I was recently invited to attend a conference on Trans Youth Care, together with some of my team mates at GenderGP. The conference is being run by Johanna and Aydin Olson-Kennedy, two of the leading lights in the provision of healthcare for young gender variant people, so naturally I jumped at the chance.
There was just one issue…the conference was being held in Los Angeles.
While my colleagues brimmed with excitement at the prospect of a trip to the City of Angels, I was filled with dread.
Just to be clear, it’s not the travel that troubles me, I have flown a lot and there’s nothing more exciting to me than staring out of the window from 34,000 feet looking down at the world below, I always pick the window seat for this very reason.
But, despite the fact that for the past two years, I have been living full time as Marianne, working successfully as a therapist and thriving in my place in the world, I have never taken a long haul flight as Marianne.
There are a number of reasons for this but the most important one is that I haven’t changed my name or my gender markers on my passport. Naturally, this prevents me from being able to sail through the various passport checks between here and the States – as I do not look anything like my passport photo. Regular news reports on the degree of scrutiny at US border controls fill me with dread – the idea that I will be turned away, looked upon as if I am somehow trying to hoodwink the immigration officers and that I will be made an example of, absolutely terrifies me.
So why, you may well ask, if I intend to move forward as Marianne permanently (which I do) don’t I just bite the bullet and change my name. This is something I have spent many a night agonising over. But the conclusion I come back to, time and again is that, while Marianne is who I am now, the name that was given to me by my parents, both of whom have now passed away, connects me to who I was. It is an intrinsic part of me, signifying my role within my family growing up, and to my wife and sons. I feel no sense of dysphoria regarding my birth name. It is simply my past and Marianne is my future.
I fully understand that for many changing their name officially along with their gender markers is a very necessary step along their journey, but I do not feel any less valid in my experience because I choose to keep that part of my history alive. I also feel that whatever I decide, it should be MY choice.
That being said, my refusal to give up my birth name on my paperwork has resulted in a stale mate situation where, in order to be my authentic self, my only option has been not to travel. Until now.
This conference is too important to miss so I am having to face my identity head on.
I have toyed with the idea of traveling without make up, in clothes which would align me more closely with my passport, just for the sake of ‘fitting in’ but if I were to do so I would feel disrespectful not only to my trans brothers and sisters but to my family and all that we have gone through to get me to where I am today.
I have booked my ticket and my accommodation. I will be meeting up with good friends and colleagues as soon as I land, who I know will support me. I can only hope that, whoever I come into contact with along the way, whether that’s the airport or airline staff, my fellow passengers or those in charge at boarder control, they will treat me with compassion.
Until then, I will continue to reassure myself with the knowledge that California is one of the most liberal states in America. Who knows maybe there will even be other passengers like me on the flight – I can but hope.