2012 will be a year in which I sweep up and consolidate. All the main events of my transition are now history. There is just ongoing electrolysis...and my Gender Recognition Certificate, that legal document that affirms I am officially female for all purposes - and for the rest of my life.
In case you are not familiar with the GRC procedure or its pitfalls, here is what I have found out, and what I intend to do about the evidence required.
Applying for a GRC is an important step, leading to an irrevocable outcome: I will be fixed in the female gender. On the plus side, I will have all the legal protections and privileges of a natal woman. On the minus side, whatever legal duties and obligations and restrictions that still apply only to women. On the whole, I believe that applying for a GRC will give me a solid legal status otherwise denied. I may never have to wave my GRC in someone's face in everyday life, but it'll be nice to know it's safely in the bag, and can if necessary be wheeled into position as a big gun in my defence.
No doubt the secret services will know who and what I used to be, and may even keep a special register of applicants. But unless the UK turns into a malevolent police state, I don't think I should care.
So, in the first week of February, I will put in my application form and all the supporting documents. The process is document-based. The GRC Panel, a body of people who examine the application and assess its worth, usually do not interview anybody. They decide on the basis of papers seen. This evidence must comply with the statutary requirements in the Gender Recognition Act 2004. If it doesn't, the application gets rejected. For example, I must show that I have lived full-time as a woman for at least the two years prior to the date of application. If I can only show evidence for one year and 364 days, the thing will get bunged back with a curt note attached. As it will cost me £140 to apply, not a small fee by any means, it will pay to be careful with my evidence!
Satisfying the GRC Panel is not the same as satisfying the Charing Cross Hospital Gender Clinic, or some surgeon elsewhere. To be on the safe side, I phoned the GRC Panel administration office, and spoke to a very helpful man there. I might as well give you the words of my typed notes of that conversation:
2012 0116 Telephone conversation with an administrator at the Gender Recognition Panel
I phoned on 0300 123 4503 to clarify various points about the application, chiefly concerning the supporting evidence.
Just as well. I was told that the guidance notes were not clear that the Panel liked to see documentary evidence for each of the last two years, as well as evidence over two years old. That would be no problem at all, of course! But rather more than simply two documents from 2009.
Essentially each item of evidence had to show my name and a date. Things such as a Deed Poll (a legal copy would do), driving licence, passport, solicitor’s letters, Land Registry documents, and so on were all very good evidence.
As I had been married, I’d need to send the Decree Absolute.
I was a bit worried about being without ID and other important things for a while, but was told that they turn the application around inside three days, and return documents by registered post that could be traced. I should send them the same way.
We discussed the medical evidence. A letter from Dr Richard Curtis was going to be problem-free. What about the pro-forma by my GP last autumn? No problem - it was recent enough. She’d just changed practices: any problem there? I’d discovered that protocol demanded that any query on the pro-forma would have to be made via her old practice. Again, that wouldn’t be an issue, so long as a GMC-registered practitioner could confirm certain basic details about me. And yes, I should append the letter and forms completed by the surgeon.
As regards the statutory declaration on oath, any local solicitor who could witness my oath would do. I’d simply need to make enquiries first.
That seemed to be it. I thanked the chap I’d spoken to for his help.
This now seems to be the position. I send:
# The completed application form.
# A cheque for £140.
# A Statutory Declaration about my age, time living as female, future intention, and current marital status.
# The Decree Absolute, showing that I am divorced.
# A specialist Medical Report from Dr Richard Curtis.
# That Medical Report from my GP.
# The letter and surgical notes given to me by the surgeon Mr Philip Thomas.
# Evidence of the length of time I've lived as a female.
Phew! Not much!
As for the last item, the evidence of female living, I think I've now got a much better 'feel' for what the Panel wish to see. They want documents that show I've been representing myself as Lucy Melford not just in private correspondence but out there in public. And not just on one or two isolated occasions, but continuously, and in significant ways. With that in mind, I've put together a list of evidence to send. I've made it as varied as possible. The obvious stuff, plus one or two less obvious items. This is it, in chronological order:
# July 2009. A photo print showing my long entry in the Visitors' Book of Kentisbeare Church in Devon, in memory of my father, signed as Lucy Melford and giving my email address for genealogical contact.
# September 2009. A photo print showing my completed Voter Registration Form, so that I could vote as Lucy Melford any time after October 2009.
# November 2009. A legal copy of the Deed Poll.
# November 2009. My NHS Medical Card in the name of Lucy Melford (let's contract this to 'LM' henceforth).
# December 2009. A letter from HM Revenue & Customs, addressed to me as LM.
# December 2009. A letter from Capita Hartshead, the payer of my Civil Service Pension, addressed to me as LM.
# December 2009. A letter from the NHS inviting me to have a Cervical Screening Test.
# December 2009. A bill from BT addressed to me as LM.
# January 2010. My passport in the name of LM, with of course the female indicator.
# January 2010. A letter from the National Trust, with a fresh Life Membership Card in the name of LM.
# January 2010. A letter from my father's solicitors to me as LM, enclosing a copy of the Land Registry document showing that my house was now registered in the name of LM.
# January 2010. My driving licence (with counterpart) in the name of LM, with of course the female indicator.
(All the above are for a period more than two years before my GRC application)
# May 2010. My Mid Sussex District Council Official Poll Card - I voted in the General Election as LM.
# May 2010. The vehicle sales invoice for the ordering of my new Volvo car (Fiona), addressed to me as LM.
# September 2010. A letter from the NHS to me, about a rearranged Breast Screening appointment.
# March 2011. A Council Tax Bill from Mid Sussex District Council, addressed to me as LM.
# June 2011. A partially handwritten letter to me from Lady Lennox, welcoming me as a new Friend of the Pallant House Gallery in Chichester.
# June 2011. A letter from Capita Hartshead, the payer of my Civil Service Pension, addressed to me as LM, and answering my queries about what would happen to my pension when I got my GRC.
# November 2011. A letter from HM Revenue & Customs, addressed to me as LM.
(I could also throw in numerous items relating to the marketing of the Cottage. And I'd really like to add something from a leisure centre: but the evidence for playing badminton as Lucy Melford isn't of the same calibre - just one till receipt with 'Lucy Melford' and my membership card number on it. I made most bookings online)
Well, that's a long list, and I may trim it, but I'm hoping that it's exactly what the Panel would like to see, bearing in mind that I'm retired and I can't provide an employer's letter or similar. Several of the items above do at least imply conspicuous public exposure in a female role - voting and breast screening for instance!