Is that your high point?

I first wrote of this years ago, when I was using Blogspot, but it continues to irritate me, so here goes again.

Ontario is one of those jurisdictions that allow personalized license plates. Maximum of eight characters – letters and numbers only. Some show a lot of creativity, such as the Volvo I saw flying past me on the highway one day, well in excess of the posted limit (he must have been, because I was) with the personalized plate “NONE”.

Then there are the ones specific to the vehicle displaying them, like the white Volkswagen Rabbit with the plate “IM LATE”. Good, but if the next vehicle happens to be a minivan, the context is lost. Or “RED BMW”. As long as that person keeps buying red BMWs, fine.

But the ones that really irk me are those that celebrate a past event in the owner’s life. That is when I ask the question posed in the title. For example, I saw a vehicle one day with “SSGT RCR”, which to any former member of the Canadian armed forces can only mean the person was a Staff Sergeant in the Royal Canadian Regiment. For my non-military readers, the RCRs are a much decorated infantry regiment. As I said, with that plate, I have to ask whether the high point, the highest accomplishment of the owner, was being a non-commissioned officer in the army. What about all the years since? Has nothing else of import happened in your life since you left the service? I’m not denigrating anyone’s service to their country, I served myself, first in the Royal Canadian Engineers, then in the militia with the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada. But, I’m not going to get a personalized plate that reads “CPL QOR” to celebrate that fact.

No, I have something else in mind were I to get a personal plate. When I drove a cab, one customer, also a friend, told me she had my phone number listed on her cell phone as “leggy bitch” (I wore a lot of miniskirts in the cab – helped greatly with tips), so in order to avoid the censors in the Ministry of Transportation, I’d ask for “LG BEECH”. At the time, my cell phone number spelled out “legs”, so that plate would have seemed appropriate. At the moment, I have what the ministry calls “tourism plates” because they have Ontario’s official flower, the trillium, on them.

If you want personalized plates, go for it! But I would ask you to consider not commemorating something from thirty years ago.

Cat.

No Ben, just no

I try to avoid commenting on American politics on general principle because I have plenty of targets here in Ontario, but every once in a while comes a WTF moment that can’t be ignored. Such was the case earlier this month with the comments of Ben Carson. Something about immigrants coming to America in the holds of slave ships, working hard for less and dreaming of starting a new life for themselves. No Ben, just no. This is the sort of thing Kellyanne Conway would no doubt call “alternative history”.

Ben, these people were in the holds of slave ships because guess what? They were slaves! They were treated as cargo, not passengers. Once they arrived in America, they were property, not immigrants; not people who chose to come to America in hopes of a better life. They were ripped from their comfortable lives in various African countries and forcibly shipped to your fair shores. As property, they could be bought and sold, just as the plantation owner could buy and sell horses or cattle. And in many cases, the livestock was better treated than the slaves.

If they were dreaming of anything Ben, it wasn’t of making a better life for themselves in America. I’m just guessing here, but if they dreamt of anything, it was escaping, making contact with the Underground Railway and finding their way to Canada, where they could truly live as free people and make a better life.

Ben, I understand revisionist history is common in the administration of which you are part, where your president denies saying things he has been recorded as saying and other members deny speaking with the Russians despite proof to the contrary, but really, calling slaves “immigrants” is too much of a stretch. Immigrants indicates to me, at least, they came willingly, whereas slave ships did not carry willing, paying passengers. History texts are not printed in a looseleaf format for a reason: the past can’t be changed and is not subject to being altered at will by you or anyone else. . And “alternative history” is properly called “fiction”.

So, no Ben, just no.

Cat.

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.

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.