During transition there is an awkward time before fully adopting one’s new identity and beginning the “real life experience”. While I was in the stage of transition where I was living a large portion of my non-work time in my new identity I had a rather awkward experience that I now find rather amusing in retrospect.
I had been out with my friend and her 3 year old daughter. We had stopped so that my friend could pop into a drug store to pick up a few things before I dropped them off at their home. Rather than go through the contortions involved in getting her daughter out of the car seat, out of the car, corralled through the store, back to the car and into her seat I waited in the car with the little one. I don’t recall exactly what I was wearing, but it was most likely androgynous. The car was rather noticeable.
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Part of the process of transition, after the name change, but before one travels outside the country, is getting a new passport. Sounds simple, right? Maybe, maybe not. The application fee for a Canadian passport is currently $85 (Aug. 2011). Not a tonne of money, but noticeable when you’re on a budget. I decided to contact Passport Canada prior to applying for the passport to ensure that the gender marker on the passport would be the correct one – female.
I sent the following question to Passport Canada using their website on August 8th.
I have changed my name and have transitioned from male to female since my previous passport expired.
I would like my new passport, when I apply, to have my gender properly indicated. What will I need to provide?
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One of the challenges that faces people who make the transition from one physical sex to the other is what to do about one’s past. On the one hand there is a strong desire to live (in my case) as a woman and never return to being male. People see how I present now. They see a woman. What happens when the discussion rolls around to school, past relationships, health concerns etc.? There are three options:
1. Lie. Make something up. Create a past as it may have been if one had always been female, or always male if you are female to male. This means creating a new past and being consistent with it.
2. Be non-committal. Short answers, no definite information. This is somewhat easier than an outright lie and can still conceal that one is transsexual. This approach leads to less interesting conversation and less back and forth.
3. Be straight up. This is probably the most difficult approach. It will likely lead to questions and in being out. It is not conducive to being ‘stealth’. It also leaves the door open to rejection, abuse, discrimination and possibly worse. On the other hand it means one is open. People will get to know you for who you are, which includes one’s pre-transition life.
I have used options two and three at various times. Fear of rejection is what usually triggers the use of option two. This fear is natural, everyone has it from time to time. It is easy to give in to. There are also situations where option two is the right option, where it would be inappropriate to use option three. For myself option one is not an option. I will not pretend my past did not happen. That I wasn’t married, didn’t sing in a men’s choir, and many other things that have all contributed to who I am today.
For others in transition, the choice is yours. I am not in your shoes. Do what is right for you. In many parts of the world, and even North America going stealth is often the wisest and safest choice. Whichever way you go, be true to yourself and what you need.
This weekend I started riding bicycle again. One of the challenges cyclists face is dealing with cars and other motorized vehicles. My ride to church involves a left turn, at a light, to a major road followed by crossing from the left lane of traffic to the right lane and then at the end of that road get past the right turn lane to be in one of the two left turn lanes. Fun stuff.
Growing up in Toronto I was used to riding on Toronto streets. Having left Toronto in 2001 for the suburbs and then on to Kingston I hadn’t done a lot of riding since the early 1990s and hadn’t been on a bicycle at all in about 4 or 5 years.
Three years ago I began my transition. A large part of that process is shedding old mannerisms, learning new ones, changing how one speaks and the vocal range. Becomming confident in one’s new gender. [Yes ‘new’ is an awkward term here but in this context I am referring to one’s outward presentation.]
Confidence. Easier said than done, especially if one does not ‘pass’ very well in the new outward gender. Confidence, something that wasn’t always present prior to transition, despite what I may have presented on the outside. How does this tie into my starting cycling again?
My overall confidence level is fairly high. I refuse to be intimidated by those who have issues with who I am. I was not intimidated when an abuser threatened to ‘out’ me to a company I work with prior to my coming out to them. The same confidence applies to cycling on busy roads. I will not be intimidated by other vehicles on the road. Cautious? Yes, they are heavy and can cause serious injury or even death if one hits a bicycle. I follow the rules of the road and expect them to do the same. I will not let fear and intimidation keep me from being myself, or from riding a bicycle on public roads.
As I said in chat last night, “I’m here, I’m not going away, get over it.” I am going to live my life, people who have problems may ask questions, I’m happy to help educate. If your problem with transgender / transsexual / LGBT etc. are such that you can’t adapt, all I ask is that you treat me with respect. We do not have to be friends.
One of the ongoing problems for transsexual people is being ‘outed’ when they show ID.
When one is transitioning there comes a point where a legal name change takes place. In Ontario this means filling out an application, having a guarantor / reference attest that they know you, signing the document and having it witnessed by a commissioner of oaths. Send it off along with the required fee and, all going well it goes through and you get your new birth certificate and a change of name certificate. Sounds wonderful until you dig a little bit deeper.
What happens when you try to have your sex changed? Now things get a wee bit more complicated. For one’s driver’s license a letter from your doctor stating that you are on hormones and living as the desired sex on the license is enough to get the license changed when you bring it along with change of name certificate and old driver’s license to the appropriate licensing location. For the health card I was told when I went to have the name changed that the sex should stay as “Male” to ensure that procedures I may need while I still have male genitals will be covered. The requirements to change the birth certificate are rather more intrusive. In a nutshell Section 36 of the Ontario Vital Statistics Act, RSO 1990 requires that:
Where the anatomical sex structure of a person is changed to a sex other than that which appears on the registration of birth, the person may apply to the Registrar General to have the designation of sex on the registration of birth changed so that the designation will be consistent with the results of the transsexual surgery.
What this means is that any time a person who is medically transitioning and has legally changed their name is required to present their birth certificate they have to out themselves as being transsexual. It also leads to some confusion if one has to present two pieces of identification. I present the driver’s license, it says female, present birth certificate, it says male. How to confuse a person in one easy step. It also leaves one open to potential harassment and discrimination.
Other provinces are even more stringent. New Brunswick requires that the driver’s license gender matches the birth certificate – which can only be changed after surgery. Saskatchewan also requires a “full transition” (see Transgender person seeks provincial ID change) which means full surgery. This has a negative impact on those who either do not desire to have SRS or are unable to undergo the surgery due to medical or other reasons – often financial.
The laws that dictate how one changes the gender marker on vital identification are overdue for an overhaul. For those in Canada I urge you to write to your MPP, MLA etc. and push for this change. Many provinces also do not protect transgender / transsexual rights in their human rights code, and the legislation federally to add protection to the federal human rights legislation died in the Senate with the dissolution of parliament and election this spring.
This doesn’t even begin to discuss the problem that those who are transgender and do not desire to transition face when they have to show identification when they are not presenting as the gender on their identification – something which also needs to be addressed.