2020! And a new year, too, for the Dutch National Railways and their ever-exciting gender policy.
Several years back, the company already decided to address its customers as ‘passengers’ instead of ‘ladies and gentlemen’. Now, their identity documentation has also undergone a milestone transformation.
As a carrier of a railway discount card for the Netherlands, I have been subjected to various different genderings over the years. More specifically, the national railway company’s ideas about gender seem to have moved through three distinct phases within the past decade:
Phase 1 – c. 2010
This phase was characterised by the following notion, apparently held by the company: ‘As an independent traveller, especially one who is able to arrange their own fares, you must be male.’
That is, after registering with them as a client and paying my fees, but failing to mention my gender, I was Assigned Male at Boarding. This gender designation was printed prominently on my discount card.
Phase 2 – c. 2015
In this phase, a new attitude saw the light: ‘If you want to travel with us, we ask you to be either female or male for the next five years to come, and to let us know about these plans in advance.’
I decided that, if I had to choose, my five-year plan for this period could do with a little femininity after having lived my travelling life as a man for five years, and so my new discount card bore a capital ‘V’, Dutch for ‘woman’.
Phase 3 – c. 2020
The National Railways move with the times. Their new stance on gender: ‘Hm, now that you mention it: the letters “M” and “V” are perhaps not the most precise tools after all to identify the individuals we encounter on our trains. They offer even less information, in fact, than that photo which we also display on our ID cards. And perhaps this insistence on gender, if not annoying to all of our customers, is still a little, uhm, embarrassing.’
And so, the gender marks were removed from my card altogether.