Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Got it - my Gender Recognition Certificate!

If you caught the 'Hot News' section in yesterday's post, you'll be primed on this fantastic development. For everyone else, this is what I have to say about it after a night's sleep.

First, my profound sympathy to anyone who would like to have such a Certificate, but can't get one because they cannot qualify under the present statute. The chief persons concerned are those in a pre-transition marriage that is working and not about to fold. The Gender Recognition Act 2004 was flawed, in that it required such marriages to be cast aside before a Certificate could be issued to the transitioning partner. This was (and still is) offensive and rather cruel. There was at the time a sort of legal logic to it, and some political and religious sensibilities were pandered to. But a special exception could have been made, and was not. And there the law will probably remain stuck until EU pressure forces a change. Please forgive me then if I stray into any euphoria or jubilation that may hurt or offend.

Second, this post applies only to how things are in the UK, not elsewhere. My certificate won't cut any ice in France, for instance.

Third, although it's practical and informative to say 'I'm a legal woman now' to any bod in the street, and although it's perfectly true that I've suddenly acquired all the legal rights (and responsibilities) of any female person, the Certificate no more makes me a 'proper woman' than my surgery did, or my change of name did, or securing a 'female' passport did. How I am perceived in the world depends on my appearance, voice, manner, movements and attitude. I mustn't relax my efforts to keep these things up to the mark. Having a bit of paper tucked away at home that says that I'm forever female (and indeed always have been) will not on its own win me universal public acceptance. I was a de facto woman before this week; now I'm also 'street-legal'; but it means nothing much to the average non-trans person.

Actually, I think there will be a small difference henceforth. Gaining this Certificate has already had a big psychological effect on me. I am walking taller, because I am now unchallengeable. I may yet face people who will question my right to exist, but if they have intelligence enough to know how the law works in this country, then the Certificate will force them to back off. There is no answer to it. It's the Last Word. There is no longer any question of being forced to do what a man does; or being debarred from doing what a woman can do, except possibly participation in Olympic-standard sport, where my physical attributes might be an issue. (As if I'd go anywhere near a running track!)  I can stand my ground with absolute assurance that the law is on my side to the hilt, and that the troublesome person in front of me is completly wrong to stand in my way, or assert that I am something I am not. In practice, I may yet be refused entry here and there by some cretinous doorkeeper, but the occasions when that might happen are going to be very, very rare, simply because I don't go to places guarded by cretins. I wouldn't waste my time arguing with them. (And I'm not going to strip off to 'prove' to them that I've got all the right bits, as a kind of ultimate entry ticket. I've still got some notions of dignity)

Still to come is the pleasure of 'designing' my new Birth Certificate. That's already in hand, even though I won't be able to give my choice on format till I return from my caravan holiday.

Meanwhile, I'm thinking that it would be a Good Thing to share my technique for getting this Certificate. After all, my application was successful. It worked. It was one of sixteen dealt with on the day by the Panel. Clearly they couldn't spend too much time on it. It had to be impressive, it had to be open-and-shut drop-dead convincing. It had to tick all the key legal and medical boxes, and the evidence of 'full-time living for at least two years' had to be easily-absorbed and compelling.

What I initially proposed doing about the evidence was outlined in my post on 18 January 2012 entitled Getting ready for my GRC application. Back then, I thought I'd prune the evidence somewhat. In the event I added to it, so that 30 items were sent altogether. I also sent a typed note with them, in which I highlighted the items that I thought were especially important. I couldn't expect the busy Panel to wade through the entire note unassisted. This what it said - the highlighted items are reproduced in bold and I have disguised references to my home address:


SECTIONS 5 AND 9:
EVIDENCE FOR THE LENGTH OF TIME LIVED IN MY NEW GENDER




The date from which I have lived full-time in my new gender


My standard date for the start of ‘living full time as a female’ is 1 November 2009, which is the date of my Deed Poll. From that date I most certainly lived in every respect as the woman known as Lucy Melford, without any exceptions.


Before 1 November 2009, and particularly after my father’s death in May 2009, my daily life was not different. However, my duties as executor for my father’s estate meant that I had to use my former male name in estate correspondence. Doing so avoided any identity complications by ensuring that the name on my letters matched the name in my father’s Will and on the Probate document.


I have always believed that this limited maintenance of my former male identity would compromise a claim that I was - in all respects - living as a female prior to November 2009. But the Panel may think otherwise. In case they do, I have included some documentary evidence dated before 1 November 2009 to show that in my day-to-day life, when not wearing my executor’s hat, I was conducting myself as the woman known as Lucy Melford.




List of evidence presented for consideration by the Panel


I apologise if I am sending too much. I did phone an administrator at Leicester to clarify what was required, and was told that the Panel like to see significant evidence covering the entire period of full-time living up to the application date, to confirm that my female living has been continuous, and sustained at an appropriate level.


Accordingly, the essential part of the evidence is for the period November 2009 to January 2010, but there is also evidence for the periods before and since. Altogether thirty items are presented.


There is nothing from an employer. I retired from my Civil Service department in May 2005 after 35 years service, receiving an immediate pension, and have not worked since. I am sure the Panel will see from the evidence that I had adequate means, and no need to seek employment.


I have highlighted evidence in this list that I think is especially significant.



21 May 2009 - eye test in Brighton
At Specsavers opticians. The printed test results, and the name on the receipt, refer to me as ‘Ms Lucy Melford’. At the time I was living at Ouse Cottage, Piddinghoe, a large house that I owned.


27 June 2009 - purchase of a Leica D-Lux 4 camera from a Lewes dealer
I am ‘Lucy Melford’ on the purchase invoice. By now I had moved into my father’s house at [my present home address], and Ouse Cottage was an empty property I would have to sell.


27 July 2009 - entry in a Devon church visitors’ book
My father was born in the east Devon village of Kentisbeare, and lived there as boy. We used to make visits back there at long intervals, but he died before we could do the one planned for the summer of 2009. I have made annual visits on my own in each year from 2009, to mark his memory. This 2009 visitor’s book entry was actually photographed in 2010, when it had become embedded between preceding and following visitor entries. It’s a much-visited church. I signed myself ‘Lucy Melford’, adding my email addresses for any genealogically-minded person to use.
I can of course only show you these photographs, not being able to borrow the book!


24 August 2009 - receipt for buying a painting in an exhibition
The envelope (stamped 24 August 2009) is addressed to ‘Lucy Melford’. Inside is a note dated 23 August 2009 from Jan McGarry, wife of Pip McGarry, the Director of the Marwell International Wildlife Art Society. She calls me ‘Lucy’. I had made a pre-viewing credit card purchase over the phone.


2 September 2009 - Voter Registration Form
Again, I can only provide a photograph, as the original form is not available to me. This shows that I registered myself in the name of ‘Lucy Melford’ at [my present home address]. I had already decided to change my name by Deed Poll as soon as the remaining estate correspondence was finished with. I expected to vote as Lucy Melford in the 2010 General Election - and did: see below.


1 November 2009 - Deed Poll
This is a Legal Copy.


18 November 2009 - NHS Medical Card
My local GP surgery in [the village I live in] had been treating me as ‘Lucy Melford’ prior to November 2009, but now it became official, and they promptly notified the NHS at large. A new Medical Card was one immediate result.


27 November 2009 - medication supplied on prescription by Boots in Burgess Hill
Boots had dealt with me as ‘Miss Lucy Melford’ since March 2009. You can see that name printed on the stickers on each packet. The photograph also shows ‘Miss Lucy Melford’ on the NHS Prescription Charge Certificate I was using at the time, valid for one year from 20 February 2009.


1 December 2009 - letter from HM Revenue & Customs
HMRC were returning a photocopy of my Deed Poll, having updated their records.


1 December 2009 - letter from TV Licensing
TV Licensing were returning a photocopy of my Deed Poll, having updated their records.


3 December 2009 - letter from a local garage about the MOT due on my car
[The] Garage in [the village I live in] had been servicing and repairing my high-mileage Honda car for some time. I regularly needed to speak to them in person.


4 December 2009 - letter from Saga about a cancelled cruise and the refund arising
This cruise had originally been booked for my father and myself. After his death, I asked another lady to accompany me. But then Saga were forced to change the itinerary, the cruise was not so good, and I decided to cancel. Saga were agreeing to a large refund.


4 December 2009 - letter from my Civil Service Pension provider
Capita Hartshead were returning a Legal Copy of my Deed Poll, having updated their records.


15 December 2009 - letter from the NHS about cervical screening
A standard NHS invitation, given to all persons it regarded as women. I discussed it with my GP and opted out, not having a cervix.


16 December 2009 and 19 January 2010 - credit card statements
On these consecutive [name of my credit card company] statements, addressed to ‘Miss Lucy Melford’ and covering a two-month period, you can see transactions at food stores, pubs and restaurants, an art gallery, department stores, clothing shops, a jewellery shop, a map shop, a camera shop, a gift shop, a railway station, filling stations, a motor accessory store, a tyre retailer, a caravan dealer, a Caravan Club main site, a chemist, a hairdresser, a hair removal clinic, and an outdoor retailer. Not only in Sussex, but at various places in Hampshire, Kent, Wiltshire, Somerset and Bristol. My intention here is to illustrate that I was constantly out and about as Lucy Melford, using my credit card in a wide variety of public situations.


12 January 2010 - Passport
I had successfully applied for a new ‘female’ passport in the name of ‘Lucy Melford’.


13 January 2010 - letter from the National Trust with a new Life Membership card
I first joined the National Trust in 1981, and became a Life Member in 1996. I have always visited NT properties throughout the year. They were sending me a new card in the name of ‘Miss L Melford’.


22 January 2010 - letter from my father’s solicitors about the transfer of title in his house to me
[Messrs .....] had handled all my father’s property affairs, and the final thing I asked them to do was to handle this transfer of title, as I had inherited my father’s house. I actually went to their Haslemere offices on 4 December 2009 to conduct business in person as Lucy Melford. The amended Land Registry entry shows that ‘Lucy Melford’ has become the proprietor of [my present home address].


26 January 2010 - Driving Licence and Counterpart
I had successfully applied for a new ‘female’ driving licence in the name of ‘Lucy Melford’.


29 January 2010 - order for a new Volvo car
Following earlier enquiries at the Volvo dealer in Portslade and a test drive - all done as Lucy Melford - I ordered a top-of-the-range Volvo XC60 car.


6 May 2010 - Poll Card for the General Election
Having registered as ‘Lucy Melford’ the previous September (see above), I voted as such in the General Election, attending the polling station personally.


25 May 2010 - sales invoice for the new Volvo car
My new car arrived from the factory in late May 2010. This was my copy of the sales invoice, on the day that I paid the balance due and drove it away.


2 September 2010 - letter from the NHS about a breast screening appointment
The date originally offered was inconvenient, and this was the fresh date on which I did attend.


15 March 2011 - Council Tax bill
A routine household bill.


5 May 2011 - Poll Card for the Voting System Referendum
I voted in the Referendum, attending the polling station personally.


1 June 2011 - letter from Lady Mary Gordon Lennox
Lady Mary Gordon Lennox chaired the Committee of the Friends of the Pallant House Gallery in Chichester. I had just become a Friend, and she was welcoming me in this partially handwritten letter. I saw her at the AGM on 25 July 2011.


6 June 2011 - letter from auctioneers in connection with the sale of Ouse Cottage
I had engaged the Brighton auctioneers [their name] to sell my old home on 30 June 2011, if they could. I attended the auction. There were no bids. But there were post-auction approaches, one of which resulted in a sale.


17 July 2011 - consent form, so that a TV documentary producer could use video shots of me in a forthcoming programme
Wild Pictures were in attendance at the Brighton Nuffield Hospital when I was visiting an acquaintance who had just had surgery. I was shot speaking in several scenes. In case this footage was used in the final documentary, my consent was sought. This is my copy of the form that I signed.


23 August 2011 - letter from my solicitors following the sale of Ouse Cottage
As mentioned above, a post-auction offer led to a sale.


25 January 2012 - letter from the Pallant House Gallery
I had renewed my Friends membership. 

I wanted to satisfy the Panel's wish to see not only the minimum evidence suggested on the Application Form that I had been living full-time as a woman, but to have as rounded an impression as possible of my ordinary life, right up to the date of the application. For instance, my credit card statements gave a clear picture of what I got up to over a continuous two-month span, and had the advantage of disclosing my substantial credit limit, which, combined with the Volvo purchase documentation and pension correspondence, might make it perfectly clear why I hadn't needed to get a job, and therefore why I couldn't put up any evidence from an employer. I tried to make some of the evidence inter-linked, such as the voter registration form and the General Election voter card, both in the name of Lucy Melford. I won't claim that I had my GRC application in mind when getting my eyes tested early in 2009, nor when writing in the church visitor's book in mid-2009, but in hindsight these items seemed proper evidence of publicly presenting myself as Lucy Melford, and so I put them in.

You might well think that all this evidence was far in excess of what was required; but it did the trick, and I rest my case.

One point I would stress. As soon as you think you are living full-time, start putting documentary evidence of it away in a special file. Don't throw things away if they might be good for the eventual GRC! And on my own experience, stuff addressed to you that shows your female name and full address and reveals something unmistakable about your ordinary way of life is the best possible evidence. Even better, if it's in any way 'official' or 'public'.

I hope anyone following has the same success with their application as I have.

And now it's nearly time time for lunch, and then the Off.

5 comments:

  1. A tinge of jealousy until you said it made you walk taller!

    I am too tall already...

    ReplyDelete
  2. I think you deserve a break after writing all that down Lucy!

    Shirley Anne xxx

    ReplyDelete
  3. Caroline, no jealousy is warranted! I dare say there are negative aspects to this that I've not thought of and have yet to discover. Though I'm damned if I can think of any. As for walking tall, I'm speaking metaphorically, although my self-confidence really is sky high now.

    Shirley Anne, much of the post was copied and pasted from the Word document containing my note for the Panel - so it wasn't really a huge task. My on-holiday posts are going to be much briefer!

    Lucy

    ReplyDelete
  4. Congratulations, Lucy. My GRC arrived this week too so perhaps our cases were considered in the same sitting of the panel. I don't think it is about to make any change to my life but it is good to have another part of the incongruity removed.

    ReplyDelete
  5. As one who cannot entertain a GRC without first nullifying my marriage - and that is totally out of the question - I thank you sincerely for your sympathy. I'm resolved to content myself with a legal change of name, and a new passport and driving licence that declares me to be female.

    But that doesn't stop me sharing in your elation and wishing you many, many contented years, legally and irrefutably the woman that you so obviously are.

    ReplyDelete

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Lucy Melford