Genderqueer in the UK

All the information you need to be recognised outside of the gender binary

Category Archives: legal

The UK Deed Poll Service: Mx

I just posted this to Tumblr, but here it is:

They’re the number one result for “deed poll uk” on Google. The UK Deed Poll Service.

Way back, when I was getting my name changed, I asked whether or not they would include any gender-neutral titles in their service, and they told me no. They said that they would only accept titles accepted by official record holders such as the Identity and Passport Service (IPS).

Since getting my new passport, and having the title Misc used on all of the paperwork without any confused looks or questioning, I emailed the UK Deed Poll Service and linked to my blog post with proof that the IPS sent me my passport in an envelope with Misc on it.

I just got a response, part of which is the following:

Since you first emailed us about this subject several months ago, we have been giving it quite a bit of thought and agree that a gender neutral title should be available to anyone who wishes to have one. We have a preference for Mx since Misc is already a well known and frequently used abbreviation for miscellaneous (the non-gender related meaning). Mx would be a unique abbreviation.

Since you have demonstrated some record holders can and will accommodate a new title, we now believe issuing deed polls with Mx as a new title will help force the issue with record holders who are reluctant to recognise the new title.

OH YES.

If you don’t feel like you want to do your own free deed poll, getting a document-with-title made by someone else is now an option for genderqueer people. This is amazing because:

  1. As the person said in the email, other organisations who’re reluctant to recognise the new title can now have a recognised identity organisation thrown at them.
  2. People who are or may be genderqueer but don’t know about the title may see it when applying for deed poll documents, and feel accepted and recognised.

The latter is a BIG DEAL. Non-binary people are basically invisible.

My next step is to use evidence of this awesome step forward (along with the IPS evidence) to fully persuade people such as councils and banks that Mx and Misc are acceptable, and that non-binary people do exist.

Editing to add: Positive reinforcement is arguably more powerful! If you want to write a letter to them to say thank you, and to tell them what it means to you, their address is: UK Deed Poll Service, Freebournes Court, Witham, CM8 2BL.

Full list of organisations who accept Misc or Mx.

Misc: The IPS rock it.

A passport poking out of an official Identity and Passport Service envelope addressed to Misc C Lodge.

Canon.

ETA: Here’s my Tumblr blog post for (slightly) more detail.

Passport Positivity. Passportivity.

The original is here on my personal blog, but I thought this might come in handy for those of you who’re changing your names!

So, today has been awesome.

What with donations and purchases from PiP, I have managed to raise almost enough to get a new passport in my new name. I thought you’d like to hear about it.

First of all, I got new photos with my newly short hair. (It’s been short for about 3/4 years, but I got it cut today, so yay.) Then I took my gender info sheet with me, so that I wouldn’t have to explain everything in-depth again. Then when I filled in the form, there was a title field (I put Misc) and a sex field (I put F, due to I have a vag, and I’m guessing that’s what they want to know about?).

I spoke to the loveliest form-checker. She was really friendly and genuine and happy, and when I asked her about the unusual title, she said it was fine and she could write it on her paperwork, and if the processing people had any queries they could call me. AND THEN she asked to keep the gender info sheet, so that she could have a nosy through it between customers, and keep it on file for future reference. She was properly interested and awesome about it all.

What a legend. LEG. END.

Changing your name by Deed Poll (it’s free!)

I’ve recently been chatting with some friends who’ve changed their birth name in all ways except the legal ones. Two in particular are known by names of opposite gender to the one they were assigned at birth, but they still have bills, legal paperwork and passports in their birth name. If they’re anything like me, they will find this very disconcerting.

One concern that came up was that of the Deed Poll document itself. As of writing, if you get the document made by the most popular company in the UK, the UK Deed Poll Service, it costs £33, and a little extra to change your title. (Pleasingly, they now have Mx on their forms.) More on that further down. If this was a legal requirement, £33 for a new name for the rest of your life is a small price to pay, although it is tough for some to afford.

However, it’s just not necessary. This company are making money from people who don’t really know any better, and who could do it at home with their own stuff. To change your name in the UK costs (basically) nothing. All you need to pay for is the paper and ink; as long as it’s got all the right words on it, it can be handwritten on the back of a cat food tin label.

A lot of people think the process is complicated and legal, and you need to get special signatures. Not the case; the UK Deed Poll Service FAQ says:

Q2:  Do I need to get a solicitor to witness me sign my Deed Poll?
A:  If you are British and live in the United Kingdom, your witness can be anyone so long as they are at least 18 years of age; know you and are independent of you i.e. not a relative or partner or someone living at the same address.  A suitable witness would be, for example, a friend, neighbour or work colleague.

If you are British and living overseas, you will need to have the signing of your Deed Poll witnessed by a lawyer, notary public or a British Embassy official.

If you are not British and live in the United Kingdom, you should check with your Embassy (the passport section in consular services) to ask if your Deed Poll needs to be witnessed by either a UK solicitor or a notary public. Please note, if your Deed Poll needs to be legalised with an Apostille, it will need to be witnessed by a UK solicitor or a notary public.  See the answer to Q31 below for further information about legalising your Deed Poll.

A note on titles

Titles are not legally binding. If anyone, anywhere, challenges your change of title, tell them this handy fact. The only reason anyone should be unable to change the title on your records is because their system, usually electronic, doesn’t allow for titles outside of the norm. E.g.: Misc. or Mx.

If you’re changing your title to something gender-neutral, at the time of writing it’s very unusual for something like Misc. or Mx. to be recognised by companies and organisations. For this reason, the more bits of paper and stuff that show your new title, the better. Although there is no legal weight to putting your new title in your deed poll document, it can help people to see that you intend for your new title to be taken seriously and that it is a permanent title. So it’s completely okay to put “Miss/Mr OldName Surname” and “Misc NewName Surname” in your deed poll document, though it doesn’t mean that your bank will magically be able to put Misc on your bank card.

If you need to change your gender or sex on any records, you will need confirmation of gender reassignment from your doctor. This is not necessary for changing your title on any records, and anyone who asks for it is misinformed. (Be polite, and if you’re standing in a crowded bank, you can ask to discuss it in private. Explaining that gender and sex are different can be difficult, but explaining that proof of sex isn’t required to change your title is more direct. Your key phrase here is “titles are not legally binding.”)

Interestingly, the UK Deed Poll Service will change your title for a small fee. This fee, then, apparently pays for them to tell you that you are using a different title. My friend Kai pointed out that this is particularly amusing for changing your title from Miss to Mrs, when in the FAQ they point out that if you do so you won’t actually become married:

Q20:  I am changing my surname to my boyfriend’s surname. Can I use the title Mrs?
A:
  Yes, you can change your title to Mrs when you change your name.  When you complete our application form, you will see a section where you can tell us what new title you want so we can incorporate a declaration on your Deed Poll that changes your title.   Please note, if you change your title to Mrs, you must ensure that on any application form for credit, loan, insurance etc, you make it clear your marital status is single.

So, what do you have to do?

First of all, here is the exact wording that you need to use. There are generator websites. If I were doing this now, I’d use FreeDeedPoll.org.uk, which is pretty and doesn’t have ads or require email addresses and passwords. I used FreeDeedPoll.co.uk, because it makes a very pretty document for you, with your old and new names in it and everything. It looks smart, but you do need to have your witnesses’ names and addresses handy, and it will email you a password-protected PDF of your document.

Grab a couple of people to be witnesses. Two people who’re over 18 and don’t live with you, basically. As stated above, they don’t need to be professionally qualified or a solicitor or anything.

Next, get access to a printer and some nice paper. These are not 100% necessary, but it’s a really good idea. If your document is on nice A4 paper, printed in a smart font, there are two bonuses. One, people at your bank, the passport people, and everyone else are less likely to question you and ask awkward questions. And two, your document will last longer. You will need to use it for lots of things over the next few months, so it’s good to keep it in reasonable condition.

Some good advice I got from this video is to print a few copies. You’ll need to get your name changed at various utilities companies, legal stuff like tenancy agreements, and maybe passport people and birth certificate people. Your deed poll document doesn’t need to be the only copy to be valid, so print a few to send to all of the people, and have one or two for back-ups in case none of them come back or are damaged. I found that 10 copies was enough.

So, sign your old and new signature on all of your deeds, and get your witnesses from down the pub to sign them all too, and you’re sorted. You are now legal.

For anything requiring photo ID, it might be wise to get a new passport. At the time of writing, that costs £77.50, but it might make things easier. In theory, you should be able to show photo ID with your old name, plus your deed poll document and perhaps a bill with your new name on. Lots of things with all of the names and addresses and photos on should be enough.