Saturday, April 23, 2005

stick it to The Man

I am sitting here writing to y'all instead of composing my second volley in what is shaping up to be some kind of crazy trench warfare with the Ministry of Transportation. It started with spook's new birth certificate. After an arduous process, he had finally managed to get that pesky 'F' changed to a more-accurate 'M', and now he's doing the rounds to get all of his other identification to match. He tried to start with his driver's license.
It turns out that the Ministry of Transportation doesn't accept a birth certificate as a valid supporting document when changing your sex. They want a letter from a doctor "at a recognized institution." Um, no. No. No. Here's why:
Your birth certificate is primary documentation. It's the piece you use to support all the other pieces. You can't arbitrarily create a whole class of citizens who suddenly have to prove that their birth certificate is true, and you especially don't get to ask them to drop their pants for you. Make no mistake--that's really what they're asking. In order to obtain said birth certificate, spook had to get two different doctors to examine him and sign an affadavit attesting that his sex had changed. For us, the kind of people who can't afford to hire a lawyer to come and do such things, this meant that two different lawyers came and witnessed affadavits for us out of the goodness of their hearts. Unfortunately, because people who are busy practicing law do not have the leisure to wander down to a doctor's office any old time in the middle of the work week, it took us something like nine months to get all the paperwork together. There was also a sworn statement that spook signed, basically to the effect of "yep, I'm a boy," which also needed to be witnessed by a lawyer. It was an ordeal, but it was one that he (and therefore we) went through because it was the definitive piece of paper that meant we would never have to go through this again.
So when spook called me at work to tell me about it, I kind of freaked out.

Let me digress here for a second to explain to you that we don't have copies of either of these affadavits, and neither do the doctors who signed them. Not keeping copies, an oversight I will never commit again, was simply due to a lack of familiarity with the ins and outs of all this wacky bureaucratic stuff. No help on that front: for example, the government of Alberta who sent us the forms tells you what your affadavit has to say, but doesn't supply a template for you. I bet some of you know offhand what the standard form for an affadavit is, but I had to call my mom. She knows because of the lawyering. For those transpeople not fortunate enough to have members of the bar association for in-laws, this is just one more thing in a long list of intimidating things that suck.
I'm actually kind of glad that we don't have those copies, because what with the exhaustion and despair, we probably would have just given 'em to the driver's license people and I would not be writing this now. Not having them allowed us to get pissed off instead, a response I think is much more appropriate.

We did go and try again at the main office, where we got the same answer--you need a letter from a doctor. The person we spoke to at their office gave us the phone number for the Ministry, and I called them when we got home. Getting answers out of people is, weirdly, something I'm pretty good at, especially when it's on someone else's behalf. I spoke to a very nice man called Laurent, who listened to my problem and said he'd have to check the regulations and call me back. It took him about five minutes, and he returned the same answer as the people at the offices: we needed a letter from a doctor. Trying to be helpful, he said "So you could get a letter from the Clarke Institute, for example--"
"I'd rather drink my own blood." I said. Then I apologized, since it's not Laurent's fault that the Ministry has stupid regulations and the Clarke Institute seems to consist mainly of people who will be first against the wall when the revolution comes. He offered me the email address and the mailing address to lodge a complaint, and I thanked him again, and we got off the phone. I took some deep breaths and told spook about it, and then I sat down and wrote an email to the Ministry, explaining our position and using all sorts of bizarre language in an attempt to say that we think he deserves to be treated with the same bureaucratic indifference as everyone else. ("Don't worry," spook assured me, "they don't have to know that we'll never have a normal life.")

That, my dears, was two weeks ago, and I have received no word of any kind. None. Which means that my next step is to compose a slightly more in-depth letter and send it registered mail. Two years ago they might have been able to wear me down, but after all of this, all the paperwork, all the shitty treatment from the mean pharmacist who disapproved of testosterone and routinely kept spook or I waiting for 45 minutes to an hour just to get his prescriptions filled, all the stupid things that people have said to him, all the money he spent on surgery and all the nights I spent lying awake worrying about it, all the government offices and lineups and inconsistency, all the bitching my friends have had to listen to and the nine thousand small humiliations I have not been able to do a damn thing about, if they think they get to demand a dick check before they'll renew his driver's license, a document for which his sex has no relevance to his qualifications, they have another thing coming.

p.s. The "no need for satire" moment in all of this is that the Ministry of Health, a branch of the same government and the only people who might actually have a need to know where his internal organs are, accepted his birth certificate as a matter of course and processed the change immediately. Aargh.

p.s. #2 My heartfelt thanks to Lizzie, Shannon and Wiseman. If you had not spent a gazillion dollars and countless sleepless nights to complete law school, we would still be stuck on problem number one.


Adam said...

Who can I yell at? Send me some phone numbers, I can't believe my taxes are paying for this kind of hurtful, redundant and wasteful bullshit.

Actually, I can believe it, it just makes me mad.

Jennifer said...

'Col... I'm going to send the link to this entry to Jess and Carolyn and CJ and Matt and Sara here in Ottawa. Matt and Sara especially will want to yell at people for you. I'm not sure if Matt's gone through this whole process himself, but I know that as of a few years ago his driver's lisence still said "f".

Argh! This is crap! crap! crap! I can't believe that perfectly nice, decent, reasonable humans like you and Alex are being forced to deal with this garbage.


Kendra said...

Ummm.... I know the head of communications for the Ontario Ministry of Transportation. Shall I send you his coordinates?

He is a VERY decent guy, and, when addressed in the right light (i.e. I can also send you a VERY nice list of media to email as well), he may be able to look into this....

(Although, if its policy, its policy, and he won't really be able to do anything to change it.)

May help, though....


'col said...

My thanks, all. I'm not entirely sure who to yell at just right now--Shanghai says I should contact the Ombudsman's office, although her response here seems to have gone astray.
I would love any connections, suggestions, etc. that people think I might be able to exploit. It's policy, but it's sucky policy, and I think we can change it.