Medicaid Paid for My Sex Change Operation
Deborah Weiss encounters a new definition of paternity.

The court officer called in “John Smith.” A beauti-ful, big-busted woman approached the stand. She had long blonde hair, smooth skin, and was wearing a low-cut blouse.

“Are you John Smith?” the court officer asked.


Everyone in the courthouse just looked at each other; it was business as usual in Manhattan’s Family Court.

I cleared my throat and began my case: “Are you the father of this child?”

“Yes,” John Smith stated in a manly voice. “I am.”

The respondent then explained that “she” was in the process of a transsexual operation. . . .

We proceeded to the matter of child support.

“Mr. Smith?” I asked. “Can you contribute twenty-five dollars per month to assist the welfare department in supporting your child?”

“I can’t.”

“But Mr. Smith,” I said, “twenty-five dollars per month is less than one dollar per day-just a token gesture, really. Besides, how can you say you don’t have any money for child support when you are paying for a transsexual operation?”

“Oh no,” Mr. Smith answered with surprise. “I’m receiving this operation for free.”

“For free? You found a doctor to work for free?”

“No, no,” Mr. Smith explained. “Medicaid is paying for it.”

Medicaid?! I looked around the courtroom. No one blinked.
~Winter 1996

When Harry Became Sally
Charlotte Allen goes to a transgender symposium.

The knottiest legal problem for transgender people, it emerged, is how to qualify for boodle and special treatment under the Americans with Disabilities Act and still maintain the position that being transgender isn’t a disability. “It’s kind of tough,” admitted one of the lawyers on the panel. “There’s nothing wrong with you, but still, it’s a medical problem. Maybe the best way to look at it is that transgender people are prevented from engaging in major life activities, such as a teenager interacting with others.”

Another big problem (besides restroom access, which judges have so far laughed out of court) is how to get an amended birth certificate and driver’s license once you’ve had “sexual reassignment surgery,” another politically correct name for what used to be known as a sex change. It seems that some, although not all, states balk at such rewriting of official documents. Virginia, for example, simply crosses out the “M” and writes in an “F,” which doesn’t look very good. “You can always go to Amsterdam and get a new birth certificate,” suggested one lawyer helpfully. Ah, Amsterdam, where anything goes.

Question time: “What is the state’s interest in gendering people anyway?” asked an audience member. “Why do they assign people a sex at birth in the first place?”

Well, let’s see or maybe let’s not see. My own self-defined sexual identity (or maybe it was the gender my parents had assigned me at birth) was urging a trip to the ladies’ room. After that, I decided to skip a wine-and-cheese reception and head out. My head was aching from all the hormones and the chromosomes and the crisscrossing of gonadal reassignments-and I’d missed out on the hoped-for glam drag queens.
~Summer 2002