Believing in civic responsibility, I made no effort to get out of today’s jury summons when it arrived a month ago. I looked at the calendar and calculated I would be 3 weeks post surgery and while I wouldn’t be 100% healed, I would hardly be monstrous. I have a student, Callidora, whose husband works in the DA’s office, so I thought I’d get some extra information about dress codes:

I need to ask your husband what decorum I should practice when I go for jury duty on July 9th. The questionnaire asks Male/Female, and I’m legally male, so that’s easy, but I’m full-time Joyce now, and really don’t feel like going in guy drag just for jury duty. Would Joyce be seen as lacking decorum or insulting the jury system (the form says something about “all persons entering the courtroom should be dressed in clothing reasonably befitting the dignity and the solemnity of the court proceedings” — in other words, could being a transsexual be construed as violating this rule?

to which she responded (from her vacation abroad, I might add):

Bob says that no judge in his or her political right mind would find you in contempt of court or cause any problems for fear of the public backlash. You will probably not be chosen to sit on a jury once the attorneys see that you are legally male but dressed as a female. You might get some probing questions or they will just ignore you and have you dismissed “for cause.” There shouldn’t be any backlash and as long as you are dressed nicely — whatever sex you are — it really doesn’t matter. Any way “all persons” does not indicate gender or identity so you could argue that it is an all-inclusive policy which only asks one to dress smart casual.

So this morning, full of democratic optimism, sporting a new face, and wearing smart casual attire, I went to jury duty.

I arrived downtown at 7:45, as instructed and went into this large room from which they choose the various juries they’ll need. I brought my form from a month ago, all filled out, except for the fact that I didn’t check the M or F box, and gave it to the bailiffs at the front door. Most of this time is dead-time, so people knit, read novels, play on their PDA’s, and watch other people. The presiding judge explains how the jury system works and then hears requests to get out of jury duty one by one. It’s all fast except one young woman who is crying, and I can see the judge mouth the words “I can’t excuse you for that.” He hands her some tissues and they talk for quite a long time. She doesn’t get excused, but about half of the line does.

Today, the county had a fairly light need — 96 jurors in the initial pool — and after a brief recess, a clerk told us that that requirement had dropped to 36 jurors. Fifteen or twenty people’s names were called and asked to return tomorrow after lunch for a civil trial, then 20 names were called from the rest of us for a single trial. I kept waiting for my “George Bailey” to be called (since that’s my legal name right now), but it never came, and they dismissed the rest of us.

No drama, no outing the tranny, nothing remotely like trouble.

I have no doubt that Callidora is right that I wouldn’t be chosen to serve on a jury, but I wonder why a transitioning transsexual shouldn’t be allowed to deliberate with the rest of her fellow citizens. Lawyers on both sides of a case can dismiss jurors, of course, and perhaps they excuse jurors to achieve a racial or gender blend. My professor friends claim professors never get chosen to serve on juries because both sides want more malleable jurors, but one of my colleagues, Andrea Easton, just served on a jury, so that bit of common wisdom clearly has exceptions. Would the very fact that someone changed their name and sex disqualify them in the eyes of the lawyers and district attorneys, even if that person is happy and eager to fulfill their civic duties?

What would happen if I needed a jury, either for criminal or civil purposes? Could I request a jury of my peers and construe that narrowly to mean transsexual professors? If that sounds absurd, then it seems equally absurd to disqualify jurors because of their transgendered nature.