Saturday, 1 November 2014

The Deed Poll anniversary

Another significant anniversary. I executed my Deed Poll exactly five years ago, on 1 November 2009, and became 'officially' Lucy Melford, although I'd actually been using that name in public, and with anyone new in my life, since 9 December 2008.

I've used inverted commas for 'officially' because there are those quick to point out (sometimes with flashing eyes and stabbing fingers) that in English law it's absolutely legal to call yourself whatever you like, with no special formality, so long as there is no criminal purpose behind it. If a bit of paper is wanted, then a straightforward statutory declaration, properly witnessed by someone competent to hear oaths, will suffice. English law does not require a fancy Deed Poll for a name change.

Well, I salute the patient souls who know what's what and are happy to argue the toss with all and sundry, even financial institutions prone to hyperventilate over identity issues. But I'm not made of the same stuff. I go with the flow on things like this. Everyone has heard of a Deed Poll, and everyone knows it's 'proof' that a person has changed their name. Certainly, hyperventilating financial institutions know. So I was perfectly prepared to play the game, and give them what they wanted.

It would cost me some money. Sticking to my legal guns and not having a Deed Poll, nor even a statutory declaration, would have been the no-cost option. I seem to remember that popping into a solicitor's office for a quick 'n easy statdec would have lightened my purse by £15 or so. A comparative pinprick. But a Deed Poll would set me back a lot more. However, you could do it through an online firm. I went with the UK Deed Poll Service, and found them most efficient. I paid £85 to them. This was:

# £33 for an adult's Deed Poll, formally executed.
# £4 to change my title to 'Miss'.
# £38 for 25 laminated 'legal copies' of the Deed Poll document.
# £10 for UK express delivery.

All these costs would no doubt be a little higher nowadays. If you think that 25 legal copies was over the top, I can tell you that they all got used, several more than once.

In addition I subsequently paid a local stationery shop £11 to photocopy the Deed Poll umpteen times - for those bodies who would be satisfied with a plain photocopy rather than a posh 'legal copy' - plus a few packs of big envelopes. And £31 for a supply of postage stamps.

So altogether - and still excluding the printing costs of the letters sent out with the copy Deed Polls - I spent £127 on changing my name. At the time, I had plenty of cash. But even if my resources had been slim, I'd have taken the Deed Poll route. In 2009 I felt emotionally battered and bruised. I simply couldn't have coped with all the argee-bargee of persuading dozens of bodies that I was now someone else, and a 'Miss' to boot, without a Deed Poll to show them.

And now, five years on, and indeed two-and-a-half years post-GRC, it feels as if I've been Lucy Melford absolutely all my life. It was, however, a name very carefully considered, and because of the pains I took it has proved an excellent fit with my emerging (and blossoming) personality. And, like my voice, a vital passport into ordinary life. Thank goodness I didn't opt for minimal change, from 'Julian Dommett' to 'Julia Dommett'. I'd have been securely tied to the past, and other people's past perceptions of me, so that I couldn't have behaved differently, nor be taken seriously. I'm sure I would not have developed and matured.

Thank goodness too that I didn't adopt a sugary little-girl's name, like Twixie Pinkbooties, or a sexy name, like Loretta Thunderthighs, or a name with attitude, like Ulrica Manslayer. What happened to me was radical, a growing-up, the long-delayed embracing of a real life. I wanted a name fit for that. Not a fantasy name, nor one that marked me out as a gender warrior. I'm not kidding: half-measures, and inappropriate or extreme choices, would have held me back, and they would probably have been a total disaster.

I'm glad that most of the trans people I've met did manage to choose a new name that suited them, in some cases marvellously well. It's the ones that didn't look ahead, who were just dreaming, that seem to have chosen unwisely.

I suppose that if you have no intention nor inner urge to abandon one real life for another, and simply want an alternative name for recreational role-playing, then any striking appellation will do. But I'm not a role-player, and I can't say.

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