Birth certificate; without the patina

  • Posted on October 25, 2014 at 3:56 pm

Suddenly I’m looking at a piece of very eco recycled letter paper, from a very eco recycled-paper envelope. It’s been addressed by hand, for my personal attention. Inside, it’s headed Passport Office. I’m puzzled. I changed my passport two and a half years ago. I’m almost ready to take offence at further hoops. I thought they were over. The compliments slip is signed ‘Kind regards, Leila’.

I hadn’t realised that the General Register Office is part of passports now. I flick the soft pages through. Like an offer with a prize, there is a draft certificate, ‘made out to you, the lucky winner (if you choose to enter)’. The recognition is a shock. I see my late father’s name first, then the registrar’s name that I recognise. The town is where I was born. My mother’s maiden name. My name. Girl.

3.1 Before we finalise your new record in the Gender Recognition Register, please tell us whether the details shown in the enclosed draft are accurate.

No! They aren’t inaccurate, not any more! (PS, can you make that 1966, not 1956? I feel 10 years younger)

I read it several times, taking it all in slowly. The real thing won’t be the same paper size as my old one. It won’t have the same signature ink. It won’t be almost 58 years old. No patina of age, unlike me. But if anyone asks for my birth certificate again, it won’t be any worse than someone who lost theirs and got a replacement. £9.25 for the piece of paper. Between £15,000 and £20,000 (to me) for the consequences of all the changes. The outcome: priceless.

Roll on a few days, and two letters are on my mat. One is HMRC saying that they received my ‘change of details’, and that my past records will be locked away, requiring special permission to access them. The other is my new birth certificate: ‘Certified to be a true copy of an entry … in the Register of Births’.

There is nothing else to do or say.

It’s like I can die in peace now I have a birth certificate. (It’s OK, not just yet!) But maybe you know what I feel. Settling, resolving, putting right, and they all lived happily ever after.

Will I keep the old one? Maybe. I haven’t the emotional need to set fire to it or shred it. Cremate it, ashes in a pot? Now there’s a thought …

Some things never go away

And yet.

Shadows remain. Not the old black dog, but things I can’t re-certify, memories and mental patterns that will take a long time to fade. Understanding that I may never be truly, intimately loved again in this life. Buttons that can still be pressed.

Some are good: I am glad that I am more sensitive to unequal attitudes towards women, and that I know from the inside how men feel a primacy by default, and can challenge both. But some are bad: in my dance class last night we were asked to crawl, and in particular ways, as a way of ‘grounding’. To me, I was being thrust into a being and doing something I am not, an en-childing, under an authority, into obeying, to conform, and it dragged me down unconsciously so far that it detached me from myself for almost the rest of the evening. It left me vulnerable to a piece of music that spoke of losing love, and then under a barrage of rigid drum-tracks that went on and on like rail-tracks, and I could not dance. These are the unexpected shadows that I cannot always dance with lightly.

Transition in so many ways is not a physical thing so much as a mental and spiritual one. Gender dysphoria isn’t a psychological thing or a mental disorder, but along the way it causes all manner of mental struggles, and leaves lasting scars. Scars are evidence of healing, but also of hurts, and I cannot say that I have escaped a lot of hurts. At this point, leaving behind all the tasks of becoming recognised, I can honestly say I am glad to be out of the fray, if not out of all the shadows.

Maybe I am less prepared to compromise in life, including at work – maybe I need to demonstrate my worth, not by where I am, but by where I can go. There may be shadows, but I am empowered to stand, run, dance, not crawl.

And perhaps I should try that tea-bag thing on the new birth-certificate and see if I can add a bit of patina. £9.25. Priceless.


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