Sometimes, its not all about t’tranz

There are times – there really are – when a certain sort of trans determination to make issues all about t’tranz, and therefore miss the fact that the interests of other groups, other communities might need to be taken into account is just a tad irritating.

Other times, its quite worrying too.

I’m not going to rehash the arguments gone through a little, over the past few days about the subject of name change. Or rather,”identity” and “security”. Well, not much anyway. Rather,the question today is why a chunk of the trans community itself is so determined not just that it ISN’T a problem, but that whatever it is, its best left alone. Cause, y’know, stirring things could just make matters worse for “US”.

Besides, there isn’t much of a problem anyway: and I’ve been told. A handful of commenters here, on this blog – which does have a wide trans readership – haven’t “had problems”. So pipe down, Jane: go expend your energy elsewhere.

When is a problem (not) a problem?

Let’s qualify that. There is first up the nature of “problem”: just because one individual doesn’t have a prob doesn’t mean there aren’t issues. And here, I see issues of two types. First, there is process that goes badly, either leaving people frustrated and humiliated and having to expend disproportionate energy to get a result: and there’s systemic problem, where a process itself is ill-founded.

The first is judgment call: when is a problem really a problem? And the answer is difficult, since its really a matter that merges degree and frequency. Something incredibly minor that afflicts 20% of the population might, f’rinstance, be less problematic than something very serious (like access to cancer treatment) that only goes wrong one time in a thousand.

This particular issue lies somewhere in the middle of that – although I’d also say,given the interest from business, that an underlying systemic issue exists and needs to be addressed.

What I can report, since I’ve been banging on about this for about two years now, is that while the experience of the trans community around this issue is variable, there are a lot of bodies out there, including many financial institutions,Government and NGO’s and pressure groups that DO find the name change thing troubling, and are actively seeking alternatives. W

hich is another reason for staying involved: that its not just a case of Jane Fae stirring things that woulod better be left alone. Its me joining a debate that’s happening already, largely without input from those in the end most affected.

The problem(s) have got decidedly worse in the last decade – multiple causes, including government concern with ID theft, terror and money laundering: and that maklesthe evgidence of those from before 2000 decidedly dodgy.

Reasons to be bolshie

As for my own “agenda”: I’ve worked and written in and about IT, security,data protection for nearly 25 years. The issues involved closely match my own skill set and knowledge base: and I’m a fixer. When I see business getting things wrong, I muck in. That’s it.

And while my attention to the issue was probably drawn, first and foremost, by the trans experience, it really isn’t much or mostly about t’tranz. Oh, sure:writing about the issue this week, I’ve picked up two more cases where flawed name change procedures could have caused severe difficulties for trans women: in one instance preventing her from progressing her transition medically. But those are very much a minority.

Male privilege, cis privilege, trans privilege?

More, for all that trans folk frequently complain about cis privilege, I begin to wonder if this isn’t a place where there is either such a thing as trans privilege – or trans folk aren’t holding on to a residue of the cis version of same. Or something.

Consider. In analysing this out, I argued that the principal victims of name change stupidities were (cis) women. Sometimes it’s a lot of low level hassle for large numbers (like Banks refusing to change title from Ms to Mrs without excessive documentation): sometimes its mega issue for a few. Along the way I spoke to a small group of women who had changed their name because of childhood abuse: and these were later forced, bank procedure being utterly careless of why they’d changed name, to assert their original names in order to access accounts.

For these, organisational intransigence was not a small thing: it was traumatic,vile, upsetting.

I tentatively suggested, also, that the reason these systems were so unflexible was that in most cases they had been designed by blokes, with little or no awareness of how the issues impact on women. You still doubt that? Just head out to mumsnet, and start a thread on name change: I can guarantee you’ll pick up stories by the dozen.

Which is where I see the trans trope – the “its all about us” cornering of the issue – as itself problematic. Because for many undergoing transition, it’s a once-off obstacle: or at least perceived as such at the time. It’s a biggy, something that needs to happen at the beginning: but once done its done and people move on with their lives. So what if the procedure – including unnecessary deed polling – isn’t optimum.: “We’re OK. So that’s OK. OK?”

Unfortunate, to say the least. Certainly raising questions about how far trans men and women “get” the wider implications.

Enough. That’s gentle chiding, as opposed to Nanny McPhee-ish, er, nannying. Its also, I guess, kickback at the presumption that because I have a presence in the trans community, everything I do must first and foremost be about t’tranz. Actually, it ain’t. As I’ve possibly mentioned elsewhere: I was a campaigner on a host of issues long before my experiences here: and I expect to continue to campaign on a wide range of (non-trans) for some time to come.

That’s all.


2 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Paula said,

    Very well put.. Have you been listening to me?

    I sailed through the name change stuff, but oddly on moving here last year the NHS for some unfathomable reason decided to change me from Ms to Miss. I’m not complaining and nobody has ever even noticed I think, but it’s all rather strange that suddenly after 10 years (almost to the day) after changing to Ms they decide otherwise. My GRC cover letter says Miss also. I don’t remember asking to specify on the application, though they probably did ask and I have just forgotten.

    You are completely correct that this is a mostly womens issue. My mother tried to revert to her maiden name after my father died and was met will a brick wall of stubborn refusal from banks, insurers, health service, pensions and the works. I wonder if she would have had the same problems if she had remarried?.. I doubt it.

    Another little one which I think might be specifically trans (or just my sister being deliberately offensive) was the use at her funeral of my old name. That was very uncomfortable for me, but luckily the few people there didn’t even recognise me so alls well that ends well. It really shouldn’t happen, but it does. Something to be aware of when the time comes.

  2. 2

    debz maher said,

    have to say from a cis perspective that name change was not as easy as it might have been – deciding that i finally wanted ‘my’ name back – ie my birth name – something that i assumed would not be difficult – given that is MINE from day one as it were, i was most miffed and peeved to get the run round in various places. having established that i needed a deed poll to reclaim my birth name (which was not in fact true – a statutory declaration {£5.00}was all that was really required). i duly got one, tho why on earth i needed to change my name by deed poll to one i already had is still beyond my comprehension. all well and good – erm no, not sufficient – for passport i have to do a statutory declaration, despite having 1, my original black passport complete with photo and MY name, 2, birth certificate and 3, original marriage certificate. they neglected to tell me this until i had called up 3 times and spoken to 3 different people, by which time i was thoroughly pissed off! finally i have passport. To change bank i needed deed poll only, to get divorced i needed none of these things – tho i photocopied ALL of them just in case – all i had to do was say – changed by deed poll, driving license required deed poll and then happily sent new documents and deed poll to old address , meaning i lost one of my certified copies. that tickled me given that i had sent driving license back for change of address and name !
    So ladies both cis and trans – it can be an arduous task either way!
    also i find people who ask your name do not listen to the answer.I am Debz, have been for about 35 years, so in answer to the question i say Debz, approximately 80% of people say – ‘ok Debbie’ erm no if my name was Debbie i would have said so!!
    and as a final (i promise) giggle, on telling my dad i was going to get married (yes again) he said oh nice’ Mrs D*******’ my reply – with apologies for those of a sensitive disposition, was ‘ not a fucking chance, it has taken me 30 years to get my name back. i am not giving it up again now’!!

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