No, not arrested and brought before the beak to be fined for laughing merrily in a public place. I voluntarily went to Brighton Magistrates Court today (Friday), to enquire about making a Statutory Declaration on oath before a magistrate. This is one of the bits of paper needed for my Gender Recognition Certificate application. The very last item to gather in.
Facing me as I entered were two court security officers at a desk, who asked me to show me the contents of my bags and empty my pockets. The little Leica in my handbag was found, examined carefully, and retained until my departure. A black mark, clearly!
Then through the metal detector. Bleep, bleep, bleep!!! Oh dear, I'd forgotten the keys hung around my neck. Sorry, sorry! I felt instantly criminalised. Fortunately there were no further bleeps or buzzes as the brace of hand-held detectors were run across my body and down my limbs. Well of course, anyone could see that I might be intent on evil. The camera proved it.
Then I faced the office staff. I explained what I wanted, and showed my printout of a model Statutory Declaration taken from the GRC Panel website. I wondered what the reaction would be. Surely they must - in Brighton of all places - get a constant stream of trans people making the same enquiry? Dozens every week. They must be totally familiar with this request? But the girl who saw me seemed puzzled at first. Maybe I misread her; but I hoped that I wouldn't have to go into a long explanation of what this was about, not with the two security staff just feet away, and already suspicious.
She took the printout away, then returned. And from then on, she was very helpful. She said the magistrate dealt with these things in court from 9.30am. This was Friday: I could make my Declaration on Monday. That was fine by me. The fee was £25, much as expected. I need not pay in advance, but I did. I wrote out a cheque, got a receipt, was given my camera back, and I walked out a free woman. The people on the steps outside, obviously due to appear in the court shortly, made way for me with apologies: how very polite. Surely guilty people would scowl and be horrible?
So Monday it is. Bright and early. Ushered in, stood in the dock, and made to swear on the Bible. Or affirm.
Magistrate: 'I find you guilty as charged. Take her down.'
The black mariah. A bleak cell. No appeal. Years pass. I emerge old and broken.
Better not take the camera.