Gender Recognition Certificates, jumping through hoops – and infinite loops

August 24, 2009

birth-cert_150x72It occurs to me that I’ve not written about receiving my Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) a couple of months ago. It’s something I want to talk about but I’m feeling a little unfocused today, so this is more of a notepad for a couple of aspects of it that I hope to return to in more depth when I feel a little clearer.

As someone who views her transition as comprising medical/surgical and social, as well as legal (to name but a few) aspects, obtaining my GRC is a significant step; even though it seems to have had no obvious practical effect on my life. That’s not to say it’s worthless, quite the opposite. It confers full legal status on me in terms of such things as protection under sex and gender discrimination legislation, employment rights and entitlement to state benefits/pensions, and so on – but to my mind, its primary function is the legitimisation of my identity as a woman. There has never been any overt pressure on me to declare that I’m a transsexual woman, but as I’ve been very open about that since the start of my transition, that’s perhaps almost incidental. But cis society has exerted its power to apply a more subtle pressure to reveal my trans-ness even as it legally recognises me as a woman.

The fact is, that as soon as I began transitioning, the various power structures in cis society required that I out myself to numerous people and organisations, in order to begin the two-year long process of jumping through the necessary hoops leading towards the legal recognition of my status.

My family and friends were first to know, and although my friends have been incredibly supportive, the knowledge that I’m trans has resulted in estrangement from my family. I don’t believe that a GRC would have changed that rejection.

Next, I needed to tell my employers – the physical effects of long term, high dosage estrogen therapy would have made it obvious anyway – but there was also the question of the so-called ‘Real Life Experience’ (and that’s a problematic term in itself). I couldn’t just expect co-workers to start using my preferred name and pronouns without an explanation. Real life just doesn’t work that way. Thankfully, I was working for a company that not only had a comprehensive anti-discrimination policy, but my HR Manager and my line manager had both worked with transitioning people before.

In tandem with all the personal self-outing, there was the question of the self-outing needed to acquire the documentation needed to be able to “prove” that I existed, as a legal entity, in the eyes of the various organisations and institutions that govern all our lives. Tax, National Insurance, council tax, banks, utility companies – I needed to inform all of these. Interestingly, with one exception, all of these accepted authorised copies of the Deed Poll (effectively a legally binding declaration that I had changed my name – another hoop to jump through) as sufficient to amend their own records. Given the legal significance of the GRC, you might think it strange that there was no insistence on it – although, with the GRP’s own requirement that “You have lived fully for the last two years in your acquired gender”, it’s not hard to see the potential for an infinite identity loop. Approximately it would be: no GRC = no documentation changes = no way to establish your “new” identity = no RLE = no GRC.

The GRC acts as an indelible two-way link (infinite loop) between the legal and medical aspects of transitioning, with the change of identity “reward” being the carrot on a very stout stick. At the same time, it will always be on somebody’s records that you’re not “just a woman”, you are forever a trans woman (ID cards? National centralised database?). For example, if you want to make a formal complaint to the authorities about receiving transphobic discrimination, you will, at some point, have to out yourself as being trans. Because if you’re not trans, then you couldn’t suffer transphobic discrimination, now could you?

Damn those infinite loops…

8 Responses to “Gender Recognition Certificates, jumping through hoops – and infinite loops”

  1. Rebecca Ashling Says:

    Just out of curiosity, which one of the above-mentioned organisations wouldn’t accept your Change Of Name Deed as valid?

  2. Helen G Says:

    I couldn’t change my birth certificate without a GRC.

  3. Steph Says:

    I’m just thinking about getting my GRC application together… I must admit, I’ve always been cynical about the whole thing in that…

    1) i’s another government money spinner;
    2) it’s creates yet another trail of my transition on computer systems and in filing cabinets;
    3) it was just a self-serving thing for Lady Burns and Sir Whittle.

    That said, I have started to see the benefits when it comes to perhaps securing some protection against future discrimination should I ever experience it and like you say, some sort of accolade for ‘I winz the transition warz’

    I’m sure it’s going to be a barrel of laughs – apparently, my GIC can’t just write me the recommendation I need for the application, no, I’ve got to have *another* appointment with the lead psychiatrist. Well, he better be prepared for me not being in a good mood, ‘coz I actually expected to have had my surgery by now, but due to everybody that have some sort of stakeholding in my ‘care’ continually fucking up, I’m still going to be pre-surgery when I apply for it!

  4. Helen G Says:

    hi Steph…

    …like you say, some sort of accolade for ‘I winz the transition warz’ Umm, no offence, but I’m not sure I actually said that. If I did, then let me state now that’s not how I see it. Transitioning is not a competition to be won or lost, no, I definitely don’t see it that way and apologies if I gave that impression. More like a tying up of some random loose ends, really – although it was nice to get my ‘new’ birth certificate, I must admit.

    Yeah, there’s a lot of jumping through hoops to be done to acquire a GRC – and even then, it’s not something I’ve framed and hung on the wall.

    Nevertheless, I wish you good luck with your application, and hope it goes smoothly – you’ll have to let us know when it’s approved!

  5. Steph Says:

    No, I know you didn’t say that, I was being somewhat (overly) cynical about it being seen as some sort of accolade for all the crap that I’ve had to endure just to get to this point!

    I probably agree with you, it seems to have perhaps limited effect overall on my life, but at the same it would be nice to get it sorted!

  6. Helen G Says:

    Ah, okay, thanks for that – I guess I’m just a little distracted by other stuff at the moment.

    Cynicism notwithstanding – and I have my share of that when it comes to certain aspects of transitioning – I agree that if the GRC is there to be had, it’s definitely worth making the effort.

    It does formalise one’s legal status and these days, if nothing else, there’s perhaps a certain comfort in having some form of insurance (for want of a better phrase) against the likely indignities of such things as dual ID cards, to pick a random example out of the air…

    I could have done without the hassle (and the expense), mind you ;)

    ETA: *Smites self* – Okay, the penny’s finally dropped; you were referring to my comment about the carrot on a stick. Duh me, I really am slow on the uptake today.


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