Wednesday, 23 October 2013

On identity

    As the days get shorter and we have a sudden reminder of impending winter, it comes almost as a shock to see nearly two months have passed since I went full-time. Of course, so much has been going on I haven't had time to think.
    I think I'm not alone among transgender people at this stage of transition in experiencing a mild crisis of identity. You don't magically change on transition, you're the same person you always were. So you've had four decades of socialisation as a bloke, and that doesn't magically go away. I don't mean by this how you behave or how you look, but how your life experiences affect you. So you still feel like the person you were six months ago, and back then of course you were supposed to be very different.
    I'm sure it'll pass. Better to think about it now than like some people mask it with an obsessive pursuit of transition milestones and have it stay with you for a lifetime in a ghastly closet of assumed stealth.
    Meanwhile, inner residual bloke or not I have plenty to do. Pressing cider as usual at this time of year, a bumper crop this season. Getting on with shoemaking, casting a pair of foot moulds in plaster that seem to be taking an age for the residual moisture to come out. And things to do with my mother's illness. My annoying sisters are in the air, never conducive to low stress
     Life goes on, eh!

Monday, 7 October 2013

A tale of three phone companies

    I have a tale to tell about the mechanics of changing the name on accounts with UK utilities following a legal change of name. It's not in itself unpleasant, but it demonstrates perfectly the kind of petty jobsworth application of invented non-existent laws that blights the process for those of us who are going through it.
    One of the first things I did on transition was to change my name with the first of my three phone companies, the UK's national near-monopoly, BT. Like most Brits I use them for my fixed line phone, and in my case they also provide my broadband. To change my name with them I simply logged in to my online account with them and updated my details. No need to provide any documents as there is no such thing as a legal name in UK law, they know exactly who I am through my address and bank account. Job done, not bad for a usually slow-moving former nationalised near-monopoly.
    My second phone company was the next on my list for a name change update. EE are one of the UK's larger mobile phone networks, having been formed from the merger of T-Mobile and Orange. I've been with them for more years than I'd care to remember, and have always been pretty satisfied with them.
    So I logged into the EE web site and worked through the section for updating my details. That's strange, no place to update your account name. I must have missed something. So I asked them where to look, via my social network of choice.
    Their reply was this link. A page telling me I needed "A covering letter with a copy of the change of name deed poll document and also the documented proof of gender change." Oops, I don't have a deed poll, I have a statutory declaration. And also what exactly is "documented proof of gender change"? A picture of me dressed as a drag queen? A letter from my doctor? My BT phone bill?
    I pointed out to them that (a)not everyone has a deed poll, and (b)was the requirement for documentation really necessary considering it is not a legal requirement and BT can happily do the change without it. The reply: "Just send us the documents we ask for". More than their jobsworth.
    I am physically unable to send them a deed poll, I don't have one. A statutory declaration is functionally the same thing, I advised them to talk to their legal department. I am not spending money with a lawyer to get my "documented proof", just for a poxy phone company who are demanding something they have no legal requirement for. I refer them to the case of Arkell vs. Pressdram.
    Which brings me neatly to the third phone company I mentioned. I don't know who they are yet, but I know they'll have no problem with my name change. You see, the UK mobile phone market is one of cut-throat competition. There are the network owners, EE, Vodafone, O2 and Three, and a host of secondary service providers such as Tesco Mobile, Talk Talk, Virgin Mobile, and GiffGaff who lease capacity from the network owners. Moving providers is a very simple process.
    So I don't have to put up with EE's frankly ludicrous requirement. I'll simply wait for the end of my contract - not too long now - and move mobile provider to my as-yet-undecided third phone company. Start with them in my new name, and the transphobic EE jobsworths can go to hell.
    Everything Everywhere - except in my pocket, that is.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

The bog

    My week really hasn't been the best one I've ever had. My mother's in hospital so I've been running backwards and forwards to see her, and my sisters seem to have lost all pretence of sanity in a storm of extreme unpleasantness. With the things they're coming out with in respect to me I'm wondering whether they're making some kind of play for my parents wills or in fact they just are batshit crazy. I know my mother is strictly egalitarian on that matter, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
    That's not really the point of this piece though. The icing on the cake - no, the cherry on top of the icing on the cake - came on Monday morning in the form of an email from a friend of mine. I thought I'd escaped The Toilet Issue because I am lucky enough to work for an extremely enlightened employer and my colleagues have some of the cleverest and most interesting people I have ever worked with  among them but no, it seems some of them are concerned about the Man in the Ladies Menace.
A typical scene in the ladies' loo, yesterday.
    My friend works for a sister institution to ours. She has quite a few distant colleagues of mine among her other friends, and she was sending me a heads-up about some of the things they were saying about me. The usual stuff - that my anatomy means I am a threat, that my interest in using that facility is unhealthy, and that I should be using the men's room instead. My friend characterised them as saying "I've nothing against transgender people but...", that cliché phrase of casual hate language.
    I have to say, I'm disappointed in whoever they are. I'm assuming they're a minority as my direct colleagues have all been extremely supportive. However I'm guessing they are also ignorant. Uncharacteristically so it seems for an institution famous worldwide for numbering some of the most well-educated people on the planet among its staff, but if the dunce's cap fits then I guess they'd better wear it.
    So for the benefit of my less enlightened colleagues I'm going to open the lid on that holy of holies unknown to half the world: the ladies' loo. I think those who haven't been in a ladies loo imagine it to be like the scene depicted in Boticelli's Venus, but the reality is far more mundane. It's just a room with a load of sinks on one side and a row of toilet stalls on the other. Cleaner than the men's room, more mirrors, and of course no urinals. When I use it there seems hardly ever to be anyone in there, I go to a stall, do my business in private, come out and wash my hands, then go on my way. If a colleague is there I don't stop or even make eye contact, I just do what I'm in there for.
    That's it. Mundane, isn't it. Nothing to see here, move on.
    I had a chat with my HR representative about this yesterday morning. UK law is unambiguous on the right of transgender people to use the loo appropriate to their presentation and she admitted she has received some approaches on the subject and had firmly appraised them of the law and sent them on their way. In fact the law does apply to toilets, but not on a gender basis. Under indecency law if anyone does anything inappropriate in either loo they're committing an offence. This protects all: men, women, cis, and trans alike from sexual predators and other miscreants, while allowing all to use the loo for its intended purpose.
    I didn't expect to have to write this piece, I thought my colleagues weren't going to be like this. As I've said above, most of them aren't. I'm going to send this link around work and I hope some of the people I'm writing about read it and realise that as well as letting down my more enlightened colleagues they've turned a mundane part of everybody's day into a very anxious experience for me.

Final note: I'm on a short fuse at the moment and I'm going to moderate the living crap out of any unpleasant comments on this post. Not my normal policy but this time I have little tolerance for idiots.