June 29, 2015

No Job is Finished....

...until the paperwork is done.

I underwent a little change of identity back in 2003, before this blog started up. And though it rarely rises to the surface, I'm also not particular shy or closeted - it's just not on the front burner these days. I don't experience the same levels of discrimination or struggle that many members of Identity Trans do, so I'd just as soon step aside to permit other voices, other experiences to be heard, especially those less privileged and in more need of protection, legislation, assistance, or support.*

Now, part of transitioning is dealing with paperwork - things like state ID (driver's license, legal name change, birth certificate), federal ID (passport, social security, IRS), and the myriad of other places (credit cards, business affiliations, banks, insurance, employment) which keep track of names and/or gender. And most of this stuff I dealt with back in 2003-4, when it was all kinda fresh.

A legal name change and CT driver's license were pretty easy, even back in '03. Social Security and Passport required some sort of confirmation surgery, back in the day, and I was privileged enough, and chose to undergo that sort of surgery, so also not too much of a big deal. But I was unfortunate enough to be born in New York City (St. Albans Naval Hospital in Queens, now a VA Extended Care Facility) and well, the City of New York was, for many years, a b*tch when it came to birth certificate changes.

Even for someone as privileged as I, the hoops needed to get a birth certificate amended were significant - a post-surgical psych exam, for instance (what would they do if I failed?), a post-surgical physical exam as well, both by NY State Certified docs. I have a file folder full of rejected applications from back in the day, and I simply gave up.

To be honest, it has not been that big a deal. With congruent state ID (driver's license) and federal ID (passport and social security), I have never needed my birth certificate for anything. If I had, I was also not particularly shy about disclosing my history (via my birth certificate and name change documents). So I've just never bothered. In fact, I've had a little bit of perverse pride in not getting it done, having grown up reading Orwell's 1984 and the Ministry of Truth. I lived 40 years under one name and gender, and it feels a little disingenuous to be effacing or rubbing out that part of my life. 

However, I've recently been on a "getting crap done" tear in my life - long dormant projects like cleaning, organizing, tossing, engaging. One of those was a corporate pension (I vested back in the 90s and so I'll get a little check every month when I retire) and they lost track of me (and never got word of my transition) so as I put together the paperwork for them, I looked into the NYC birth certificate amendment procedures. I know they've lightened up considerably (no longer requiring confirming surgery for instance). And although there are still some small hoops to jump through (a medical professional affidavit) it's minimal.

So I spent some time this afternoon collecting all the pieces - the affidavit from my doctor came in, and although it's probably not all required, I sent an original name change document (I got a bunch of them back in 2003 and have hung on to them), copies of my present documentation (passport and state ID), my NYC birth certificate, even my St. Albans Naval Hospital birth certificate with my footprints and fingerprints, time of birth (4:55 am, sorry Mom), birth weight (7 lbs. 4 oz.)

What does it mean? Who knows. In some ways, my lack of urgency to get this done reflects my privilege as a person who does not struggle with gender these days, whose gender is by and large recognized, honored, unquestioned, and who can live comfortable with a certain level of openness. So in a weird sort of way, putting the final nail in the coffin of my former identity gives me solidarity with those that are not so privileged, for whom a congruent birth certificate might be a matter of life or death. 

It will be in the mail tomorrow.  Be interesting to see how long it will take to come back, and if it will go through smoothly or if I will have one more rejection letter to add to the file.....

Edit: And the new birth certificate was delivered to me on Thursday, July 23 (very speedy service) along with an almost effusive cover letter inviting me to participate in a trans health / needs survey. What a difference a decade makes.....

* One (of several) reasons that I'm not a fan of Caitlyn Jenner's public transition, but that's another story, and one that I probably will not blog about. 

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