I just got home to find an envelope on my doormat… It was my new passport. It’s been quite a journey to get it.
The first attempt
About three months ago I was travelling to New York on business and was worried about travelling under my old passport (with a picture of bearded man inside) so I began the application process.
Reassuringly the UK passport agency have a really good document specially for trans people. I got two letters confirming my diagnosis from qualified gender specialists via Dr Lorimer at Gendercare and Dr Curtis at Transhealth. I got a new photo and had it countersigned. I downloaded the form and filled it out. Because I was travelling within a few weeks I booked a 1 week service, that involves going to the Passport Office in person.
A few days later I arrived at the London Victoria office. I was wearing black high heels, a blue dress, tights, jewellry and a full face of make up; Whilst I may not always be 100% “passable” I was very clearly presenting as a woman. I had to go through airport style security. The three security men at the checkpoint (supplied by G4S) all sir’d me as did the ones up the stairs and in the waiting area. When I got called the Passport Office man was polite and professional. He seemed approving that I had two psychiatrists letters rather than the one letter required, he was satisfied with my deed poll and with my countersigned photos . I was relieved as I’d been worried about the process. At the last minute he spotted that it was the old form and he couldn’t accept it. He gave me the new form to fill out there and then. I asked what I could do about the countersigned picture. He said “Oh – you’ll have to go away and get it resigned”. I was really annoyed – I’d downloaded the form from the website and now I’d have to spend another £40 coming back to London and run the risk of not getting it back in time for my flight. He told me to go over to a yellow phone and call for an appointment.
I picked up the yellow phone:
Agent: “Hello. Can I take your surname?”
Me: “Yes – Collis”
Agent: “OK Mr Collis
Me: “It’s Ms, not Mr”
Agent: “Err OK… So can I take your first name?”
Agent: “That’s a really unusual name”
Me: “Err.. not really it’s a pretty common name”
Agent: “How are you spelling it?”
Me: “A… M… E… L… I… A”
Agent: “Hmmmm – I’ve never heard that name before – Can you spell it phonetically”
Me: “Okaay… Alpha… Mike… Echo… Lemur… Indigo… Alpha”
Agent: “Huuh….. OK… Can you give me your middle name?”
[I’ll spare you from the next bit, but it was exactly the same as the first name]
Agent: “OK – Thank you Mr Collis, now can I take your address”
Me : “Ms Collis” (now slightly testily)
Agent: “Err OK”
[I gave my address]
Agent: “OK – Thank you Mr Collis, now can I just confirm your appointment details”
Me: “It’s Ms. Not Mr.I’ve corrected you several times so far on this call. Please don’t call me that again.”
Agent: “So have I spelt something wrong? How are you spelling it?”
Me: “M… S…”
Agent: “OK – I’ll just update it on the system”
[The rest of the call was uneventful, but he didn’t apologise]
After I hung up – I felt pretty awful; really dysphoric; a man and that’s how the world perceived me. As I returned to the ground floor, the G4S man pointed me to the exit: “The way out is that way sir”.
I left in tears. I couldn’t summon the emotional courage to go back the next day for my appointment, so I just left it.