That’s what friends are for

WARNING: Contents may trigger memories in those who have suffered similar experience. I apologise in advance.

In all the years I’ve been writing these blogs, I have rarely delved into my personal history. Today I open that door a little. For a period of about ten years throughout my teens, from sometime in 1954 to November 22, 1963, I was physically and verbally abused by a psycho step-father. A small example: if I was alleged to have done something, he’d drag me by the ear to the scene of the supposed crime, usually something minor. I still can’t stand to have anyone touch my ears. The day President Kennedy was assassinated was the day my mother and I gathered the courage to escape. Why didn’t we leave sooner? Because we had become so demoralized by this monster we were more afraid of the unknown outside the door than of the hell we knew was inside.

Keep in mind this was in the early sixties and the support systems available today were non-existent. People were expected to “suck it up” and carry on with their lives. I suffered in silence for better than thirty years before a friend helped me place those memories behind a wall. That wall stayed intact until earlier this year. I can’t point to a specific incident, but something cracked that wall allowing memories to begin seeping back into my consciousness. Maybe something I watched on television, or something I heard, I don’t know.

This is 2019 and things have changed greatly. There is now help available for people combatting these dark memories, help that wasn’t even thought of fifty years ago. Another major change in my personal life is that I came out as transgender. That fact alone has been beneficial in this case.

In my previous, male, life, it was expected I would bear my burden in silence – I’d just “soldier on”. Asking for help was seen as a sign of weakness. Today, being perceived as a woman, I’m not bound by that convention. I can ask for help and support. And I have done just that. I spoke with my doctor, who directed me toward a support group. As well, I told both my best friend and my eldest son. The support and aid they have shown is amazing. An example: my best friend and I are fans of one particular show. I usually record the show to watch later, while she watches in when broadcast. We often talk about it and one night she advised me not to watch one particular episode since she felt it could be triggering to me.

Without the support of these two people, I don’t know that I’d have reached the point I could write this piece. But I have, thanks to their support and belief I can overcome this again.

As Ringo Starr said “I get by with help from my friends.”

Cat.

You need to worry about this

In late November 2018, I was asked by my doctor if I could be available for media interviews in late January. St Michael’s Hospital in Toronto had conducted a study of 120 trans people and found that, on average, trans people were 60% less likely to get screened for any form of cancer. The interviews with CTV network and Canadian Press were held this past Monday, January 21 and were related to the release of this study. The study itself was released on Wednesday January 23.

in my remarks, I stated that in my view, there were two main reasons for such a low screening rate. The first of these is a lack of training on the part of the medical profession. As I’m sure my trans readers are aware, many doctors and nurses have little or no training in trans health issues. Here in Ontario it is possible to change the gender marker on identification documents without having had any surgery. So, given that documents show one gender, and the appearance of the patient matches that identifier, the caregiver may not consider screening for certain types of cancer. For instance, if faced with what the documentation and appearance indicates “male”, the caregiver may not know the person in front of them was born female and consider screening for cervical cancer.

Again, if a transwoman is present, the idea of screening for prostrate cancer may not be considered.

The second problem lies within the trans population itself. I know that we are under pressure, often self-imposed, to blend in, or “pass” as our correct gender. The one place that can be a detriment is in our health care. First, let me state I’m fortunate in that my caregiver at St Mike’s is well-versed in trans medicine. Others may not have that luxury. If, as happens, you changed doctors after you transitioned, unless you’ve had a full physical exam with this new doctor, they may not be aware you were not born as you now present. And they won’t know this unless you tell them. I know that advice is probably not want you want to hear, but we’re talking about something that may save your life so maybe – just this once – you could break down that barrier you’ve erected between now and the past.

This is something you really do need to worry about.

Cat.

I’ve had trouble in the past posting links on WordPress, so if you want the links to both the televised interview and the print interview, just ask and I’ll provide them in a response to a comment.

C.

Family curse

Have you ever noticed that in some families it seems that one career or industry keeps appearing in the working lives of relatives or ancestors? It almost seems like predetermination, or a family curse.

In my case, that curse seems to revolve around transportation in all its various forms. My maternal grandfather’s brush with transportation came when he was a hard hat diver who worked on the building of the current Welland Canal. This is the most tenuous of the connections. He wasn’t directly involved in transportation, but in creating part of the infrastructure.

His son, my uncle, worked for a trucking company specializing in boat haulage.

From there, the family moved into the office aspects of transportation. My favourite uncle worked for a couple of motor transport companies in what is called the Traffic Department This job involved pricing shipments among other duties that varied with the company. In one, I succeeded him in his job (remark from the interview “so you’re Bobby’s kin. Let’s see if you’re as good.”) I was. In his second company, he tried to hire me. I declined on the basis that it would have meant working for family. His son and daughter, my cousins, also followed him into transportation.

Both my grandmother and my worked for a travel agent – again, arranging transportation for people this time.

As for me, my first part-time job was as delivery boy for a drug store. My first full-time job was as an accounts payable clerk for a motor transportation company. From there I moved into their traffic department for a couple of years, then I succeeded my uncle. Several other jobs followed, always in motor transportation and always with carriers serving different parts of the country. From there I moved to a company that forwarded goods by both boxcar and airfreight. Sticking with transportation, I moved to Toyota Canada’s National Parts Department, importing parts and sending those parts to dealers. At one point I became the “VOR” clerk, “VOR” stands for “vehicle off road”, the most urgent category of complaint. I described this job this way: When a customer is standing in the dealer’s showroom yelling and screaming because his car needs a part, my job was to find that part anywhere in the world. My finest moment in that post was the time a dealer from Montreal called me on a Wednesday because his customer’s car needed something but couldn’t wait for a normal order because he needed his car for his wedding on Saturday. I found it in a California parts depot, got it to the dealer and the customer had his car back on Friday afternoon in time for the wedding. His new wife sent a nice “thank you” note to me afterward.

I further moved into international transportation after Toyota, working for a major importer where I was in charge of all imports into Canada. Fleet manager for someone else followed. When the economic downturn of the ‘80’s hit, I found work as a courier – again, transportation – and still later drove a cab for 7 years.

Even my hobbies involved transportation in some way. I was involved with the group that did timing for all races at Mosport Park and I enjoyed rallying.

Each and every job I’ve held involved some contact with or participation in, transportation. As I said at the beginning, it seems transportation is either my family’s destiny or curse, I can’t decide which. And just to carry it on to the next generation, one of my sons is a bus driver. Who knows what my grandchildren will do, but I’ll wager it will involve some form of transportation.

Maybe your family tree will reveal a similar pattern of employment.

Enjoy your weekend, stay safe on the roads and remember to hug an artist – we need love (and the occasional ride) too.

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.

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.

“Twilight Zone” revisited

I have no proof, but I think the name of the Registrar-General for Ontario is Rod Serling because I seem to have been thrown into an episode of “Twilight Zone”. Here’s the situation:

As I have written previously, I want to change my name. I originally changed it when I began my transition to give my family some privacy. That was twenty years ago. My ex-wife has gone back to her maiden name and I’ve decided to take back my family surname and adopt the name my mother had in mind had I been born female and as middle name I chose “Ann”, which is the common middle name of my new family.

With this in mind, I sent an application for a name change, with the appropriate fee, to the Registrar-General’s office in Thunder Bay. Three months later I received my application back, with a request to provide a criminal background check. Now, according to the form, because I answered all the questions related to criminal background “no”, it was not necessary to provide this additional document. Because it had taken so long – the R-G’s office said six to eight weeks – I had contacted my MPP’s office to find out what was going on. (The Member of Provincial Parliament in Ontario is the equivalent of a State congressman in the US.) Upon receiving the form and request, I contacted the MPP’s office again and explained the situation.

You can cue the “Twilight Zone” theme now. While they didn’t indicate as much on the sheet attached to my application, what they want is a criminal background check on my chosen name, not my current name. This seems like a very odd request. How am I supposed to get a criminal background check on a name I don’t use yet except on Facebook and WordPress? Next step was a phone call to Durham Regional Police. The young lady I spoke with was quite blunt after I explained the situation to her. She simply said “You can’t.” Fortunately, she did have a solution. I have to apply for a background check under my current name and apparently there is a space on the form for “other names” and in that space I should put the name I want. That means both names will be run through the system.

This is where it gets a little more strange. The lady at the Ministry under which the Registrar-General operates told the lady at the MPP’s office this additional background check is required to make certain the name I’ve chosen is “clean”. In this context that means there is no other person with that name in the CPIC records who may have a record or otherwise may have attracted the attention of the authorities. If there is, I may have to change the spelling of my name. Not much of a problem other than I refuse to change the spelling of my surname. We’ve been here since at least 1850 and my surname honours that.

So, at the end of the month, once my pension check arrives, I’m off to the local police station to try to explain this to whoever is working the desk. That should be fun. Oh yes, I must also have $55 to pay for this.

I’ll keep you informed. I have the feeling this won’t be the end of this episode.

Cat.

Here we go again

As I wrote in “The 4,000 mile birth certificate” of October 21, 2013, I have had some difficulties with the Registrar-General for the Province of Ontario in getting documents changed. The four thousand miles referred to in the title of the above named posting refers to the approximate total distance travelled by my documentation between the initial submission and finally receiving my birth certificate with the proper gender.

It seems those problems still exist. In September I decided to reclaim my family name. I originally changed my surname to offer some privacy and protection to my family after I started my new life. That was twenty years ago. Since then my sons have moved away and my ex-wife has gone back to her maiden name, so I could see no reason not to so do. Fuelling this desire is the fact that some research showed my family has been in North America since at least 1850. At the time, Canada was known as British North America. Canada came into being in 1867.

In late September 2015 I found the application online, filled out and printed it. Then I took care of the details – money order and having the whole thing certified by a notary public – and sent in on its way to the R-G’s office in Thunder Bay, Ontario (far north western part of the province) in early October.

According to the website, the process should take between six and eight weeks. In early January this year, not having heard or received anything, I contacted my local Member of Provincial Parliament (equivalent to state congressman in the US) because I knew from experience he’d get answers a lot faster than I could possibly hope. He did, but it wasn’t what I wanted to hear.

Apparently I had neglected to include a criminal background check. Now I read that form carefully and nowhere on any of those pages did it state I have to provide that check. In any event today’s mail, approximately 4 months after I sent the request off, I received the application back along with a “missing document” form on which someone had written, by hand, (another argument in favour of teaching cursive in school) a request for this additional document. If this is a standard requirement, why is not a part of the printed form?

So, now I must wait until month end when my next pension cheque arrives to visit the police station and get this form. I phoned the police station and learned that inflation has hit that as well. When I last applied for a background check, for my cab licence, the cost was $20. It is now $55. That’s a 275% increase.

I had hoped to have everything done by the end of 2015, but it looks as if it will be St Patrick’s day instead.

Oh yes, this makes about 1,400 miles these papers have travelled so far.

Cat.

 

Addendum:  I read the application over again.  The only time a background check is required is if I had answered “yes” to any of six questions regarding criminal activity or charges.  I honestly answered them all “no”.   (I lead a very whitebread life).  C.