Wednesday, 6 September 2006

The Great Passport Fiasco : September 5th Edition

We have gone to DEFCON 3.

To :
The Director of Passport Operations
R.G.Casey building
John McEwen Crescent
Barton ACT 0221

From :
Zoe Ellen Brain
[address 1]
[address 2]

6th September 2006

Re :
Letter of 4th August 2006

Dear Sir/Madam,

I refer to my letter delivered to you on 4th August 2006, requesting a written reply in accordance with the ADMINISTRATIVE DECISIONS (JUDICIAL REVIEW) ACT 1977 - SECT 13.

No written reply has been received within the maximum 28 days allowed, and the APO is therefore in clear breach of the Act.

Over the last month, I have received repeated verbal assurances over the telephone by APO staff that a letter is in preparation. The last assurance was that it would be completed by Friday 8th September 2006 or possibly as late as Monday the 10th of September 2006, long after the 28 day period had expired.

I must depart no later than 12th November 2006, as I am scheduled for a major medical procedure not available in Australia on the 15th of November 2006. I must also arrange necessary visas well before then.

Should I cancel or postpone the scheduled medical procedure less than 61 days beforehand, that is, after the 15th of September 2006, I will forfeit a significant sum, a minimum of several thousand dollars.

In accordance with legal advice, I will take further action if no written reply is received by Close of Business in 7 days from today's date, that is, on Wednesday the 13th of September 2006. I will also tender this letter as evidence that I have attempted to settle the matter without recourse to the Court.

Yours Sincerely

Zoe Ellen Brain, BSc MInfoTech(Distinction)
People keep on telling me how calm I am in the face of this. A Government Department flagrantly flouting the law. "Never attribute to Malice what is adequately explained by Incompetence" as Napoleon Bonaparte said, but it's no longer adequately explained by the usual Bureaucratic Stuff-Ups and hidebound Red Tape. One thing about rules-followers with no initiative: they follow the rules, and never, ever let themselves be caught egregiously breaking the Law like this. It has to be not ordinary, but extraordinary inefficiency and hopeless incompetence, or it has to be simple Malice.

I'll leave that for the Courts to decide. I'm more concerned about outcomes than causes right now.

Look, Transition is the second-hardest thing I've ever done. It's by far the hardest project I've engaged in at any time in my life. Harder than Naval Combat Systems. Harder than Missile Defence. Harder than Satellites. Harder than being in a Thoracic Surgery ward "gutted like a trout" with surgical staples from below the navel to the breastbone. Harder than recovering from brain damage caused by encephalo-meningitis. Harder than holding the hand of my Father as he lay dying, harder than making jokes to keep my niece and nephew' spirits up on the way to the funeral (Dad would have wanted that). Even harder than bringing up a rambuctious 5 year old boy. Just. "What does not kill us makes us stronger", anyway. Supposedly.

This kind of thing is minor in comparison. Upsetting? Oh yes. Terribly so. I face exile from my Homeland and my little son, should things continue as they have done. That's still hard to believe, but it was always a remote possibility, assuming the same degree of prejudice and persecution that others in similar situations have reported. Truly Kafkaesque.

I have to get myself into the best physical shape I can to maximise my chances of surviving what is a genuinely major surgical procedure. Unlike a normal "sex change", a penile inversion, the procedure I require is not performed here in Australia. With my non-standard anatomy a "penile inversion" (with or without colon or split-skin graft) would be problematic at best, and physically impossible without some degree of experimental modification to the operation as it is known here. Bluntly, a "penile inversion" requires an approximately normal male anatomy to start with, no more than 2 standard deviations outside the norm. I'm about 4, I think.

A "sex change" can take as little as 2 hours, though often twice that. The procedure I require takes about 9.

I can't afford to let myself get stressed out by this kind of thing. Others have had it, and far far worse. I have the resources to deal with it as well or better than anyone else put in this position. And in the end... I have no choice. The danger from overheated undescended and wholly dysfunctional testes is real, the chance of testicular cancer increases every day. A bilateral orchidectomy is possible here in Australia, but that would complicate the rest of the reconstruction, and lead to a poorer result. Possibly much poorer.

Enough. I've looked at the options, the probabilities, and really, there are no more options from hereon in. I have to leave the country in early November, whether I can come back or not. Should I forfeit the deposit by cancellation, it's uncertain whether I could afford a second chance. I might. I might not. I can't risk that.

I'm not at all hopeful of a reply from the APO that will be remotely satisfactory by my deadline. I expect it to be negative, and I expect it to be lacking in detail, merely quoting the Manual of Australian Passport Issue and totally ignoring both my individual circumstances and the provisions of the Passport Act 2005. The Australian Passport Office has already shown a cavalier disregard for legal niceties, after all.

But I could be pleasantly surprised. Or I may get no reply at all by the deadline, that would be par for the course based on past behaviour.

Legal action will be problematic, but I'll do what I can. It will be interesting to see if I can self-represent while based in the UK. PhD candidates on subsistence scholarships are not known for their ability to finance protracted legal cases, and I'm no exception. But I'll see what I can do.

Trial by Media is far cheaper. And the blog entries here, detailing events as they happened, might well help there. But I have hopes it won't come to that. I'm doing all I can to avoid escalation. To allow some modicum of common sense to prevail.

Now pardon me while I shed a few tears. I'm not inhumanly calm, just...determined.

I can cry now. I mean, it's not just a social thing, "big boys don't cry" while big girls are allowed to, it's that I can allow myself to cry when I need to. To get it out of my system and then continue on, undaunted.

One more thing. The only thing harder than Transition? Not transitioning for so many years when you need to. That was hard. Harder than anyone not afflicted with Gender Dysphoria can possibly imagine.

That's over now - though there are some not-so-minor details still to be taken care of. The relief is indescribable, and leaves me with reserves of strength I can only begin to guess at. I might need them. We'll see.

No comments: