We must support our US friends in their fight for equality

In a posting on her site dated December 31, 2016 editor Jillian Page mentioned that she had considered shutting down LGBT Perspectives. In that posting she mentioned something that I’ll admit I take for granted and that is the incredible advances the Canadian LGBT communities have made in the decade since same-sex marriage became law of the land.

At both the federal and provincial levels laws have been enacted that give us the same rights, privileges and responsibilities as every other citizen of whichever province in which we live. As well, at the federal level, and not widely publicized, in February 2016, the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration quietly announced that Canadian citizens would be allowed to self-identify when it came to changing gender on federal documents, except the passport. You still have paperwork to fill out for that one. Otherwise, all you need is provincial documentation showing the changes to change any other federal ID.

While we revel in our new-found recognition, we must remember that our sisters and brothers south of the Canada/US border aren’t so fortunate. The different system of government in the US gives each state power to make its own laws. Consequently, members of the LGBT communities, especially the trans community, face a patchwork of laws with which to conform and hoops of varying sizes at different heights to negotiate to accomplish anything. This is true even with the Obama administration and from what I’ve seen, the difficulties will only increase under Trump.

I have seen estimates that put the number of trans Americans at 10% of the population, which translates to about 30,000,000 people. To put that in perspective for Canadian readers, that’s only slightly less than the population of Canada. Thirty million souls. Think about that number for a moment. According to pronouncements, both now and in the past, a Trump federal government and states governed by members of Trump’s party are declaring war on these people, either reducing or removing whatever protections previous administrations put in place. Perhaps one of the ,most egregious of these laws was North Carolina’s infamous HB 2, the so-called “bathroom bill”. From other reading I’ve done – and no, I don’t just rely on a single source for information – this is typical of what our sisters and brothers can expect to face over the next four years.

While we sit here north of the 49th parallel or Great Lakes, perhaps smugly because we haven’t had some of these struggles, we must not forget those who went before us that are the reason we have what we do. We must support our counterparts in the US in any way we can, even if it’s only to offer moral support so that even if they fail, those who follow will enjoy our freedoms.

Cat.

Bring him to justice – Canadian justice pending

He’s coming back. According to an article in today’s Jamaica Observer, George Flowers has lost his final appeal against extradition to Canada. A representative of the Toronto Police Service will be travelling to Jamaica to escort him back to Toronto to face justice in a Canadian courtroom.

I must admit I have mixed feelings writing this. On the one side, I have some concerns for his accusers; that they will have their carefully reconstructed lives ripped apart by his lawyers in court; that the secrets they’ve been hiding for many years will be exposed. On the other side, that George Flowers will finally face the justice he so richly deserves is satisfying. Full disclosure here: I know people he dated, some of whom have tested HIV positive, so I am finding it difficult to remain neutral in this, but I will do my best.

His sexual assaults date back at least twenty years and he has played the Jamaican legal system for at least three years. Finally though, he has run out of options and the Jamaican courts have said to Canada “you can have his ass, just come and get him”.

I’ll write more when I have more details, but in the meantime I ask for your prayers for his victims.

Cat.

I think it’s cursed – update

Situation resolved.

To understand how this whole thing came about, we need to return to early 2005, when I was still driving a cab. The owner of the cab wasn’t great with maintenance, both major and minor, and I bugged him for about three days to replace a headlight that was out. Well, he didn’t and one night in Toronto I was ticketed for that non-working light. Since he hadn’t changed the lamp when asked, he said he’d pay the ticket for me. That turned out to be something else he didn’t do.

I didn’t learn of this until several months later when I was stopped while driving a friend’s car. The officer ask me if I knew my licence was suspended and of course I didn’t as I had never received any notification of that fact. He could have given me a ticket for driving with a suspended licence, but instead just confiscated the permit. With the confiscation, there went my only acceptable form of photo ID.

The Ontario health card contains a photo but is not acceptable as photo ID for privacy reasons. Years passed and I was never asked to produce photo ID, so I never gave a thought to my lack of acceptable photo identification.

Jump now to 2013. Thanksgiving in Canada is the second week of October. That was also the weekend in 2013 the Ontario government quietly slipped out legislation revising the requirements for changing gender markers on provincially issued documents. Since surgery was no longer required (I couldn’t have it for other health reasons) I jumped all over this and sent the form, required documents and the fee – always a fee when dealing with governments – to the Registrar-General for Ontario. Six weeks later I had my documents showing me as legally female. I took these documents to Service Ontario to revise my health card and while there decided to apply for the Ontario photo ID card. Two months later I had both a new health card an an Ontario photo ID.

This year, as I wrote in “I think it’s cursed”, I decided to change my name to reclaim my family name. Again, as I wrote, the Fraud Unit took interest in my application for a new ID card. This past weekend, while trying to go to sleep, my mind wandered over a possible reason why the Fraud Unit might be suspicious when I realized it had to be that it was only three years since I first applied for an ID card.

Monday morning I called my MPP’s office and explained what I thought might be the reason for the investigation. She relayed my information to her contact at the appropriate ministry. Later that day, she phoned me back to advise she had received an email from the ministry that read “based on this new information, we will be processing the application. Delivery should be in about six weeks.”

So because I forgot a simple action from three years ago, I worked myself into a migraine worrying about the fraud investigation.

Cat.

I think it’s cursed

Twenty years ago, when I left the family home to begin my transition, I changed not only my first name, but my surname as well to give my family some privacy.

Now, two decades later, things have changed. My ex-wife has gone back to her maiden name and through research one of my sons learned we’ve been in British North America since about 1850. Given these events, I decided it was time to reclaim my family name and heritage.

In accordance with my mother’s wishes, I also changed my first name to that which she had been going to call me had I been born female.

In Ontario, name changes are relatively simple. The forms are available online and are the “fill and print” variety. Filled it, printed it, then ran around getting the necessary signatures and a stamp from a Commissioner of Oaths (cheaper than a notary) as well as a money order for the required amount and sent the whole mess to the Registrar-General’s office. I knew it would take about six weeks to get the new birth certificate under normal circumstances. My circumstances turned out not to be normal.. A month later a large package was in my mail. The magic fingers had mis-typed my address at one point and they also wanted a criminal background check on the name I had chosen. They didn’t ask for that on the form, but they wanted it.

Phoned the police department and spoke with a lady who does the checks and explained my problem: “how am I supposed to get a background check on a person who doesn’t exist?” She told me how to do it, so off I went to my local station, filled out the form and paid the fee. Two weeks later I received the form back, properly stamped and sealed by the police department. Repackaged everything and sent it back to the R-G. Two weeks later, the R-G sent it back. This time the problem was that the teller hadn’t signed the money order and enough time had passed that the Commissioner’s stamp and signature was stale-dated. Off to the bank for a signature, then over to Ajax Town Hall to have the Commissioner sign a new form. Packaged it again and once more into the mail to the R-G.

Finally, after almost a year, I received my new birth certificate and official change of name certificate. I next took these documents to a Service Ontario location (one-stop shopping for all provincial documents) in the county seat and applied for a new health card and Photo ID. The health card took about two weeks, but the photo ID never arrived.

After a month I contacted the office of my local Member of Provincial Parliament (state congressman in the US) to find out who I should talk with. The assistant said she’d look into it for me. She called me yesterday afternoon to explain the delay, and I must admit what she told me has made me slightly paranoid. According to her information, issuance of the card has been delayed because the Fraud Unit of the Ontario Provincial Police is looking into it.

My first question is this: If the criminal background check came back clean for both my previous and current names, and the R-G’s office didn’t find anything, why is the Fraud Unit looking into it? To my knowledge, I’ve never defrauded anyone of anything. My eldest son has suggested that perhaps that I’ve changed names twice in twenty years is considered a red flag. I don’t know. I just hope they do eventually decide to talk with me about this and say more than “you’re under arrest for fraud.”. Otherwise, I’m going to start thinking my new name is cursed.

Cat.

What you should do …

DATE: Sept 1

TITLE: What you should do …

“What you should do …” is something we’ve probably heard at various times throughout out lives. The phrase is usually followed by some suggestion that, upon examination, would be of benefit only to the speaker.

If you’re trans, you probably hear this phrase more than other people. Under the guise of offering you constructive advice, they will suggest things that won’t really be of benefit to you, but will make them feel much more comfortable. In fact, their ideas would probably have an adverse effect upon your plans for the future.

Now, I’m not saying the previous paragraph applies to everyone who utters the dreaded phrase “what you should do …” is doing so for their own benefit. If you have one friend who’s opinions you trust, if they utter those words chances are they truly do have your best interests at heart.

But for those casual acquaintances, if they say “what you should do …”, what you should do – and this is the only “what you should do …” you should to – is walk away.

One more “what you should do…” you should do is enjoy the long Labour Day weekend and remember to hug an artist – we need love (and good advice) too.

Cat.

How to be you in five easy steps

NOTE: I live in Ontario, so am speaking of my own experiences. Depending on the jurisdiction in which you live, you may have to do more travelling.

Okay, now you have your new documents showing your new name. You sit there staring at them because the government has finally acknowledged you are who you say you are. Don’t get too comfortable, for there is still a lot of work to do before you’re done.

For me here in Ontario, some of it is relatively painless. Ontario operates locations under the name “Service Ontario”, which are essentially one-stop shopping locations for dealing with provincially issued documents. There are two types – government run locations and franchises. Most transactions can be handled at franchise locations, but for modifications to health cards, you need to visit a government location as the franchises are restricted in the health information they can access. Once there, you can modify not only your health card, but driver’s licence, vehicle ownership or the Ontario identification card (if you don’t have a driver’s licence). There, one stop and all your provincial documentation has been changed to your new name.

The federal government also operates a similar service, called logically enough, “Service Canada”. Again, one stop and you can change the information on all your federally issued documents except your passport. The Social Insurance Number controls all government access, so changing that will change your tax records and, in my case, my federal pension records.

But you’re still not done. You have bank accounts and credit cards to change. In my case, that involved a simple visit to the bank where everything was done within five minutes. And something you may not have considered: if you rent, you’ll need to sign a new lease in your new name. You hope the landlord still wants you as a tenant as you prepare for this step.

What else? Well, what about your cable and cell phone? Those can be settled with a quick visit to the nearest location of your service providers, armed with your documentation. Ontario covers the cost of most drugs for seniors such as myself, so you’ll have to give your pharmacy the new information as well, as well as advise your doctor of the changes so he’ll get paid for treating you.

In the Greater Toronto/Hamilton Area, transit companies operate under an umbrella company called Metrolinx. Through Metrolinx, I have a pass (electronic ticket actually) that allows me to travel on any transit system under their control provided I have sufficient funds on the card. Naturally this has my name on it, so that must be changed as well.

These are the things I have to change, or have already changed. You may have others, such as gym memberships or gas company credit cards that will need to be attended to before you’re done.

Welcome to you new name.

Cat.

Permanently blocked

As I type this, I have three unfinished stories dating back several years in my projects folder and I don’t think they will ever get finished.  Not because I’ve had a major case of writer’s block, but for another reason.

When I began working on these pieces, I was in a much darker place and the tenor of these work reflects that – very dark and brooding.  Times have changed and I am no longer in that place and despite reading over what I do have down, I still can’t get back to that darkness and in all honesty, I don’t want to.  Still, there are some wonderful descriptive passages among those words, but I can’t figure out how to incorporate them into new pieces. Here’s an example:

“Rattle, clatter, clunk.”  The lid of the letter box announcing it had been fed intruded into his consciousness. Hoping there might be more than rejections, bills and flyers, Colin hurried to check.  Three pieces of paper awaited his grasping hand.

“Looks like the usual stuff: ‘occupant’ and ‘householder’.  Oh well, I suppose it’s better than no mail at all” he muttered to himself.  Ever since Colin had decided to become a full time writer he had developed the habit of talking to himself,  but with so many story lines chasing each other around in his mind, he hadn’t noticed that he did so.  “Well, let’s see.  We have something from a local business, addressed to ‘occupant’.  Sorry folks, ‘occupant’ doesn’t live here anymore.”  He folded up the flyer and threw it into the recycling bucket.  (With the amount of paper he went through, mostly from having to re-write frequently,  Colin was very conscientious about recycling.)

“An envelope from a publisher.  Let’s see what they say.  Hmm, they think the  novel has possibilities, but the genre doesn’t fit in with their catalogue.   Oh.  Well, that’s an excuse I haven’t heard in a while.  I’ll just add this to the collection.  Maybe one of these days I’ll just put out a book of rejections I’ve received and call it something like ‘A Thousand Times “No” ’. ”

But despite some of these descriptions I find myself stuck.  I can’t get back to the dark side on these and can’t find a way to recycle the good bits into something else.  So I suppose I’ll have to do what I do with photos I screw up and hit delete.  This is what an artist friend of mine suggested, reasoning that because they were started during a black period, there is lot of negativity attached to them, so I’d be better off getting rid of them.  And I have to agree with her.

Oh well, there will be brighter stories ahead, I know it, so I’ll just carry on and keep blogging until those stories appear.

Enjoy your day and remember to hug an artist – we need love (and ideas) too.

Cat.