appearance and presumed chromosomal match: male (XY), female (XX) or intersexed, a term used to describe those children born with ambiguous sex organs.
According to an Ob.Gyn. News article, one of the most common intersex conditions occurs in 1 in every 5,000-15,000 births; the Intersex Society of North America suggests that these children's sex be assigned later, "based upon the best guess for the most likely gender identity outcome."
Yet, there is no reference to these individuals in Texas law. By focusing the marriage debate on the homosexual issue, proponents of the Defense of Marriage Act exclude a group - transgendered - whom they intended to include. Treating the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered community as a single, homogenous group misses the point of the argument for why they want to be treated equitably.
In July, a Florida law barred transgendered people from marrying. According to a 2nd District Court of Appeals ruling, in addition to state laws banning same-sex marriage, people who undergo sex reassignment surgeries aren't recognized by their new sex when seeking a marriage license. This ruling came about in a divorce case between a man, who once was a woman (but is still legally a female), and his wife, who is also a female; the court ruled that the marriage was void because of the husband's sex status.
"Isn't it tragic that we live in a world where two people falling in love and getting married can create such a stir?" said Jessica. "We are a lesbian couple. I mean, that is the definition of two women who love each other. We are a married couple. We have a marriage license to show for it. I have a history as a transgender. All that means, to me at least, is that I had some physical anomalies that needed to be corrected before I could be true to my inner self, my inner being. More and more, I am becoming, rather than a lesbian being or a transgender being or a woman being, simply a human being who is lesbian, female, transgender and probably other labels as well."
When the Wickes married, some transgendered people criticized them for taking advantage of "male privilege" by marrying; the religious right assailed them on several counts: because they are lesbians and because Jessica is transgendered.
After the attention over the Wicks' marriage subsided, the couple settled down into their "normal" life in Houston before relocating to Minnesota. "We wanted a change of climate, both politically and environmentally," said Jessica. "In our community we are accepted for WHO we are rather than WHAT we are. That is a precious gift for both of us.
"For all the drama about the 'gay agenda' and the 'destruction of marriage,' our lives are actually very humdrum and normal most of the time," Jessica added. "We are not so different after all." •