Well, that went well. Very well. All in all, it suggests that I may finally have a good chance to get something done about the scandal that is name change procedures in the UK. Read the rest of this entry »
Posts tagged identity
Another day, another horror story. This one about the Co-op. But I’m not sure that’s relevant. Over the last couple of years, i’ve had my own share of run-ins with the megacorps that make up UK financial services: Barclays, Lloyds, the Halifax, Zurich Insurance.
And because i write about this stuff and am prepared to help others out when they have issues, i’ve also taken up cases with Equifax, Experian, Barclays, Nationwide…the list seems never-ending. Has the time come for a Trans Finance Watch, along the lines of Trans Media Watch, to take on a sector of business that seems utterly – and persistently insensitive, discriminatory and…well, just plain hypocritical when it comes to dealing with the trans community?
Read the rest of this entry »
Still on the name front…I did, of course, invent myself whole. There are reasons for both first and last names…some rational, some whimsical and, thinking back over my upbringing, an intriguing question mark now over “Jane”. Ask nicely and I might get back to that.
But I have invented myself with but the two names. Or occasionally three: my old surname sometimes double-barrelling with Fae, mostly in academic circles. Otherwise, though, no middle name.
And maybe there should be one.
If there is to be – and I am not at all sure yet that there will – it needs to fit two criteria. First, it needs to work with first and last names and create rhythm and music. Second, it needs to please me. Thus, in terms of rhythm, I could just about see “Abigail” working.
A three-syllable name providing a series of gentle arches linking the front and back of my appellatory edifice feels like it sort of fits. But to be honest, can anyone really see me adopting THAT name. Er, just in case there is anyone out there that thinks I might: no!
With apologies to anyone else who happens to be called Abigail, it is definitely not for me.
Of course, two-syllables might provide a stronger bridge: Jane Alice Fae. Hmmm… somehow no. Though the rhythm works.
And not necessarily sticking to A, either: A was my previous middle name, but branching out…I have a whole 25 other letters to play with.
Dunno. It is a whole new world now – not just physically. There is a tiny bit of pressure to add a middle simply because call centre bods seem so disappointed to find I haven’t one. On t’other hand, that seems a bad reason.
Jane Judith Fae? No way!
Jane Karen Fae? Nah…
Jane Lucy Fae? Puh-lease! (and far too satanic…)
No. A middle name, it seems to me, is a chance for whimsy…or at least something that brings a smile to my lips if not to any other’s. So either something will materialise during a dream some night. Or it won’t.
Meanwhile another milestone seems to be approaching on the name front. I have so far managed to change my name on almost every single document of consequence without the dread deed poll.
There are a couple of bank accounts left over…though those are about to be culled: and the mortgage, which remains in my old name, mostly because I suspect that unless I make the change at the same time as I go for my gender recognition certificate, they will charge me an administrative fee.
There is also my old credit card account, which remains active, because joint with andrea – but which I have now ceased to use since I finally persuaded BHS to re-score me and give me one of their’s. And that is where the milestone comes in. Bizarrely, in order to use my old bank account to transfer money to my old credit card account, I need added “proof of identity”: a single bank card is not enough. I need my old credit card or similar.
And whilst, six months back, I amused myself with the thought of what the police might do if I were knocked down and they went rooting thru my purse for ID…and found half and half, old and new, nowadays, that is no longer the case.
There is no old ID in my purse any more. Occasionally I take out with me a cash card enabling me to withdraw funds from the single big old account which has to stay in place cause it offsets my mortgage…but knock me down today (er, that’s a theoretical thought, not an invitation) and you won’t find evidence that I have or ever had any name other than my own.
I know that will prompt sadness in some quarters: but as everything else, it is a measure of how far I have come.
Chipper again…and maybe long overdue for me to dip my toe in the theory water. Almost.
Ready for theory
There’s a fair bit of thinking i’ve been doing over the last few months, as you might expect. Some of it, i am sure, will have been done before. After all, i come to this late in the day: but as i know very well from every other field i’ve been active in, thought grows incrementally. Simple stuff needs to be thought and said and debated before more complicated things can emerge. So i hope i’ll contribute something.
Too, i can be a bit more open. I’m not subject to scrutiny any more: no longer dependent on the goodwill of specialists who might judge my worthiness to transition according to how closely i fit the prevailing orthodoxy. I doubt that i am going to reject it root and branch. But i always have been a tad uncomfortable with the way in which gender identity services demand conformity to the gender binary.
Empathy is all
For now, i’ll just re-iterate that i’ve never seen the transition process as being about “becoming” anything…still less “becoming a real woman”. Which doesn’t mean i don’t absolutely identify as female – or whatever the correct term happens to be nowadays (apologies for the double negative).
No: it is about identity – and more: its about empathy, which i am going to write about a load more oveer the next few days. Its about how the transition process has represented, for me, a burgeoning two-way empathy between myself and those with whom i identify. If this blog has been about anything, it is less about me gaining boobs and a fashion sense – and far more about me developing the ability to share experience.
Take my recent questioning about appropriate semi-formal wear. Some women have written to me with incredibly detailed advice. We possibly share a view of how to dress and i will be taking some of that on board. Others, though, write to say that the whole issue is one they find quite intimidating. It doesn’t matter. Neither point of view makes the individual more or less a woman.
But its the sharing of the dilemma and the fact that i now have to tackle the same dilemma as countless women before me that is important.
And that is possibly why – i realised recently – there are so few men in this story. If i am developing empathy around my gender identity, then i am also losing empathy (is there a better word for that) with those with whom i once outwardly shared a gender.
The burqa problem
A good example of that – and apologies if the individual happens to be reading: it made me smile, rather than grit my teeth! – is various witticisms about the burqa and veil-wearing.
I have, in the past, worked with middle eastern organisations. No more. Some would regard me as gay and therefore a suitable candidate for the death penalty: others regard me as female and either not allowed to speak at all in some meetings (i kid you not!) or at very least required to wear “appropriate clothing”.
I’ve chatted that through with a few female colleagues and… its another of those things that really do bring home to you the implications of transition. One friend told me of how she needed to wear a head scarf: how, in some circumstances, she might be required to cover up even more. It…made an impact.
The very idea that how i dress (and i have since had a lot of this every time i’ve debated issues like slutwalk or sexualisation) is now potentially subject to policing by blokes.
I talk to female colleagues and they get it: they get how infuriating, how demeaning such an attitude is. I don’t need to explain it to them. We’re already on the same page.
and a male perspective
Whereas, yesterday, chatting informally to a male colleague, the issue came up. How funny, his logic ran: i might have to wear a burqa.
Huh? What’s going on here? It dawned on me. As far as most women are concerned – those for whom my transition is real and with whom that new empathy is present – tIt doesn’t exactly fill me with joy and even where its subject of humour, its humour with a female twist.
But this friend, colleague, bloke…its the opposite of empathy. He remembers the bloke he once saw me as. He finds the burqa idea funny. Maybe once i, too, might have. So its just an ordinary everyday piece of ribaldry. How could i possibly be offended by it. How could he possibly get why i MIGHT be offended by it?
And if i object? Hmmm. I can predict the response: don’t men have to wear ties to some meetings What’s the difference? How do i begin to explain?
I shall see: but it begins to dawn on me what the problem with blokes is going to be: with women i am gaining something in common. With men, i am losing it: but whilst its easy to spot the things gained, loss tends to be invisible.
I suspect that means that it will be far easier for women to treat me as a new woman, than for blokes to treat me as an ex-bloke for some time to come.
OK. Hands up!
Who now does NOT know the real identity of River Song?
I am now clearing the decks. I have started to do so, work-wise. I am also beginning to clear up the various bits of household bureaucracy that urgently need attending to before 12 July. Not at all aided or abetted by the fact that for some reason half the year’s big bills seem to land in April/May (Water, TV License, MOT, car insurance, car tax, etc.).
Some of this is likely to be plain sailing: some, the inevitable dealing with an eternal round of gcse-challenged jobsworth’s, who seem to think that following a system, whilst doing nothing to progress matters to a result is the way to foster good customer relations.
nPower do it again!
Let’s start wth two old favourites. First off – oh dear! – step forward nPower. Now I don’t have it in for them. I really don’t. We’ve had our ups and downs, our spats and yes, I did take them to court last year.
But for now, we’re mostly friends. For now, of course, covers the bit where I warned, arnie-style, that “I’d be back” if they didn’t sort out their identity document policy in the next two years.
Otherwise, though, I quite like them. They do try (see: I even resisted the temptation to go for the naughty double entendre and write that they “are trying”!). And if I have any sort of view of them at all, it is as slightly dotty maiden aunt, given to wandering the streets at 4 in the morning feeding pigeons in her nightie. That is, she’s wearing the ngihtie, the pigeons aren’t… oh, you know what I mean.
Basically, they are big. Not quite NHS-size. But one of the UK’s megacorps. So it would be surprising if we didn’t bump occasionally.
Failed security procedures
But back to the story. They are changing their billing system. Which means I have just got one joint (gas and electric) bill covering approx 7 months of use. The first time I’ve ever had a utility bill that stretched significantly into four figures. Ouch!
Still, I rang to pay it. Gave my name and then started to give credit card details. By way of courtesy, I mentioned it was in my old name. I am still waiting for Equifax/BHS to pull their fingers out and issue the one in my new name! And that was a no-no.
They can’t take payment for one account from a credit card in another name. Huh? Bu-ut… I had the card here. Number, issue date. Security code. Sorry. No can do.
I exited politely and, er, phoned their automatic billing system. Which instantly took all of the above details, with one exception: the name. Sorted.
But at the same time, a slight fail for nPower security. Either they are trying to protect individuals from their nearest and dearest using their card – in which case, they would NOT offer the automated option. Or they haven’t thought it through much.
Maybe there’s some legal tweak: if one of their operators took the card details and it was fraud, they’d be liable: whereas if their computer did so automatedly, it wouldn’t be. I doubt it though. So come on, nPower. Think about it!
BT Colonial Calling
Next up, BT. I suspect, BT India since the call was handled by an eager young man with an Indian accent and poor command of English.
That’s an important qualification. Because, thinking about it, it might be racist to presume that anyone with a particular accent is based in India (or Romania or Poland for that matter). But, in general, call centres populated by accented persons and based in Birmingham or Leicester do tend to boast a much better command of the basic language.
So-o. After much battling, BT finally got my name on the bill in BOTH name fields (online and paper) and spelt it right. No. Not Fay. Not Faye. That’s “Fae”. Thank you.
And then they started chasing me for a bill they hadn’t sent. Huh? Have I suddenly been opted out of paper bills. Apparently not, as the young man eventually confirmed. Though it took a while.
The first hint I hadn’t received a bill was some automated BT number calling me and asking me to phone them back and identify themselves. Er, fail. Massive fail! This is exactly how ID scams work – and, as I have written for a paper in a fairly serious journal, by adopting this approach, BT are actually lending credence to phishing and vishing scams that work this way.
Basically – and this is advice from both the Met and the Card Issuers Association: do NOT give out personal info to organisations that call you and/or ask you to call them back.
Sadly, at BT, this approach is deeply ingrained into their way of doing business.
High Comedy at the call centre
So, I phoned their general number to ask if they’d stopped billing me. “Oh”, a spike milliganesque voice replies: “you would like me to stop your bills”.
Er, no. Could you check. “Oh, yes”. (I shall have to stop this: the dialogue really was the stuff of racist comedy circa 1970, and it was clear that the operative was only getting every other sentence).
Finally he got it. He would check what had happened. Not only. He would go off and check. The line went silent, as he departed with the jolly sign-off “I am very much looking forward to this, Miss Fae”.
Really? I giggled.
Things were, I hope, sorted. He is sending me a copy of my non-arriving bill and he is doing it free of charge “as a special favour to you, Miss Fae”.
Still, I don’t like this sort of exchange. Accents are fine, so long as they don’t cross the line into unintelligible. But simply “having English” is not good enough. The grasp of the language needs to be sufficient that an operator can go off script (unlike the Equifax lady in the Philippines) without descending into chaos. This operator JUST managed that. Some don’t.
This identity lark is definitely intriguing.
Latest puzzle is my exceedingly fluffy cat (note: I swerved the obvious and rather crude joke here!).
First up is a picture of her in her younger days. Not the best of pics, I’ll grant. But I think it does capture her essential fluffiness.
Next up is a picture of a Norwegian Forest cat. Apparently, these are also known as the viking cat, presumably in respect of their tendency, when young, to sail round the north sea, and occasionally raping and pillaging their way through northumberland.
Now. Those who know Kitty (yes: that’s the rather uninspiring name with which OUR cat was christened) may well observe a certain similarity here.
That said, she is also similar to the Maine Coon.
The only real difference between her and either of these breeds is her size: she’s big. Just not that big.
I digress: at one point, she was a seriously overweight cat. I think (don’t laugh!) she suffered from issues of self-esteem on account of being bullying by the house’s top female cat. So much so that on a couple of occasions she even got stuck trying to enter the house through the cat flap!
Top femme snuffs it (now laid to rest on our riverbank): and suddenly Kitty spruces up her act, loses a fair few pounds, and re-emerges as top cat in the house.
Well, maybe. The other feline occupant is so laid back, I doubt he gives a moment’s thought to hierarchy.
And the serious out-take. Well, semi-serious. Is it fair to regard her as identifying as a norwegian forest cat: should we treat her as viking, and address her only in old norse? After all, she does dress for the role.
And we do seem, year by year, to be moving ever closer to treating people as they self-identify, rather than according to their outward characteristics. I absolutely don’t disagree with that.
But I suspect, over the next decade, that this self-identity lark is going to throw up some quite interesting debate. From Ali G’s ironic (?) “is it because I is black” to the recent intriguing opening up of a club that was previously for under-35’s only to all those who “feel themselves to be young at heart”, the issue is on the agenda in a way I don’t think it has been before.
Obviously it is a core issue for those transitioning – but it is also at the heart of the whole gender queer debate, and a growing rejection (at least, I think it is growing) of external labels unless they are absolutely essential for administrative purposes.
At a conference over the weekend, I mentioned to my audience the suggestion raised by one member of the Coalition that, unless it was absolutely necessary, official documents could now dispense with gender. There was a sudden lightbulb moment – and then several members of those present exploded in enthusiastic support.
What? Someone in the establishment actually thought that removing labels…allowing self-identification…might actually be OK. Wow! And double wow!
OK. My cat nmay not be an ideal example. I am not sure she has actively opted for the viking lifestyle, showing very little sign of constructing boats or going after the local rat population with an axe. Perhaps self-identification for animals is a step too far. For now.
I shall believe it when our neighbour’s St Bernard decides to identify as a chihuahua!
But the limits of self-identity are absolutely on the agenda…we live in exciting times.
As if to prove that things usually happen in threes, the phone rings. I pick it up to a nice man wishing to speak to Jane Fae.
It is the manager from my old bank – Lloyds – phoning to apologise for their failure to up the interest rate on an account when I asked them to. Hurrah! Interest back-dated and matter sorted.
I then mention the small detail of my name – given that their system is now good enough to recognise how I prefer to be called. We skip the bit where he says “normally we ask for a deed poll” and cut to the chase.
I reckon they are acting unlawfully in requiring documentation. I also reckon that I could help them to improve their system security overall. He listens, makes encouraging noises. Of course he can’t help instantly. But he is prepared to take the matter higher.
We shall see.