The Governance of Trans Existence 

(1) Journey by Paper

The Governance of Trans Existence is a series of projects that are a direct response to my experience with legally changing my name, my designated gender, and obtaining an ID to reflect those changes. There were many steps in the process that I had to meticulously plan and so much paperwork that I had to obtain and keep track of. Part one of this project, Journey by Paper, is a reenactment of this process narrated only by the documents involved.

Legally changing your name and gender marker is an important step in so many trans people's lives and yet, there are a large number obstacles put in front of us that can keep us from achieving this goal. The entire process is emotional, not only because of what it represents (having your identity legally recognized), but also because of the frustrations and roadblock we are likely to encounter. Still, I am lucky in my experience, being that I was able to afford this process and complete it with the ease of being a US citizen.

This stop-motion animation, through an excess of fast moving documents and forms, attempts to show the emotion and labor behind this life-affirming journey.

Video stills from The Governance of Trans Existence (1) Journey by Paper, 2020. 1min 23sec.

(2) RMV Story

RMV Story tells the story of my experience at the RMV, where I encountered the most difficulty in the process of changing my name. I use blacked-out versions of the forms involved, and re-appropriate them as a backdrop for my story. The text that tells the story is written in a standard typeface commonly used on these forms and is typeset with no hyphenation, mimicking the software used to make them. However, it is orange in color, large in size, bleeds into the margins, and changes orientation, struggling to find it's place on the page. This piece is another attempt to show that these complex and emotional journeys are often only documented by stale and standardized forms, which cannot accurately depict the struggles endured throughout the process. Below is a selection of the documents from this piece.

In the act of writing this story, I also compiled a list of links and resources to create a guide that can be updated and added to, to serve as a resource for the trans community in Massachusetts. You can read the full RMV Story and access the resource here: Massachusetts Transgender Community Resource: Legally Changing your Name and Gender Marker + How to Apply for a State or Real ID

(3) Recontextualizing Record Keeping

As seen in parts one and two, there were a large number of forms involved in this process. Including forms I had to fill out, and forms I had to present as proof—proof of my name, proof of my gender, proof of my existence as Julian Parikh, a person recognized as male by the federal government, because non-binary identity is not yet acknowledged.

While some states have less restrictions when it comes to updating your ID, the federal government is having an increasing amount of control in this process with the introduction of the Real ID. We still need doctor's letters to prove that we are who we say we are. Seeing my identity represented in these forms is both disheartening and inaccurate. The standardized look and typography of these forms reflect the normalization of the governance and policing of transgender existence in the US. They cannot even begin to represent the complexities of my identity or the identities of my community. I don't want these forms to be necessary anymore. I don't want them to exist. I want to laugh at the fact that they ever existed.

Using Gel, the typeface I created, I re-typeset a selection of forms involved in this process. It is unnatural to have type made by hand crammed into such tiny spaces and repeated in monotonous ways. The fluid and abnormal letterforms challenge the conventional standards of record keeping when it comes to trans identity. Below is a selection of the documents from this piece.

© Julian Parikh 2022