Genderqueer in the UK

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

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.

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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.

O! Facebook! Sort it out!

Once upon a time Facebook was our new shiney love, innocent and free. It did not have a genderfield, giving the genderly interesting a rest from the binary choice field. Alas those days are gone, and the choice is male or female.Despair (or mild annoyance, depends really) rules the inter-lands.

BUT NO! There is an answer. This is a nice and clear how to video from Simon Bayaidah,  taken from http://ciscentrismsucks.tumblr.com and found for GQUK by Cassian. It involves using Safari, but I expect there are workrounds for other browsers. If anyone manages Firefox, Opera, etc versions please let us know and we’ll post them.

https://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=549384115767

Companies and Titles: Nationwide Building Society

Since working out I was genderqueer, it’s been a strange journey. Unexpected things make me uncomfortable. I’ve always been one to ignore what others think of me, and to shed labels whenever I scratch my head. However, it turns out that once I’ve asserted my gender to people, being referred to as a girl/woman is really uncomfortable. Part of this is the titles used (mostly) in written communication. Seeing letters addressed to Miss My Name is always a slap in the face, and I just want to tell them, “but that’s not me!”

So, having investigated online a little, I chatted with some friends and they came up with a title I’m happy with: Misc. I’d have used Mx but it’s not immediately apparent that it’s pronounced Mix. Also, x? I like being a bit different, but throwing such a random letter in is a little far for me.

I did find this person who’s managed to get Mx put on a bank card, though. (Link for credit, although I don’t think this is the original source.)

A NatWest Maestro card, with the card number and surname blacked out, and the name reads "Mx A J blacked-out-surname."Awesome.

So I’ve been getting my title changed everywhere. Good Energy and National Rail were very polite and switched the title, no questions asked.

Nationwide, however, are a different story. Perhaps, as a bank, they are required to have much more complicated systems and security and formality are an issue. Overall, I’m quite pleased. I will be sticking with them because in the Good Shopping Guide they’re listed as one of the more ethical banks, and because their response to my query was so thoughtful and polite. They told me that their systems don’t currently allow non-gendered titles, but they’ve investigated the issue and they’re aware of Misc and Mx as potential alternatives for genderqueer people. They also told me that the issue will be raised when the system is next up for discussion. I’m okay with that, and I’m happy to badger them as a customer rather than as a former customer.

So, are you up for helping? If you feel enthusiastic about this cause, maybe you’d consider writing to Nationwide and telling them that you support the use of Misc and Mx as gender-neutral titles, and if they were to become more welcoming to their genderqueer customers you’d be more likely to bank/stay with them. If this is something you feel like doing, I’ve got a bit of a copypasta letter that you could steal and/or modify. Here it is. Then you can post it to Nationwide’s head office:

Nationwide Building Society,
Nationwide House,
Pipers Way,
Swindon,
SN38 1NW

Hello world!

Soon this will be a remarkable and information-filled blog/website about being genderqueer and living in the UK. It’ll be run by myself (Cassian) and my good pal Mattie, who’re slowly but surely winding our way through the various legal and administrative rabbits holes of being genderly interesting. Please bookmark us and check back, for we have many ideas and situations to report!