Tuesday, September 07, 2010

A difficulty I encountered when I firt started living as a man was how to introduce myself to people I had known for many years on a routine, rather dull, but utterly indispensable basis.
The Sikh family that ran the local shop. My neighbours on the block. The postman, My dentist. The bank.
I'm not sure why the bank was such a problem.
Perhaps because, when I was a young boy, my family were always teasing me about being 'hopeless with money', an 'absent-minded professor', and so on.
Or perhaps because I felt my dad wanted me to become a business man like hiself. Or at least i assumed he did; and I assumed he was disappointed in me.
Or maybe that was just one of his incompetent ways of reaching out to me; maybe it came from his usually frustrated and always clumsily expressed desire to communicate with me.
I know I so wanted to be accepted by him and loved by him, which I maybe obscurely felt would have happened had I been the girl he wanted.
Or maybe it has to do with the profound terror he instilled in me when he found me playing with the doll I stole from a neighbour.
I certainly remember the total terror I felt 11 or so years later when he came to see me performing as Lizzie in James Saunders' NEXT TIME I'LL SING TO YOU.
And all these memories coming from a simple fact: that it was the bank I found the hardest to enter when i began living as Jo.
Some years ago, I can't remember when, but certainly after Susie died, I managed to get the name changed from "Mr John Clifford" on all my cheques and bank cards and replaced with "J Clifford" which I've certainly been able to live with ever since.
And because I manage my account on-line I no longer get statements addressed to my male self though the post.
But the other day I got a new credit card through the post with "Mr J Clifford" printed on it and felt I really should complete the process.
So I made an appointment with a "bank adviser" whose name was Katie but who was wearing a name badge called "Fiona" and after sorting out the usual confusion over the phone ("No, I am not Mr Jo Clifford, but Ms Jo Clifford and I am a transsexual woman and that is why I still sound male over the phone") she was perfectly pleasant face to face as I turned up with my gendered documentation and the whole procedure was not nearly as complicated as I had feared.
But I came away with a slight worry as to what they might be saying about me when my back was turned; and with a vague feeling of having been made a fool of.
But that, I reflected afterwards, was almost certainly because the banks are ripping us all off.
And making utter fools of us all.

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