It 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…