sebastienne: My default icon: I'm a fat white person with short dark hair, looking over my glasses. (Default)
  • Dragged myself out of vicious post-show-low
    Yes, after 7 years clean I fell back into student drama this term. It's a long story, and for better or worse it's done now. But for a little Weill I was in the Threepenny Opera, and got to sing and shout about how shitty capitalism is with a group of earnest teenagers. Not such a bad way to spend a term, actually.

  • Started brainstorming alternative dissertation projects
    Another long story: my mentor died last month, I have to give a presentation on Wednesday, and I've been avoiding it because grief and did I mention I had a show to do?

  • Booked my first driving lesson in 14 years
    I had to stop learning before because Massive Anxiety, but now future career options are starting to depend on learning.. not to mention the fact that I'm a drummer and a powerlifter and neither hobby is really amenable to public transportation!

  • Planned & booked a combination conference-and-weekend-away
    Because £20 for a full-day conference on the self & reflective practice in clinical psychology is a) a steal and b) exactly what I need. And following it up with a chance to bimble around Bristol for a couple of days is exactly what I want, and that's important too.
  • Asked for help with a difficult letter I've been putting off writing for months
    I know I've not been the greatest at posting to the Mx Chronicles recently, but I found a bank which will record my title as 'Mx' and my gender as non-binary! Which rather gives a lie to my previous bank's claims that I had to be recorded as 'Ms' and 'F' because fraud or HMRC requirements or something.

  • Did not leave the house all day
    For the first time in 2017. I had a bath and then got straight back into pyjamas. Blissful.
sebastienne: My default icon: I'm a fat white person with short dark hair, looking over my glasses. (Default)
Back when I kept trying to be vegan, the longest I ever managed to go entirely without dairy was only about 3 months.

But even that short period of time was enough, it seems, to kick my general human lactose intolerance up a gear; and now if I drink too much dairy milk, I feel ill. I can eat all the cheese and ice-cream I want, but a latte or a bowl of breakfast cereal? Forget it.

I know that it's nothing like being properly lactose intolerant, and I hardly ever mention it because it's rarely ever relevant. But it's there.

In that regard, I suspect it's quite like the increasing sense of visceral wrongness I get every time I see my title written as 'Ms' or 'Miss'. It's *nothing like* that thing that it's superficially similar to (anaphylactic milk allergy, gender dysphoria).. but it causes me discomfort, nonetheless.
sebastienne: My default icon: I'm a fat white person with short dark hair, looking over my glasses. (Default)
Some successes!

Two different banks have given me proof of ID with the correct title!

cut for images )

My experiences with Smile and Britannia have reinforced something that I kinda knew anyway - that change to oppressive systems has to happen through changing individual minds. (Top-down or bottom-up are both valid approaches, but perhaps both are necessary.)

With both banks, my experiences have been wildly divergent depending on the individual I've spoken to.

For example -

Me: Please can you fix my title? It should be "Mx".
Smile employee 1: Dear Ms Stardust: nope.
Me: Are you really really sure? How about at least not addressing me by an incorrect title in these messages?
Smile employee 2: Dear Ms Stardust: no chance. It's automatic.
[Time passes]
Me: I'm about to be due a new credit card - when it comes, please can you list my name on it as Mx Sebastienne Stardust? I understand that you can't change it within your systems, but at least in this one place, is it possible?
Smile employee 3: Dear Sebastienne: sure thing!
Letter from smile: Dear Mx Stardust...


Me: Hi, when I renew my savings account with you, I need to change my title to Mx - will that be ok?
Britannia employee 1: Sure thing, just send us your deed poll!
[Sigh; Deed Polls aren't required to change title. But I've got one anyway.]
Letter from Brittania: Dear Ms Stardust, it is not possible to process your name change. Also we've cashed that cheque that you made out to Mx Stardust because apparently when it comes to taking your money, we recognise that titles don't actually have any legal standing as part of a name.
Me: Hey wtf? You lied to me on the phone and cashed a cheque fraudulently, I think maybe I should close my account..
Britannia employee 2: Shit, sorry, that's not cool. I've looked at our systems and I reckon I can get "Mx" onto your statements and stuff, just not onto your internal record with us; there I'll have to put a custom note asking people not to call you "Ms". Will that be ok? There's still a human error element, but let me issue you a statement now and you can see whether or not it comes to you addressed as "Mx".
Statement from Britannia: Dear Mx Stardust...

Next step is the DVLA. They've sent me a letter addressed to Mx (because I fixed their online form) and I've sent back an application with a deed poll. It's been more than the three weeks I'm supposed to wait, though...
sebastienne: My default icon: I'm a fat white person with short dark hair, looking over my glasses. (Default)
Britannia seemed really helpful when I phoned because I needed to renew my savings account with them. They wanted me to post them my deed poll (..sigh) but they were definitely going to be able to change my title, no problem.

So imagine my surprise when
  1. They returned the Deed Poll to me, with a letter addressed to "Ms", querying which type of account I wanted to move to and (casually, incidentally) containing the single line "Regarding your change of name unfortunately our Customer development Systems will not allow us to do this."

  2. I later discovered that, despite refusing to change my name and also not knowing what kind of account I was opening, they had nonetheless cashed a cheque I had made out to myself as "Mx".

I pulled on my privilege-pants and called them this morning to query the fact that they'd taken my money, despite not having done the thing they'd told me they would, or indeed even having opened the new account. I don't know how strong of a case I have for fraud, given that they cashed a cheque to someone who isn't even in their systems, "Mx" me...

The person I spoke to was businesslike, helpful, and did not question my title had changed. They explained the internal processes with their fixed set of titles to choose from, but suggested that at least my statements could be addressed to 'Mx' (as that's a different system). They also spoke pragmatically of all the points where the big note now on my file saying "please address this person as Mx" could maybe be missed or ignored by good old human error.

They've put a request in the system for me to be sent a statement; if it comes saying "Mx" I'll stick with them for now, but if it comes saying "Ms" I'm gone, gone, gone.
sebastienne: My default icon: I'm a fat white person with short dark hair, looking over my glasses. (Default)
For those that don't know - "Mx" is a title. Y'know, the bit that goes in front of your name, like, "Mx Sebastienne Stardust". I often explain it by analogy to "Ms" - much as Ms was created to get rid of the shitty situation where a woman was forced to disclose her marital status (or, to *appear as if* she was revealing her marital status) through her choice of Miss or Mrs; so Mx was created to get rid of the shitty situation where a person is forced to gender themself through the title they use. (More on Mx: from Ganymede on the Lashings blog.)

I have set myself a goal of becoming a Mx by the end of the calendar year. Now, this really should be easy - titles have no legal standing in UK law (unless they are tied to particular qualifications, eg, Dr) and when I stopped being Miss Sebastienne Stardust and started being Ms Sebastienne Stardust, nobody batted an eyelid or asked for a deed poll.

But - as many genderqueer people and their friends reading this will already know - it ain't always that easy.

There are systems problems - "computer says no". Places that *require you* to use a title from their drop-down list, which might include "Wing Commander" but almost certainly won't include "Mx".

There are human problems - "that's not a real title", "I'll need to see a deed poll".

(A "deed poll", of course, having about as much legal standing as a title, ie, not very much. But already, I'm starting to think that I may need to get one if I'm going to make this work.)

A few weeks ago, I contacted my bank to discuss this change. (This is the same bank that moved me from "Miss" to "Ms" without too much faff, about five years ago.) They flat-out could not help, and continued to address me as "Ms Stardust" throughout the conversation. Eventually I got them to agree that they could remove the title from my bank cards, but their internal systems? Not even that.

(And I've had other customer service problems with them recently - they very nearly cost me a job through failing to provide a bank statement that I repeatedly requested - AND they've just been bought out by hedge fund managers. So.)

Yesterday, I visited two banks to enquire about moving my current account.

The Coventry Building Society was perfectly happy to put "Mx" on my record, as long as I could provide a deed poll; but they needed me to deposit a certain amount every month, which in the current economic climate, could be difficult to commit to.

Nationwide Building Society said that there was no way they could put Mx, even with a deed poll (computer says no), but they could remove my title altogether (this could be a good workaround if my primary goal was to not be gendered; but actually, my primary goal is to increase the visibility of Mx). They offered an account that suited my needs quite well, so I am considering finding an address and writing a letter to see if I can get Mx on their systems.

(I should also do some more reading about "Ms" - after all, that was a new, created title and feminist activists succeeded in getting it into the mainstream. What tactics did they use, and how can those be mirrored today?)

notes on politics )

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