Connie’s notebook kept her company as she waited, bouncing her leg nervously and scribbling her passing thoughts.
Vanity plates replace the assigned alphanumeric code on a license plate.
X, M, or F replaces the assigned sex marker on personal identity documentation.
Vanity plates express something about the driver (VETERAN, COOLMOM, FUNPAPA, ARTISTE…).
Personal ID expresses something about the person’s gender (Agender, genderfluid, demigirl/boy…).
Vanity plates cost extra.
Updating your ID costs extra.
You must apply for vanity plates.
You must apply for an updated gender marker on your ID.
Your desired vanity plate could be rejected if it doesn’t conform to State and/or federal rules.
Your request to change gender markers could be rejected if it doesn’t conform to State and/or federal rules.
Your desired vanity plate will be rejected if it is deemed offensive, as determined by an unseen bureaucratic authority.
Your desired gender expression will be rejected if it is deemed offensive, as determined by an unseen moralistic authority.
Some people think vanity plates are cool or fun. Others think they are dumb and extra.
Some people think nonbinary genders are cool or fun. Others think they are dumb and extra.
She closed her notebook, eyes following the swinging tail of a cat-clock perched on the café wall. She was waiting for her friend Tristan, who was usually on time but had yet to show up. Of course the day Connie decided to let Tristan know she was non-binary would be the day Tristan’s punctuality puttered out. Connie wasn’t sure if she should be grateful for the extra alone time or frustrated by it.
She searched the stream of passing vehicles for WATCHIT on the bumper of a grey 2008 BMW, one hand hovering near her fro while the other occasionally jotted down notes for a poem in the works. She’d noticed other vanity plates pass by—LOVERZZ, BOMBGRL, GNTLM4N, B0$$$$5—and soon she’d found her thoughts on gender melding with thoughts on the automobile registration process.
Connie thought about how Tristan had driven them to the DMV on a sweltering Thursday afternoon the day after she’d found out Connie’s wallet had been stolen, and when Connie insisted that she was totally okay with taking public transport back home, Tristan turned to her and said, “I’m not here for you—I’m tryna get WATCHIT on the back of my car ‘cause none of these fools know how to drive out here!”
She’d thought that day might have been a convenient time to do it, since a court-order wasn’t necessary to change one’s gender on a California ID or driver’s license. But unfortunately, she hadn’t filled out the form beforehand and didn’t know how she would do so without Tristan noticing.
She’d realized then and there that none of the friends she’d grown up with knew about her gender, even though she had spent the past 4 years training her professors, colleagues, Bible study members, dormmates, and poetry club members to vary their pronoun usage between ‘they,’ ‘she,’ and ‘he’ when referring to her.
Or, more accurately, she tried to train them to use multiple pronouns, but found that people defaulted to what they assumed would align with the sex they thought she had been assigned at birth. So, she settled for ‘they/them’ pronouns and gender neutral terms, tolerating ‘he/him’ from well-meaning strangers, while keeping ‘she/her’—and some aspects of her gender identity—to herself. It hurt less that way.
Somehow, gender had just never explicitly come up with her home friends, and since she tended to meet up with her friends one-on-one, ‘I/me/my’ and ‘you/yours’ predominated the conversations. The only reminder had been the usage of her given name, which she was only recently thinking of changing to something less reminiscent of her assigned sex. But that wasn’t because she disliked it, it was because of how others gendered it.
Connie was averse to the concept of ‘coming out,’ so she tried to drop hints and hoped people around her would put two and two together. But she knew—for all of Tristan’s butch posing—she would feel betrayed if Connie didn’t give her a heads up. She could just hear Tristan now: “Didn’t my therapist and I spend a whole-ass month writing a letter to you, Con?”
Connie blinked hard to break her staring. How long had she been watching that tail swing, the whiskers bouncing in time with the second hand? This wasn’t like—
Connie’s phone buzzed, interrupting her train of thought.
Sorry Con, work called last minute – can we reschedule?
Connie sighed. Only now did she notice the tension in her chest, the sweaty fingerprints on her notebook. She was surprisingly relieved to have been waiting in vain.