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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Wrong way to do it

I’ve held off writing this for a couple of days because I wanted to calm down before I did so. By now you’ve no doubt heard or read of the stunt Black Lives Matter Toronto pulled during the annual Pride Parade last Sunday, July 3.

If you haven’t, here’s a synopsis of what occurred: Black Lives Matter had been invited to lead the Pride Parade this year. At a point about half-way through the route, at the intersection of Yonge Street and College Avenue in mid-town Toronto, they staged a sit-in. The purpose of this action was to have list of demands acceded to by “the powers that be”, but what it did do was piss off a lot of people and cost them whatever good will they had amassed. After 30 minutes of holding up the parade, the executive director of Pride Toronto signed their demands just to get things moving again.

There were many demands from what I could see in a brief screen shot of the document. Among them was a demand for greater representation of black queer youth on the Pride committee. Let’s take a look at this one before I continue on to the one that really had me worked up (still does, but I’m trying to contain my anger). As I understand it, Pride is a volunteer organisation. If there is a dearth of representation in any volunteer organisation from a particular segment of the population, that is usually because nobody from that group is stepping up to volunteer.. If BLM wants more black representation on the Pride committee, rather than demand it be made so, they should instead light a fire under the people they want to see on that committee so they will volunteer.

Their other major demand concerns law enforcement. In their written demands, they stated they don’t want police floats in the parade any more. LGBT members of the force can march in the parade, but not in uniform. An officer interviewed by several of the news reporters in Toronto indicated he was proud of both being gay and a cop. I’ve heard on the news since that BLM modified that demand and now want zero police presence at future Pride Parades, not even for security.

I originally thought the sit-in in was a foolish action, but this last statement just proves their stupidity knows no bounds. This parade attracts in the order of a million people watching it each year. Now, Toronto, and Canada, are usually very accepting, or at least tolerant, of LGBT people. Many of the people on the sidelines come from parts of the world – and yes, I’m looking south of the Great Lakes when I write this – where such tolerance isn’t quite as common. The police are there for crowd control. While it is only a possibility, can you see everything being as peaceful without the police presence? I’m going to jump to the extreme now with this “no law enforcement” thing BLM wants. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau walked the parade route accompanied by Mayor John Tory and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne. Justin was also accompanied by some bodyguards. Would BLM do away with them as well? After all, they are law enforcement.

I’ve seen BLM in action in Toronto before, during another sit-in outside police headquarters. As in the case at the Pride Parade, they seem to make demands they know can’t, or won’t, be met. At the demonstration in the spring, they wanted to know the names of two officers involved in a shooting. The officers were eventually cleared by the Special Investigations Unit, a provincial agency that investigates all cases involving police wjen there is serious injury or death. This time it’s the complete removal of all police from the Pride events. They know in advance that demands like this will be ignored, but that will give them another opportunity to scream “racism” when the demands are denied.

In an interview today, the executive director of Pride Toronto admits he only signed the paper to get the parade moving again. He also pointed out that Pride is much bigger than Black Lives Matter and his signature on that document means nothing until the committee can discuss the issue.

Staging their demonstration along the route to disrupt the parade served only to wash any credibility BLM had down the sewers at Yonge and College. That, coupled with the demands for more black representation and less (zero) police leads me to the conclusion they want to sabotage Pride Toronto. A bit of jealousy perhaps because Pride gets so much public attention while it seems only the media pay attention to them. I would be willing to put money on the possibility that Black Lives Matter isn’t invited back next year.

Yes, black lives matter – all lives matter. But tactics such as they’ve used in two separate demonstrations this year will only alienate, not attract, those people who they want to support them.


Why go?

Today is the final event in Toronto’s Pride Month, the Pride Parade. Yesterday was the Dyke March and Friday evening was the Trans March.

It’s the Trans March I want to discuss here. A friend of mine raised an interesting point when she said the following (and I’m probably paraphrasing): I thought the aim and goal of trans people was to fit in – to be indistinguishable from regular men and women. It that’s the case, why would you want to out yourself by taking part in the Trans March?

Good question, isn’t it? Now, I can see activists and those who claim to speak for the trans community taking part because they are visible anyway. (As an aside, there is at least one group claiming to speak for all trans people throughout the Greater Toronto Area [GTA], which includes the municipality where I reside. No, they don’t speak for me. I’m quite capable of looking after myself, thank you very much.) But, if a person is fully accepted as the gender in which they present, why would they risk being spotted by a co-worker or neighbour?

Can anyone offer any ideas, suggestions or reasons for this?

Enjoy your long weekend and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.