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.

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.

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.

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.

Cat.

Unimaginable

DATE: June 13

TITLE: Unimaginable

As a Canadian I find yesterday’s carnage at Pulse in Orlando impossible to comprehend. As a transwoman, I find it appalling that so many of my brothers and sisters were targeted by what appears to be a deranged young man. Apparently during the rampage inside Pulse, an LGBT friendly club, the gunman took the time to call 9 1 1 and profess his allegiance to Daesh. As a result, the authorities are calling this both a hate crime and terrorism.

Reports I’ve read on news sites state that within the past two weeks he was able to legally purchase the AR-15 assault rifle he used during his attack. This despite having been investigated by the FBI on suspicion of having terrorist sympathies. Why he was able to legally purchase the weapon isn’t my question though. My question is: Why does anyone other than the military or law enforcement need an assault weapon of any kind?

Don’t give me that line about how you need it to protect your family and property because I’m not going to buy it. You could do that with a .22. Yes, I know the AR-15 comes in .223 calibre, but your basic .22 isn’t as deadly as the AR. Hunting? Unless you get into a firefight with your prey, or you plan to turn that deer into hamburger right there in the forest, an ordinary deer rifle will do. No, the AR-15 and its cousin the Kalashnikov are designed for one thing only – killing humans.

The NRA’s oft repeated mantra about a “good guy with a gun” also doesn’t hold water. The military and FBI, for one, constantly take training and refresher courses on what to do when there is gunfire in their vicinity. The average gun owner doesn’t do that. They go out to the range and fire off a clip or two at a paper target and feel they can handle anything. Guess what? They can’t. They can’t because that paper target isn’t shooting back at them. Without constant training and reinforcement, when the bullets start flying, they’re going to freeze and their body will be found with the weapon still holstered. Should they actually manage to draw the weapon and let go a couple of rounds, chances are they’d hit innocent bystanders.

America, and there is no delicate way to put this, when it comes to your gun culture, you’re fucked in the head. For example, not that long ago in Michigan, two men got caught up in a road-rage incident. They both pulled into a parking lot and rather than settle the dispute with words or fists, they both pulled out weapons and shot each other. A woman somewhere else shot up a Walmart parking lot trying to stop a shoplifter. America, isn’t it about time you realized your love of firearms has turned your country back into the Wild West of the 1870’s. To put that in some historical perspective, the Gunfight at the OK Corral took place in 1881 and Wyatt Earp, who was in that gunfight, died in 1927 – less than 100 years ago.
So tell me America, isn’t it time to halt the sale of weapons intended solely for hunting other humans? Other than to satisfy some egotistical need, do you really need an assault weapon? When you purchase a weapon, training should consist of more than how to load the damn thing. That training should include identifying your target before you let loose.

How many times have we read or heard of some homeowner being awakened by a noise in the middle of the night, grabbing his weapon and then firing at an unidentified shadow figure only to discover he’s just killed his son or daughter?

Safe storage should also be a mandatory part of that training. I can’t count the number of stories I’ve read about a toddler finding daddy’s gun and killing or injuring that toddler’s playmate or sibling. Which brings up another question: What’s the trigger tension like when a four-year-old can fire the weapon? Second question: What the hell is daddy doing leaving his handgun lying around with the safety off and one up the spout?

America, let’s be honest, you don’t really need an assault rifle, but since you’ve got one, let me as this: what’s next on your wishlist – a Barrett .50?

Cat.

Some random thoughts

Riding the bus today, my mind wandered and touched on various items.

1 – The Region of Durham is doing some serious road work at a major intersection. This of course is causing massive traffic backups and pretty much throws bus schedules out the window. The irony in that is the construction is they are installing “bus only” lanes to speed up public transit.

2 – If you were to ask Canadians the origin of Canadian English, no doubt most, if not all, would say “England”. According to a documentary I watched, they would be indirectly correct. The documentary stated that the major influence on “Canadian English” actually came from the United States, which was settled in large part by the British. Pronunciation, definitions and some nuances are all courtesy of our friends south of the 49th parallel. Spelling is a different matter. In the 1870’s, Sir John A. Macdonald, the Prime Minister at the time was the head of the government that passed a bill that made the use of “u” in words such as colour the only official spelling. So when I use that spelling for neighbour and honour for example, I’m only following Canadian law.

3 – Watching some programmes on Germany before and during WWII. Am I the only one who sees irony in the fact that the Nazis ideal was a tall, blond, blue-eyed physical specimen while neither Hitler nor his inner circle were anywhere near that ideal?

4- This isn’t exactly a random thought, but was a private Facebook message regarding a string I was involved with, and thought about during my bus ride. I think it bears repeating here:

I am horrified by some of the postings I read from my American friends regarding their troubles with housing, medical care and employment. Granted I lost a job when I came out, but someone through church told me that if I could get my Pickering taxi licence, he’d hire me. I did and he did and I drove for seven years until I was injured. Perhaps it’s the Canadian psyche, but except for the young drunk men on Friday and Saturday nights in the cab, I’ve never had a problem. As an example of what appears to be the general view (and yes I know generalities can turn and bite me in the butt), during the last provincial election campaign, not one candidate; not one reporter from any media, nor any member of the public brought up the fact that Kathleen Wynne, the Premier of Ontario, is lesbian. Everyone stuck to the issues. I think that had this been an American election campaign, her sexuality would have overshadowed the actual issues. By the way, she won and now heads a majority government. Based on my experiences over the past twenty years, I sometimes think that my brothers and sisters in the United States would consider Canada, specifically Ontario, a trans Utopia.

Not quite, but we’re working on it.

Since it’s Friday, enjoy your weekend and remember to hug an artist, we need love too.

Cat.

What you need, not what you want

Many of us, when we start our new lives, don’t have the advantage of surrounding ourselves with a circle of advisors unlike a certain former Olympian. Instead we either go it alone or listen to the advice of friends and acquaintances.

When I began my journey in the mid-nineties there was a great dearth of support groups in the part of Ontario where I lived, so depended upon the latter. Sometimes the advice I was given was good and many times I ignored it. There were very few people though who would give me advice.

I can’t say if they felt I didn’t need any help or if they were afraid of how I might react to being offered tips on makeup and clothing. Don’t know why they would be frightened. I don’t bite (as a rule) and if I did, being trans isn’t like a virus that my bite could transmit to them. These are people who would have no hesitation criticising any of their other female friends if they felt it was warranted, yet wouldn’t say a word to me. Instead they would tell me what I wanted to hear, not what I needed to hear.

Over the past several years I’ve been fortunate to have a friend who isn’t afraid to tell me what I need to hear. If I look good, she says so; if I don’t, she’ll say that too. She’s forthright, but does it in a manner that isn’t upsetting and I appreciate that. I must admit that the one thing she has been unable to eradicate from my wardrobe are my miniskirts. They’re staying. We’ve discussed attitude this many times and agree that part of the problem seems to be that people aren’t really certain how to approach a transwoman. They can’t seem to understand that we want to be accepted as, and treated as, any other woman, so the same way they’d talk to other friends would be well received by us as well.
If we look good, tell us, if we look like a hooker, ask us what corner we normally work. We’ll get the hint that perhaps our clothing is a little inappropriate.

As I wrote above, many of us have done this on our own, without benefit of support groups or friends not afraid to tell us the truth. As a result, we may not yet embody all the best visual qualities of being a woman. So please, tell us what we need to hear, not phony compliments. We’ll appreciate the assistance. Don’t be afraid of us – we don’t bite or, if we do, you can’t catch a trans virus.

Cat.

Be aware of your surroundings -always (addendum)

A friend who read “Beware of your surroundings – always” suggested this addition: You also have to be careful with whom you speak. What you may consider a casual
conversation could be given a deeper meaning by them.

Say you’re waiting in line somewhere and the person behind you makes a comment about the speed with which the line isn’t moving. You turn around to answer, but before you do, you quickly size them up. If they seem “odd” to you, trust your instincts and say nothing. They may impart a deeper meaning to that flippant comment you had ready. I’m not saying you shouldn’t talk to anyone, or smile at people, just be aware that your innocent actions could have unwanted consequences.

When dealing with strangers, trust you instincts. If something doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t because, let’s be honest here – not everyone is as mentally stable as you or I.

Be careful out there.

Cat.

Be aware of your surroundings – always

I haven’t posted this in a couple of years and with spring (in theory) upon us, I think it bears repeating, this time with a new title. This is the time of year we begin to shed our bulky winter clothing and by doing so, we may attract unwanted attention.

Over about the past six months I’ve twice posted “Don’t think you’re safe”, about being safe. A friend, who has read that piece, suggested I post it every four to six months just to remind people, not just women, to be aware of their surroundings. Like me, she is a photographer, so is constantly looking around for scenes to capture with her lens, but she has told me that after reading that posting, she feels she is now also more aware of things that may affect her personal safety. I like her idea but feel that posting the same thing over and over will cause it to lose its effectiveness.

Summer is fast approaching, which means we’ll all be spending more time outside, with our bulky winter coats but a memory. Keep in mind that no matter what you look like, there is bound to be someone who finds you attractive. I’m 5 11″, usually in heels which boost me well above six feet, and transgender. That did not stop someone who found me attractive from stalking me for at least two years. Keep in mind that if you see the same person twice in the same location you’re in, it could be coincidence. Three times or more could be stalking. And no, I don’t mean your usual cab driver – I mean strangers. If you think you’re being followed or stalked, take that person’s picture. As I wrote above, I’m a photographer so usually have a camera with me, but most cell phones have very good cameras as well. Don’t be afraid to use it. Often the fact you’ve photographed them will be enough to discourage them. If that doesn’t work, go to the police.

Something else to consider. If you think or feel you’re being followed, use reflections in car windows or mirrors or store windows to check behind you or watch your shadows. If the sun, or a streetlight, is behind you it will cast a shadow before you. Use that shadow to determine if someone is closing in on you.

To borrow what became the catchphrase from “Hill Street Blues”, “be careful out there.

Cat.