4.17.2014

Here's a Little Something No One Told You

Milestones are things to be celebrated. In our culture we have only a few of them high school graduation, marriage, parenthood, (divorce), and death. Other cultures have a transition milestone where one leaves childhood behind and walks forward into adulthood. Expectations change. Responsibilities change. Relationships change. In western culture we have sort of lost that moment where we separate childhood from adulthood.

For many queers and debutantes it is coming out that serves that purpose. With the exception of the Jewish Faith, I can not think of a single other group in the west that pinpoints the moment of transition quite so specifically. We've all celebrated a milestone birthday and awoke feeling exactly the same as we did the day before. The expectation that one will wake up and be a totally new person or feel completely different after a single day or event has passed usually doesn't happen. Brides don't wake up feeling like a whole different person. I didn't suddenly feel like a man the day after I started testosterone therapy, nor after my top surgery (though that was very liberating) and I didn't wake up feeling any more or less like myself after my hysterectomy.

So how do we become adults, husbands, or parents? How do we pinpoint the time/day/moments when we cross over those lines and leave something behind to step into the role of being someone new or different. How does a transexual finally realize their true identity as a man or a woman?

After my hysterectomy in February, reality hit me hard. It was sort of one of those moments that draws a definitive line between the before and the after. There is no going back, no changing my mind, no second guessing or correcting a hysterectomy. For better or worse, for right or wrong the deed is done and I have to live with the consequences of my decisions. Honestly, I don't make that many life-altering decisions, I am a creature of routine.
I thrive on knowing for the most part how my day/week/month is going to play out. I get frustrated when I feel like I have no control over what is going on in my life whether or not it something I can control. And I have to work on that because when I feel like I don't have control I get bitchy.

After my hysterectomy I lived on my couch for about 2 days and spent a lot of it swinging between feeling terrific before panicking and crying my eyes out. Some of it was likely hormones sorting themselves out once again, as well as the stress relief of having the surgery over with but I think it was more the idea that I had drawn a line across my life that would forever seem to separate it into two halves: the before and the after. The girl/woman I was and the boy/man I am becoming.

4.02.2014

An Authentic Canadian Male

Let's be honest, you were expecting a dog.
So after jumping through a bunch of government hoops, getting extra proof that I am who I say I am, trying and sometimes failing to control my frustration I got my passport in the mail. 3 months, $160 a letter from my doctor, and five phone calls with Passport Canada later I hold in my hand a 100% authentic, ten year Canadian passport inside of which has a mugshot of yours truly with the letter M under Sex/Sexe. So is this another victory or not?

On one hand, I am glad that I have my passport and that all the information (that I can see) is correct. I shouldn't have any issues between what my photo identification says and my gender presentation.
On the other I am still really pissed about how I had to go through so many other steps including awkward phone calls about my body and provide "medical documentation to confirm that he/she has undergone a change of sex, and the surgery is complete" even though they do not specify what that surgery is to entail. But at least I didn't have to change my birth certificate.

I am still unclear what the purpose of a passport is. Is it a document that is proof of citizenship or proof of identity? And if it is both then why would they not accept already substantiated identification from other branches of government? Furthermore if the document is intended to provide proof of citizenship then why is sex marked on there at all as it has zero relevance in determining whether I am a Canadian or not...doesn't it? Are transgender people or non-binary gendered individuals any less citizens than cisgender  people? If not, then why do we have to undergo the extra steps to get a passport to validate our citizenship?

I have no idea what the ramifications are of travel nor do I have any idea what information is contained in the contact-less integrated circuit. Has my passport been "tagged" or flagged? Will I be subject to extra scrutiny when traveling? I am terrified of crossing the border into the US and will likely avoid flying into or near the US unless they stop being so crazy paranoid. (Sorry American friends but your government is scary.) I feel like driving may be less of an issue because airports and air travel are still hot beds of fear which result in irrational behaviours.

The Canadian Human Rights Commission may get a phone call from me at some point to see whether or not I have enough grounds to file a complaint against Passport Canada though I'm not sure that will do anything to help me....ever. I have my passport and while I feel like there was still an act of discrimination I am not sure I want to open up a case where every aspect of my life may come under scrutiny. And who knows, maybe we'll be more civilized in 2024 and renewing it will be a breeze!

In the mean time, I'm going to plan my trip abroad and look forward to seeing how things are in a different part of the world. Iceland is really progressive when it comes to sexual orientation and gender so I look forward to experiencing a culture where I'll just be "normal" again.

I'll keep you posted on how things go with air travel in the future now that I have this little black book proclaiming me an "Authentic Canadian Male".


2.28.2014

Crossing the Border: Questioning the Validity of the Body on a Passport.

I did my due diligence. I called Passport Canada and asked them exactly what I needed to do to apply for a gender marker change on my passport. They told me to supply two pieces of Government issued ID in my preferred gender and a written letter requesting a gender marker change. I did both of these things acting in good faith that if I did my part that they too would do theirs and issue me a passport with my gender marker as male.

I received a phone call this evening from guess who. Yep Passport Canada. Apparently there are more hoops to jump through before I can have a passport.

The first thing they want is a letter from my doctor stating that I have had sex change surgery. They don't actually define what "sex change surgery" means or why or how that is related to me wanting to travel. Do they want to know whether I have had a hysterectomy or chest surgery or do they want to know if someone has made me some semblance of a penis? Does a hysterectomy qualify as sex change surgery? Technically that's not a change it's simply a sterilization. And it would be an interesting question to know if they require this same letter from women who have had their uterus removed as a gynecological solution to a different medical diagnosis. Is it chest surgery? Do they ask women who have had mastectomies because of cancer to get a letter from their doctor before issuing a passport?

The second thing they requested which was really the thing that made me furious is proof of travel. Becasue I am trans and asking for a change to the gender marker they need proof that I am actually going to use my passport for travel. Seriously?

I have no criminal record, I hold down a job, volunteer in my community and pay all my taxes. I have given them ALL the documents they have asked for including my not yet expired passport. I have two pieces of valid ID with my gender marked as male one of which was issued by the federal government! Why on earth would I apply for a passport if I had no intention of travelling? Especially if I thought that I was going to have such a hassle?

Sadly even the agent I spoke to felt horrible having to ask me all sorts of personal questions. I was very upset by it all and she got stuck in between common sense and arcane policy. I felt really bad for her and I am positive that the next person who calls will not be nearly as sympathetic.

I told her that I thought the policy was discriminatory and if all of this hassle was because I requested a change to my gender marker that perhaps I should be able to have the gender marker just left off my passport. Leave it blank or leave it off. She said she would ask and have someone else contact me. Without a doubt I will forever be patted down and pulled out of line at the airport. I am suspicious that my "file" has been flagged and no matter how this turns out I am positive it will affect my travel experience. Whether I am right or paranoid is still to be determined.

Interestingly I did a little more research about Passport Canada and the genderless passport and found this:

Very recently, Transport Minister Denis Lebel made statements in the House of Commons that Canada is in compliance with the standards set by ICAO. Other representatives of Transport Canada have officially released similar statements. Despite this assertion, Passport Canada does not offer any standardized application option for a sex-free passport. But if Canada is in compliance with ICAO, as Minister Lebel claims, then Passport Canada should honour any request they receive for an ICAO-compliant passport with sex designation “X,” meaning “unspecified.”

It is so obvious that this issue is NOT about gender but once again about the body and the juvenile preoccupation our culture has with genitalia. Gender presentation is a completely separate issue from whether or not someone has a penis or breasts and some day I hope that is recognized.