Friday 29 September 2006

Thursday 28 September 2006


A very generous benefactor has just pumped in $200 Australian into my PayPal account.

I can't express adequately my thanks, and how much this helps. "It's the thought that counts", and any amount would be welcome. But this large sum... this will really go a long way.

Thanks, Steve.

Wednesday 27 September 2006

Credit Where It's Due

My latest letter to a politician:
Dear Senator Vanstone,

I wish to commend the exemplary Public Service shown by the staff at the ACT branch office of the Department.

They were faced with an extraordinarily difficult and complex situation in my case. When they were unable to give me the help I requested, their competence and knowledge of the legislation and administrative rules was so obviously examplary, I didn't consider questioning their decision.

Although not initially able to help, they suggested alternative solutions, and guided me through the whole process, providing forms, photocopying and verifying documents as required, long after office hours and with no expectation of overtime payments. It was a very complex and unusual situation, quite outside the norm.

My experience with another department was not so happy, so I was soon back again. This time, I had the evidence I needed, and again, the ACT branch staff guided me with total professionalism through the process. I had been facing exile from Australia (despite being an Australian Citizen) due to passport difficulties, and they were able to issue an Australian Declaratory Visa for me so I could see my little son on Christmas day here in Australia, and not just over a video link from overseas.

It's not just that I'm immensely grateful - though of course I am - it was the efficiency and consideration they showed. In one case, the officer was unable to get through on the phone to a neccesary section to confirm some information. She tried a total of 9 different numbers before getting the information, all of this outside of office hours on a Friday, when everyone just wanted to go home. She could have given up after one attempt, and many would. But she didn't want me stressing over a weekend.

The whole staff then congratulated me on my patience in this very difficult and unusual situation, where my treatment by another department had been less than helpful, and objectively amounted to discrimination. Despite them having to struggle sometimes with malfunctioning equipment and a plethora of niggling difficulties, it was obvious that morale was sky-high, and they worked as a closely-knit and thoroughly efficient team.

If it was in my power, I'd grant a Public Service commendation to the whole office, and an OOA to the case officer, Sarah Harman. All the time she was going out of her way to help, every time I thanked her, she replied that she was just doing her job.

I have worked with many departments, from Defence to the DVA, DFAT and FACS. I have not seen such exemplary efficiency and humane administration in any of them.

I'm sure you must get far more complaints than thanks, for that is human nature. Please be aware though that this difficult and sensitive situation was handled in an extraordinarily proficient manner, quite outside the norm. The ACT branch office staff deserve recognition for that. They are a credit to the Department, and to the Australian Public Service as a whole.

Yours Sincerely,
Zoe Ellen Brain BSc MInfoTech(Distinction)

In some ways, it made the APO's treatment even worse, having something normal to compare it to. Better than normal - with extra kindness and consideration due to my circumstances, not less.

Tuesday 26 September 2006

Draining the Swamp

Brought to my attention by the author (and sometime reader of my blog) Kerry Langer, this article in The Australian :
GRIPPING a book by Noam Chomsky, Hugo Chavez crosses himself and calls George W. Bush the devil - at the same time vowing solidarity with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Strange times indeed when Chomsky can be embraced by supporters of Islamo-fascism in their struggle against the US as Great Satan.

On the home front, the cacophony of voices bewailing and predicting disaster, instability and civil war across the Middle East has reached fever pitch. "Left" opponents of the war have allied themselves with many on the Right who initially supported the war but subsequently became panic-stricken at the reality of the radical changes unleashed by neo-con policy.
Those who oppose current US policy have failed to look beyond the superficial appearance of things to see the deeper reality. The pseudo-Left opposition is driven by a backward-looking victim mentality focused on complaining about how bad things are rather than on how to change them. Objectively they are united with the conservative Right, which is similarly beset by doom and gloom due to not yet having come to terms with the very limited options available to the last superpower.

Quite simply: It's no longer possible for the US to hold back the spread of democracy and modernity across the planet. This is something that we on the Left should celebrate, support and take advantage of.
As they say, RTWT. Read The Whole Thing.

Now Kerry and I disagree on many things. It's an objective fact that Israel in the past has had a "reformed" terrorist, one Menachem Begin, as leader. Nonetheless, and despite Israel being not just imperfect, but historically far too imperfect for comfort, I view the prospects of a Palestinian state as dim, simply because so many young Palestinians have imbibed Judenhass for too many generations.
My view on the current regime in Vietnam is similarly jaundiced: they disposed of the unspeakable Khmer Rouge, that much I will praise them for, and highly too. But little else. "Not as bad as I feared they would be" is the best I can say.

And yet... as Kerry wrote to me in a followup e-mail :
We disagree on a lot (politically) but I still think that in these strange times we have some important things in common. I am particularly fed up with the pseudo-left and think those of us who bother to actually think about the world have a lot to learn from each other by attempting to intelligently explore our different perspectives.
Exactly - and we of the Right should be examining the behaviour and philosophies of the True Left, now they've been differentiated from the Moonbats. They've had the courage to examine "their own side" and criticise where criticism is due. We should do the same. If we're supposed to be the pragmatists, let us examine areas where our own cherished doctrines don't actually work, and if necessary, change them.

We may disagree of methodologies, but we agree in ends. Unlike some....

See what I mean? It's no longer Left vs Right so much these days as Sane vs Insane, Rational vs Irrational.

Anyone for Quiddich?

Which HP Kid Are You?

Monday 25 September 2006

T-51 And Counting

From a support site I'm on:
I remember when I had my SRS, one of the other women there was accompanied by her mother -- who was an RN with many years of experience in maternity wards...

That RN observed the procedure, and her daughter's recovery... and made a comment one evening, that SRS was the equivalent of a very hard delivery with bad vaginal tearing, combined with a hysterectomy.

Of course that's a "normal" Sex Reassignment Surgery. The procedure I require is rather more extensive, 5-6 hours in-theatre as opposed to 2-4.

Nonetheless, I can hardly wait. And besides which, it's the after-op care over the next 6 months that's the hard bit.

Sunday 24 September 2006

Dear John

The Hon John Howard, Prime Minister, that is.

Dear Mr Howard,

First a Bouquet - as a longtime Liberal voter, I'd like to thank you for doing such a good job (in the main).

Now a query, one that I am sorely puzzled by, as the situation seems not just against Liberal principles, but is downright UnAustralian, and has the potential to embarress both our country, and your Government unless corrected.

According to the Australian Passports Determination 2005 explanatory notes,
Section 6.3 and part 87,

"It is Unneccessary or Undesirable that Transgendered people be issued with passports."

Instead, they may, repeat may, be issued with Documents of Identity, not valid for all countries, and in general good for only one journey - if their reason for travel is accepted.

The restrictions on their travel are exactly the same as for those being extradited, deported, those refused a passport due to outstanding arrest warrants or for suspected passport trafficking, and suspected terrorists.

By VAK and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade [2002] AATA 588 (11 July 2002),

It was determined that travel to answer an arrest warrant qualified for a DOI, but travel for necessary business purposes did not. A recent decision of the APO refused a DOI in order for myself as an Academic to attend conferences and deliver papers, and put impossible conditions on a DOI application in any event.

Should this be publicised at the conference(s) - and a lid can't be kept on it forever - the potential for embarressment is huge.

By the Re Kevin decisions, it was decided by the Family Court that Transsexuality is (at least on the balance of probability) a biologically-caused medical condition. All scientific evidence since then has bolstered this conclusion. My own case involved an involuntary change, similar in many ways to that of men with 5-alpha-reductase deficiency. Yes, it is possible (rarely) that some people change sex naturally in the course of their lives.

Please explain why this travel restriction is neccessary on people suffering from a congenital medical condition, particularly as it applies in perpetuity to post-operative transsexuals who are married. There is therefore no question of a passport being issued which is inconsistent with bodily appearance, even under medical examination.

There is also no question of State RBMD issues involved here: the Acting Executive Director of the Australian Passport Office made it quite clear to me that even though I was born overseas (so with no Australian Birth certificate) and being treated for "moderate to severe androgenisation of a non-pregnant female", that I would have to divorce before I could be allowed to travel back to Australia. I already have a UK passport in a Female Gender (quite sufficient for me to be identified as female under the Marriage Act), but as an Australian citizen, I can't qualify for a Visa. As I have to travel for specialist medical treatment not available in Australia, I was to be effectively exiled.

I'm sure there must be a very good reason for this, as it appears to be Policy decided at the highest levels, so please inform me of it so I can relay it to the conference organisers as a reason for my absence.

Or perhaps it is just a misunderstanding that will be rectified as soon as possible, and without undue and harmful publicity.

Finally, my thanks for your response to my letter of some months ago, regarding the legal status of my marriage. Your colleague, the Hon Attorney General, answered my query to my entire satisfaction : that as long as a marriage when contracted was valid, it remains so.

Best Regards, and regardless of your answer, I will continue to vote Liberal simply because in the Big Picture you've got it right,

Ms Zoe Ellen Brain BSc MInfoTech(Distinction)

Last time I wrote to the PM, I had a response from the Attorney General relatively swiftly.

I didn't tell him about the ADV. But that's because not everyone in my situation has that particular escape route. I'm OK, others aren't, and the situation needs fixing. I suspect the ramifications of the Policy hadn't occurred to them. But if they had... then they will deserve all the Parliamentary kerfuffle I can generate.

Imagine a, er, sit-down strike by post-operative women in this situation. Women with Male Birth Certificates. In the men's loos at Parliament House. (Not my original idea, BTW). Topless (that bit is original).

Absurdity is best dealt with through exposure - so to speak.

Hopefully it won't come to that, or anything like it. It's a pleasant and absurd thought, but I have severe doubts as to its practicality and efficacy.

Thursday 21 September 2006

The Usual Medical Weirdness

At least I'm accustomed to having distinctly non-standard test results now. We have enough data points, and they're consistent enough now, for it to be sure that this is not some glitch, there's a definite syndrome at work.

One that neither my GP (who has helped a considerable number of transitioners) and the Prof (who has helped hundreds, he's a world authority on the subject) have seen before.

My GP was actually more concerned about the extreme stress I'd been under from the passport issues. He'd been in contact with my shrink, and has a network of other contacts in this area. Usually there's no problem, I should have been issued a passport, if only a 12 month one, in a Female gender.

But after going through the situation with him, it was obvious what the problem was. My marriage. That's way above his network's ability to handle, going to the topmost levels.

He was relieved that I'd found a way around it, yet strangely not particularly surprised. I think I stopped surprising him some time ago. Just more of the usual weirdness, medical or otherwise.

My next check-in with him will be in late October, a complete physical to make sure I'm fit for major surgery.

I've been immensely lucky with my medical team. Unusually competent and truly caring, and not afraid to share data in my best interest - and to keep me informed all the while.

Wednesday 20 September 2006

You have to Laugh

I mean, I finally get a travel document, and after many travails, trials and tribulations, yesterday I booked my flight to Thailand.

Transition is always hard of course, but they're really not making this easy.

I'm definitely writing a book. No-one is ever going to believe this though!

Tuesday 19 September 2006


Ahoy There!

Tis International Talk Like a Pirate Day, Me Hearties.

So here be a Random Pirate Joke. Arrrr.

Monday 18 September 2006

The Great Passport Fiasco Summarised

January - I book the surgery for November 15th, necessitating travel on or about the 11th November 2006.

Februaty 26th : I get final psychological clearance for surgery. It can now be confirmed, and the balance of the fee paid (just under $20,000).

April 10 : Application for UK passport. I'd first contacted the UK passport people back in October, it just took me a long time to get the required documentation together to apply.

April 24 : It's granted. Total time to process: 10 working days

June 4 or possibly a few days earlier : Application for Australian Passport, and a problem almost immediately, on June 7

June 14 : The day I could reasonably expect a passport to be issued.

July 3 : First written communication from the APO, demanding gynacological tests

July 25 : Nothing in writing, but the passport is being refused. Or is it?

July 26 : So a letter to the Minister - still no official decision in writing.

July 31 : Medicare provides proof of gender and diagnosis

August 1st : Attempt to deliver this to the APO fails, no-one present is cleared to receive it.

August 2nd : I finally see the case officer, and hand over the Medicare evidence, plus a letter from my PhD supervisor showing the necessity for overseas travel to complete my PhD

August 3rd : They appear unimpressed But still nothing in writing that I could appeal.

August 4th : Section 13 letter sent to try to get something, ANYTHING in writing, rather than this constant delay. Under the law, they have 28 days to reply.

August 7th : A decision hasn't been made according to the Passport Infoline. Or has it?

August 8th-10th : Complete co-operation from DIMIA. They couldn't give me what I asked for, but they pointed out alterantives, and what evidence I'd have to give them. Help, not obfuscation and delay.

August 18th : My application has been refused, and withdrawn. Wait, no it hasn't!

August 21st : There's now a "ministerial" about it. Maybe my letter to the Minister of 4 weeks ago is finally bearing fruit?

August 24th : New Citizenship certificate from Immigration, and if I'd had that in the first place, perhaps this whole mess could have been avoided.

September 1st : Deadline for a written reply to my Section 13 letter passes.

September 5th : OK, this is ridiculous. Give them another 7 days to reply to the section 13 letter, showing the decision, all evidence considered, and why they came to that decision.

September 8th : Finally, something in writing! Except it doesn't mention the Section 13 letter, it's obscure, and is a reply to my query to the Minister [b]from back in July[/b]!

September 9th : The stress starts to show. Guess I'm not Supergirl after all.

September 11th : An amazing and upsetting phonecall from the APO. This clears up many obscurities in the letter (without putting it in writing, naturally) but I get a summary recorded while I can remember it accurately. To get any passport in a female Gender, I must divorce, by decree of the APO. No mention is made of a 1-year passport. And I won't be treated like deportees, suspected terrorists, passport traffickers or criminals with outstanding arrest warrants: I'm not offered a Document of Identity, I'll have to [b]apply[/b] for one, and perjure myself too if I'm to get it. No hope of completing my PhD of course.

Also September 11th : I contact my lawyer, this is outrageous.

September 13th : Application for a Ministerial review of the decision, now I have something in writing at last. Of course, it will be too late now, from past performance it will take months. I have to leave soon.

September 14th : Immigration offers a ray of hope.

September 15th : Not Exiled After All, thanks to the Public Service provided by DIMIA. I can see and hug my little son on Christmas Day after all.

A Conjecture of why this happened. But it doesn't explain away the evasion, the lies, and the contempt my legally enforcable request for information was held in. Malice or Gross Incompetence? Pick any two.

And you know what? What other woman in this position would have the resources I do? How many could do all the hundreds of hours of legal research, trying to find some way, any way of getting around this mob? How many would have the emotional strength to endure the unendurable (and I came close to losing it). Emotional Pain and Suffering? Oh yes. Hopefully I can get my PhD progress back on track.

I'm alright now. But I can't let this continue, it's... inhuman. Un-Australian. Maybe it's ego, but I don't think so. I used to get in trouble for beating up bullies who were shaking down younger kids for their lunch money, I just couldn't ignore that way back in 1966.

I guess some things don't change.

Saturday 16 September 2006

The Road to Hell

That is notoriously paved with good intent. Now the following is conjecture, but it's conjecture that fits the evidence. It's the story of how a well-intentioned legislative change can go catastrophically, horribly wrong.

Originally, the situation regarding changing of gender was something like this:

722. Full validity passports issued to transsexuals may show the sex of re-assignment subject to production by the applicant of medical evidence of re-assignment and on provision to the applicant of written advice that the sex indicated in the passport is for that purpose alone (Paragraph 729).

723. Each request for a passport showing the sex of re-assignment must be supported by a certificate from an appropriate Medical Practitioner that successful re-assignment surgery has been performed, evidence of change of name, and usage of that name.
725. Persons travelling overseas for the specific purpose of undergoing a sex reassignment operation may be issued with a passport showing the intended sex on condition that appropriate medical evidence supporting the application is provided. Such a passport will have limited validity for one year and will only be replaced with a full validity passport stating the changed gender on presentation of medical evidence confirming that the operation was performed successfully.

People who were "transgendered" - that is, fulltime crossdressers, pre-operative transsexuals, and non-operative transsexuals were not considered.

Pre-ops could get a temporary passport in the correct gender to have their surgery, and of course, when post-operative, would get a passport showing their new gender, as a matter of course, and regardless of their marital status or where they were born.

This caused considerable hardship in a number of cases. Women who had medical conditions such as Diabetes or Heart conditions that prevented surgery, yet who had lived in a female identity for years or decades, found that they had to apply as males - and that they had to find a guarantor who had known them for a long time and would attest to their masculinity. This was in many cases impossible.

Worse, when given an M type passport and presenting as F, they faced terrible difficulties at checkpoints and border crossings. They could be refused entry, or given invasive searches by males, even put into a male holding facility pending deportation, along with drug pushers, criminals, and the insane. The results were sometimes... unfortunate. It would have been kinder just to give them a lethal injection. Just as fatal, but with less suffering.

In the Re Kevin decision, Justice Chisholm said in a judgement strongly affirmed by the Full Court on Appeal :
‘I agree with Ms Wallbank that in the present context the word "man" should be given its ordinary contemporary meaning. In determining that meaning, it is relevant to have regard to many things that were the subject of evidence and submissions. They include the context of the legislation, the body of case law on the meaning of "man" and similar words, the purpose of the legislation, and the current legal, social and medical environment. These matters are considered in the course of the judgment. I believe that this approach is in accordance with common sense, principles of statutory interpretation, and with all or virtually all of the authorities in which the issue of sexual identity has arisen. As Professor Gooren and a colleague put it:-

“There should be no escape for medical and legal authorities that these definitions ought to be corrected and updated when new information becomes available, particularly when our outdated definitions bring suffering to some of our fellow human beings”.’

So the Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission made a submission, which read, in part:
The gender identity of transsexuals is recognised by the Federal Government to a certain extent in relation to passports. A person that has undergone gender reassignment surgery may obtain a new passport in their reassigned sex. A person intending to travel overseas for sexual reassignment surgery may obtain a temporary passport in their new sex and once the surgery has been completed they will be eligible to apply for a full ten year passport in their new sex. However, transgender people that have not undergone reassignment surgery are not able to have their identified gender recorded on their passport. A new passport does not mean that the Federal Government recognises transsexual gender identity in any other capacity and this document cannot be used as proof of gender identity for other purposes such as marriage.
It is recommended that the Federal Government review the status of transgender people in relation to the recording of gender identity on passports. Current practices allow for transgender people that have undergone gender reassignment surgery or are intending to undergo surgery to change the sex that is recorded on their passport. This practice ignores the gender identity of many transgender people that are unable to have gender reassignment surgery for medical or financial reasons and those that have no desire to have such surgery and live comfortably in their identified gender. It is recommended that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Manual of Australian Passports Issue is reviewed to reflect the concerns of the transgender community to have their identified gender recognised on official documents.

Well, they didn't go quite that far. Instead, someone had the Bright Idea that a document of limited validity, good for 5 years (later changed to 3) not 10, and not considered adequate as a passport by many countries, but with the great virtue that it made no statement about the holder's identity, could be used. Such a document existed, the Document of Identity, or DOI. In response to a passport application by someone who was evidentially transgendered and pre-operative, A DOI would be offered as an alternative to an arguably useless M type (for someone identifying as female) passport. No statement would be made about the holder's gender as far as the Government was concerned, and no admission that the holder was "really" of a gender other than the one they identified as would be required. It had its disadvantages :
Documents of Identity and transgender people

1 Applicants who are living in the character of a member of the opposite gender may apply for the issue of a Document of Identity.. Personal details on a Document of Identity do not include gender. Because of the possible disadvantages in using a Document of Identity for travel, the applicant should be advised in writing that:

* Some countries do not regard a Document of Identity as a valid travel document;

* Customs/immigration authorities in some countries may view the possession of a Document of Identity in lieu of a passport with suspicion and consequently delay or harass the bearer at entry points; and

* Should customs/immigration officers decide to conduct a body search there is a very real risk of embarrassment to the bearer (this may also occur to a pre-operative person issued with a limited validity passport).

Overall though, it was a humane compromise: not quite as good as a full passport, but often good enough, and issue of it avoided all sorts of legal complexities and a possible test case about gender that the Government didn't want. The Re Kevin decision hadn't gone their way, and who knows what the Courts may find? A Transgendered applicant would be faced with the question of whether they wanted to fight for years, and have a possibly financially devastating loss and lose existing rights, or accept the compromise. By applying for a passport in an F identity, they asserted their right to be considered that, and the Government made no reply either way - just offered this alternative.

And the option of a 12-month validity F passport was still there for SRS, should they wish to travel for the operation to a country where a DOI was inadequate.
Not perfect, but the hardship caused would be small. Not as good as the UK policy, of issuing a correctly gendered passport on evidence of living permanently in the new gender, but good enough.

And so it came to pass that the Explanatory Notes to the Australian Passports Determination 2005 said, in part :
60. Depending on the circumstances, rather than refuse to issue a passport, the Minister (or a delegate of the Minister) may decide to issue a passport but reduce the validity period, for example, to meet the immediate travel needs of the applicant. In other circumstances, the Minister (or a delegate) may refuse to issue a passport but issue a document of identity to meet the immediate travel needs of the applicant, as noted below (section 6.3).
Section 6.3 – Documents of identity

· A document of identity is normally issued to Australian citizens in relation to whom the Minister (or a delegate of the Minister) considers it is either unnecessary or undesirable to issue a passport (paragraph 6.3(1)(a)).

87. An important example of when a document of identity may be issued when it is unnecessary or undesirable to issue a passport is when a person has lost or had stolen two or more passports and the Minister (or a delegate of the Minister) has decided to refuse to issue another passport. The person may be issued with a document of identity for international travel for a particular purpose. This enables the Government to balance the competing policy priorities in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1980 ATS 23, Article12) ensuring freedom of movement for a person while enabling the Minister (or a delegate) to act where there are reasonable grounds to believe that the person is allowing others to use the passports for identity fraud or other criminal activity, or that the applicant is simply not adequately protecting his or her passport.
89. Other examples include:

Australian citizens travelling to or from Norfolk Island; and
Australian citizens who request a document of identity instead of a passport; and
Australian citizens who are transgender, that is are living in the identity of a member of the opposite sex; and
Australian citizens being repatriated or deported to Australia or extradited; and
Australian citizens in circumstances when an identity document is required to permit travel to a country in which there is an Australian embassy, high commission or consulate to obtain a passport; and
Australian citizens to travel until the Minister (or a delegate of the Minister) is satisfied the person meets all the requirements (such as citizenship, no refusal requests, or full consent of all persons with parental responsibility for a child); and
Australian citizens whose travel the Minister believes should be restricted.

The intent was not to require the transgendered person to apply for a DOI - for then they would be "Australian citizens who request a document of identity instead of a passport". No, by section 60, a DOI would be issued to meet immediate travel needs, in response to a passport request.

And there there was a problem already. Instead of a full 3-year unrestricted DOI, this would be only to "meet immediate travel needs". Arguably, the intent was to have the situation similar to that of a DOI for travel to Norfolk island, unrestricted except for the 3-year validity, and the restriction that many countries didn't accept a DOI as adequate.

Worse, the notes went on to say
92. Validity periods are expressed as maximums and may be reduced depending on the circumstances of the applicant. In most cases, a document of identity is issued for a short-term or single journey. For example, for a document of identity issued to a citizen of another Commonwealth country, a maximum validity period of three months is normally sufficient. Documents of identity for travel to and from Norfolk Island have a validity of three years.
No exception for the Transgendered. Normally they would be issued a DOI "for a short-term or single journey."

Worst still (I'll be using that phrase a lot in this article), in VAK and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade [2002] AATA 588 (11 July 2002) it was held by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal that:
21. VAK has stated that he requires an Australian passport as he needs to attend to his business interests in Australia. He is the sole director of a company, which is registered in Australia and is the trustee of a property trust. The property trust owns and manages a number of investment properties in Australia. VAK and his children are the beneficiaries of that trust. VAK submitted that, in order to fulfil his duties as director, he needs to travel regularly to Australia to attend to matters associated with the investment properties. VAK also submitted that his failure to be able to attend to the proper management of the Trust could have a considerable detrimental effect on the benefits that his children could obtain under the trust.
36. Given that a document of identity is more circumscribed than a passport and is only given to an Australian citizen, who does not also possess the nationality of a Commonwealth country, in circumstances in which the issue of a passport would be unnecessary or undesirable, it would follow that it should, as a general proposition, only be given in circumscribed circumstances. It should not be issued in terms that would permit freedom of travel that equates with a passport even if for a shorter period of time.
37. On the material that I have been given, I am not satisfied that VAK should be given a document of identity permitting him any more latitude than one-way trip to Australia. His wish that he be able to bring his children to Australia and his wish to be in Australia to carry out functions as the sole director of a company do not lead me to a different conclusion. He may return to Australia with the document of identity given to him. Having done so, he may pursue his personal interests in Australia. Given that there is an outstanding warrant against him, it would be inappropriate to give him a document of identity that permitted him the freedom to come and go as he likes. That freedom will be restored to him in the form of a passport when he has dealt with the warrant. It follows that I consider that the decision of the authorised officer to issue a document of identity for a one-way trip to Australia was correct.
The standard of "immediate need" is set very high. To answer an arrest warrant meets the requirement, to conduct business that would benefit one's children is not.

I must assume this to be the case, as the APO did not consider my needing to travel Internationally in order to complete my PhD a sufficiently compelling reason, despite written testimony from my PhD supervisor.

A Transgender person, not having the option to address an arrest warrant, but merely by being what they are, may face considerable difficulty getting a DOI under any circumstances. To get neccessary surgery was deemed a reasonable excuse in my case, but to enable me to complete my PhD was not. To enable a Transgendered person merely to have a holiday would seem even less likely to qualify.

Thus Transgendered people are put on a par with criminals or suspects who have been refused passports, those with dodgy documentation, those who are being extradited or deported, those suspected of selling their passports, or suspected terrorists : "Australian citizens whose travel the Minister believes should be restricted.". They are to be kept on a tight leash, their travel restricted despite the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Why? One can assume because it "enables the Government to balance the competing policy priorities", in which case one has to wonder what the policy on transgendered people is. Or one can assume that this is one gigantic train-wreck of unintended consequences to legislation of good intent.

Worse still (told you I'd be using that phrase a lot), the requirements to be issued a full passport after surgery are now more stringent. Merely having surgery is not enough.
A full validity passport in the new gender may be issued to a transgender person who has undergone gender affirmation surgery subject to the applicant meeting all relevant passport application requirements including:

* For applicants born in Australia – a birth certificate from their state/territory RBDM showing the gender of reassignment;

* For applicants born overseas and resident in Victoria for at least 12 months – a ‘Recognised Details’ certificate from the Victorian RBDM acknowledging their name and sex; or

* For other applicants born overseas – medical certificates from two registered medical practitioners (who must be contacted to confirm authenticity of the certificate) verifying that the applicant has undergone gender affirmation surgery.
People travelling overseas for the specific purpose of gender affirmation surgery may be issued with a limited validity passport with maximum validity of 12 months showing the intended gender, on condition that certificates supporting the application from two registered medical practitioners (who must be contacted to confirm authenticity of the certificate) are provided stating that gender affirmation surgery is scheduled to take place in {country} on {date}. Proof of travel could be requested if there are any doubts. The applicant must meet all the usual passport application requirements (i.e. identity, citizenship and entitlement) first.

The passport will have limited validity for one year. At the time of issuing the limited validity document, the applicant must also be provided with a copy of Letter (XX). The applicant can apply for a gratis full validity passport in their new gender before the limited validity passport expires.

Applicants must meet the requirements outlined in the section above.
Thus we have the absurdity that the Minister can only determine a Trangender person's Identity if they're unmarried (and thus able to get their birth certificates changed). Unless they were born overseas. And not resident in Victoria for 12 months.

There are confirmed cases of women getting an F type passport for their surgery - then being denied a replacement because they were unable to get their Birth certificates changed.

Worse still (last time, I promise), no less a person than the Acting Executive Director of the Australian Passport office has stated categorically, and in writing, that a person born overseas must not only be able to prove surgery, but "Under the Marriage Act, we can't have married people changing their gender" and thus must divorce. This despite him being in possession of a letter from the Attorney General stating exactly the opposite.

And thus by these steps have we entered the place on whose gate is written "Abandon Hope, All Ye Who Enter Here".

Well Bugger that (pardon the unladylike language). I'm not, I'm fighting.

Time for DEFCON 1.

Friday 15 September 2006

Alternate Victory Conditions Achieved

From a Previous Post, regarding the letter I sent way back on July 26th to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade:
Barring that, please send me a letter to the effect that although you are satisfied at to my Identity and Citizenship, it is not feasible for me to obtain an Australian Passport through normal means due to unresolvable questions regarding my gender. This would allow me to apply for an Australian Declaratory Visa from the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs.

And another, from August 4th :
Now for the flanking attack.

Immediately afterwards, I headed for the ACT regional office of the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs. I figured a copy of the letter demanding to know the reasons for my passport refusal just might be enough to convince the dreaded Immigration Bureaucrats that they should give me an Australian Declaratory Visa for my UK passport.

Talk about chalk and cheese.

They were helpful, trying to find ways within the labyrinthine Immigration Act to make things happen in my favour. Suggesting things I could do, like getting my Citizenship Certificate changed, they got the right forms, photocopied all the documents needed and certified them so I wouldn't have to... and all late on a Friday Afternoon when everyone just wanted to go home. They stayed back late, photocopying, looking up databases, consulting with head office on the phone, and I confess I shed a few tears simply because they were so supportive.

Instead of being treated by the organisation as some sort of subhuman that they just wanted to dissappear, I was treated with extra consideration, as someone who had more difficulties on her plate than most.
They weren't able to give the ADV I wanted then, simply because I didn't have enough evidence. They thought the citizenship certificate would cause the APO to change their mind.

No such luck.

Yesterday, I went in to see Immigration again, bearing the copies of my correspondence with the APO. When they saw the explanatory notes to the Australia Passport Determination 2005 they were frankly incredulous.

But.... that's Discrimination !!!

Yes, but it's not illegal.

Then when they saw the letter, the record of all I'd done to try to get a passport through normal channels, the way their additional evidence had been ignored, well, they were not impressed.

Immigration administers Citizenship issues you see. It's a Big Deal to them, and rightly so. They make a big fuss about how Australian Citizenship confers automatic right of re-entry without restriction. Now this was all called into question by another department acting unreasonably, and by blatant discrimination within the law.

A quick-as-possible but lengthy and tedious time consulting manuals, superiors, entrails of goats etc later.... I was given an application form for an ADV. With instructions on what in broad terms to put in the explanatory letter. It had been determined that under these bizarre circumstances, I qualified for an ADV because of the APO's intransigence.

Today, I came in again, all the documentation in hand. As soon as I did, I was whisked aside to a counter, and they started processing the application immediately.

So at 1645 today, I was issued with a Class 998 Visa in my UK passport, good for multiple travel before 15 sep 2011. This from Immigration, not the Passport Office.

I must emphasise this is not the case of me being an unreasonable person quibbling over trifles and making life difficult for the officials. I was cheerful and co-operative with both Immigration and the APO, doing whatever they required, usually the same day if I could. Making their lives easy, putting in all the right words in my letters so they could justify any reasonable decision.

With Immigration, my co-operation and understanding that they were doing their best in a most unusual situation, not getting impatient if things didn't go my way immediately, was rewarded by them making extra efforts on my behalf.

It took the person processing my visa application 9 tries on 3 separate numbers to get through to the right section to get some data she needed to process it - (she needed my last date of arrival back in Australia back in 1995). This late on a Friday, I was the last customer of the day, everyone just wanted to go home ASAP. She could have given up at the first attempt, and told me to come back on Monday.

But she didn't want me to stress over the weekend.

Halfway through the process, the instant the visa was granted, she told me. The whole staff even waited after I got the visa, and gave me a chance to look at it, to make sure it was real. They all wished me well. I even got told that they were glad to have met me.

That is the usual kind of Public Service you get here. Human. Doing their best to administer government, doing their best to Serve the Public.

The APO acted quite differently. Not the counter staff. They were uncomfortable, embarressed that they had been directed to be non-co-operative. But to the "Policy Branch", the faceless ones I never met, to them I was never someone, just some Thing that had no right to even exist.

Yet if you called the people high up in the APO mini-Eichmanns, they'd be horrified at the very thought.

I can't blame them overmuch. I too am a child of their era. But I intend to stop them doing the same thing again.

I can come home. I can be there when my son opens his Christmas presents, and not have to watch over a video link. I can come home, and not have to face a European winter, while still recovering from surgery, penniless and without a National Insurance Card.

As and added bonus, I can even travel as required for my PhD too, no petty restrictions.

Lastly... my faith in Human Nature was restored. It had been flagging a bit recently. Oh, I'll continue pursuing the Passport Issue as much as I can, but that's now for the benefit of others. Not everyone has dual citizenship and can avail themselves of this opportunity. Of those who can, their transition is already stressful enough, many will have lost jobs, families, income, they won't be in any position to fight. They certainly won't have the resources I do. I want to make sure that no-one is ever treated like this again.

But now... I can come home. I really can.

You know, I've been taking out my passport, looking at the Visa every few minutes, just to assure myself it's real? That I've won the crucial battle, the one I had to win. I think I'll sleep with it under my pillow tonight. I don't know if it's obvious in my Blog entries over the last few weeks, but this was starting to really get to me.

Thursday 14 September 2006

Light at the end of the tunnel?

Just had a phonecall with the Department of Immigration.
Now that my Citizenship Certificate is in accordance with my UK passport, it should be enough to give me permission to enter Australia. But I'm going in to get that confirmed. Stay Tuned. I'm not getting my hopes up.

So off to the local Immigration Office. Well, my concentration on my research remains shot, anyway.

This morning though I attended the September Women in Information & Communication (WIC) "Hot Breakfast". The speaker was Paul Reedy of the AFP (Australian Federal Police - think FBI), talking about Computer Forensics.

I hadn't realised just how close the co-operation has been with Indonesia over the last few years. There's lots of stuff happening that's not being talked about by the Media (nor in detail by anyone, especially not the AFP).

He gave a bit of a sales speech - they're embarressed that only 1 in 15 of the people working in the area are female, and that's because in the last intake, of 135 qualified applicants, only 15 were women. So he's trying to increase the pool of applicants, emphasising travel opportunities and so on.

Pardon me if I think that a little ironic under the circumstances.

I also met a good friend I'd lost contact with some time ago, Sharon. She knew (2nd hand) approximately what had happened to me from a mutual friend. But she was still somewhat surprised by the Reality. She said she wouldn't have recognised me had I not come up to her to say "Hi!".

And I have done some stuff on my PhD - installed an OS, dealt with both licensing and hardware issues. If I haven't let Transition interfere too much with my life, I shouldn't let this do either.

Wednesday 13 September 2006

The Great Passport Fiasco : September 13th Edition

OK, so it looks like no airline will carry me home.

But there are things called ships....

And I have yet to contact Immigration to tell them of the APO's idiosyncratic behaviour. Maybe they can find a way.

Unfortunately, it looks like the next step, an appeal to the Minister to make a Ministerial decision and not delegate it, won't be answered in time to make travel arrangements. On past performance, the answer could well take more than the 4-6 weeks it usually does. And such appeals hardly ever get the decision varied anyway, it's a "last resort", almost a formality before hitting the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. And that takes some 10 weeks to schedule a hearing, minimum.

It's T-63 today, that means I have to leave the country in 60 days.

I don't exactly have contacts with Labor Party politicians slavering at the bit to crucify the Government over this. Well, OK, I do. A bit. But as someone who supports the Liberal Party, I'd still prefer to see the situation resolved without fuss.

I've gone to DEFCON 2 now though. It was the explanatory notes in the determination that did it. The bit that says that it was unneccessary or undesirable to give Transgendered people passports. Now it could be argued that this is reasonable, giving them a DOI while they're pre-op would save embarressment.

Except they don't just do it for pre-ops. It's anyone. Even those whose bodies would stand a gynacological examination - should they be married and unable to get their birth certificates changed.

The APO gives out 1-year "F" type passports to women so they can get Gender Reassignment, and then converts those to full 10-year passports on application. If they have their BC changed, If not, there's no conversion, and they'd have to apply and pay for a new one. One marked Male. In fact, in practice, the APO don't give out those. They may give a single DOI for voyages they decide are neccessary, but in general, Transgendered people's freedom of movement is severely restricted, as much or more than suspected passport thieves, and criminals being extradited or those with an outstanding arrest warrant.

After some umming and ahing, the APO decided not to offer me a DOI after all. I could apply for one of course, but only if I perjured myself, and pursuaded a gurantor to perjure themselves too. Then they may give me one. Maybe.


Time to get Legal.

But first, a neccessary formality. Writing to the Minister, with Buckley's chance of the decision being changed. Less that that of it being changed in time. But who knows, the best estimate of the odds of my condition happening are at least 1 in 1,000,000, I might get lucky.

To :
The Hon. Alexander Downer MP
Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade
Parliament House

From :
Zoe Ellen Brain
(address 1)
(address 2)

13th September 2006

Re :
Letter from Acting Executive Director of the Australian Passport Office 6th September 2005

Dear Mr Downer,

In accordance with the Australian Passports Act 2005 ("The Act") section 49, I wish to apply for a review by you of the decision communicated to me in writing by the Acting Executive Director of the APO in a letter dated 6th September 2005.

In short :
I have inconsistent documentation regarding my gender. Old documents say male, new ones female.

I have a rare medical condition causing a natural change of apparent gender over one's lifetime. This is not the 5ARD Intersex condition long known to cause this kind of transformation, but it has somewhat comparable effects.

I need to travel internationally to complete my PhD over the next 3 years.

I need to travel internationally for necessary surgery in early November 2006. This surgery will leave me with an apparently normal female body rather than an abnormal one, but is also necessary to reduce the increasing risks of cancer.

I have a UK passport showing a Female gender, and only require a document to confirm my Australian Citizenship for re-entry to Australia. My Citizenship certificate is not considered adequate by Airlines.

I have been unable to obtain a passport, and a document of identity has not been offered as an alternative.

In order to provide evidence for a possible Administrative Appeals Tribunal Hearing, please provide me with a statement of what exactly your decision is, what evidence was considered, and why the decision was made.

In accordance with subsection 49(3) of the act, I have set out the reasons for my appeal in some detail below. I have also taken the liberty of suggesting alternative decisions which it is open to you to come to.

The referenced letter is highly eliptical, even obscure, but it is possible to deduce from it, and a close reading of the Act, the Australian Passports Determination 2005 (The "Determination") and the Explanatory Notes to the Determination (The "Notes") the following matters of fact.

1. That you are satisfied of my Identity.
2. That you are satisfied of my Australian Citizenship.
3. That you have determined that my Identity is that of a person living in the identity of the opposite sex - Transgender within the meaning of the Notes.
4. That you have determined that accordingly the issue of a passport to me is uneccessary or undesireable.
5. That issue of a passport with details in accordance with the application is not possible pending both medical evidence being adduced and my marriage being dissolved, and even should both conditions be met, it may be decided not to do so.
6. That because the issue of a passport is unneccessary or undesirable, a Document of Identity (DOI) may be offered instead.

Certain matters that were left ambiguous in the letter were cleared up in a Telephone call from a representative of the APO on the 11th of September, namely:

7. That the requirement to divorce was strongly affirmed. The exact words were "we cannot have someone who is married changing gender." This despite the fact that the APO has in its posession a letter from your colleague, the Hon Phillip Ruddock, Attorney-General, that states:

"Whether or not a marriage is valid is determined at the time the marriage takes place. If the parties to a marriage are a man and a woman at the date of the marriage them, if there are no other grounds for invalidity, the marriage will be valid. Events that occur after the date of the marriage cannot affect that validity, so if one of the parties to the marriage changes their gender the validity of the marriage is not affected. If the two parties wish to remain married they are able to do so."

8. That the DOI would only be valid for one return to Australia from overseas, for the purpose of having necessary surgery. It would not cover the multiple journeys I require over the next 3 years to complete my PhD, a fact attested to in a letter from my PhD supervisor which is in the APO's possession.

9. That no DOI was actually being offered, it would require an application by me for one. Thus I would not be an "Australian Citizen who is Transgender" but an "Australian citizen who requests a document of identity instead of a passport" as stated in the Notes. Thus instead of it being a humane alternative involving no statement as to my gender by either party with least emberrassment all round, it is a coercive instrument involving extra expense, and the option of the APO to knock back the application so the whole thing starts again.

10. That for the the application to be considered it would have to contain what I believe to be false data, inasmuch as it would say I am male, contrary to the existing evidence in the APO's possession, which is
a) That Medicare Australia states unequivocally in writing that my gender is female
b) That moreover, I am being treated for "moderate to severe androgenisation in a non-pregnant women", a nonsense if I am male.
c) A current UK passport showing a female gender.
Inter alia, that would mean I would have to find a guarantor who would under penalty state this false information as true, an impossible condition.
It would also mean that I would be committing a criminal offense. Either contravening section 18(1) of the Foreign Passports(Law Enforcement and Security) Act 2005 (by saying I am female when I applied for a UK passport when actually male) or section 29(1) of the Australian Passports Act (by saying I am male when applying for an Australian passport when I am actually female).

11. Finally, that the medical evidence required would have to be that of "gender reassignment" not "gender affirmation". That is, it would have to be female-to-male. I have to believe this must be some misunderstanding, but the APO representative was adamant that that was the Law and they had no discretion.

As far as I can see, there is no requirement in Law for me to divorce before I can get a gender-changed passport. Had I been born in Australia, it is conceivable (though not legally required) that a Birth Certificate change would be required first, and with the current State and Territory laws, that would entail that the person be unmarried. But I was born in the UK, and there those who have had not had surgery can have their Birth Certificates changed, while others who have had surgery cannot, regardless of marital status.

I would not be surprised if the Manual of Passport Issue, or whatever the current equivalent is, does not state that those born overseas just have to show evidence of surgery for a passport, and not that they are unmarried. I believe that the APO's decision there is contrary to the administrative guidelines. I also believe that the decision not to offer a DOI but to require an application is also contrary to the guidelines.

Mr Downer, I would be quite satisfied with any decision of yours that meets the following criteria:

1. I will not state any information I believe to be false on any passport application. I have a high security clearance, I just can't do things like that. Call me old-fashioned, call me pig-headed or "recalcitrant", I just can't do it, regardless of any guaranteed immunity from prosecution.

2. I need to travel overseas for surgery as a matter of some urgency. I can do that on a UK passport, I don't actually need a DOI except to return to Australia. So I need some form of re-entry document within the next few weeks on purely humanitarian grounds.

3. I also need to travel extensively over the next 3 years to complete my PhD. Having to apply for a separate DOI and possibly wait 4 months each time as I have done this time is unreasonable, especially since the details of some conferences are only finalised 2 months before they are conducted. I therefore need a re-entry document valid for 3 years, with the assurance that it may be extended on application. To deny this would be an unreasonable restriction on Freedom of Movement.

4. My partner and I have a 5 year old son, conceived with technical help as I was never normally male, even when I looked like it. We value marriage as a sacred sacrament. Ours may dissolve under the strain (strain which your department has increased markedly), but we hope it doesn't, for our child's sake. We will not divorce merely to make life more convenient. If you truly value the institution of marriage, a marriage contracted when we were Man and Wife as opposed to the celibate partners and co-parents we are now, please reconsider. The Attorney-General has said we don't contravene the Marriage Act, after all.

If I may be so bold as to point out possible alternatives, all well within the Act, the Determination, and the Notes:

1. Do not issue anything. Allow me to go overseas for surgery. Accept the overseas surgeon's evidence of Gender Affirmation, and if need be, have a medical expert at the Australian Embassy view the photographic evidence taken during the surgery to confirm that I will be Female by any reasonable definition at the end of it. Then issue the passport at the Overseas Embassy based on my current application, just as if I had been a normal Transgendered person getting a normal Gender Reassignment. I would accept your written assurance that given reasonable medical evidence that I would look female to a gynacologist, the exact path how I got there doesn't matter.

2. Issue the passport as applied for, on the grounds that in 63 days time, the whole thing will be moot. By all means have a covering letter saying this is on humanitarian grounds, and not to be used as any form of precedent.

3. Issue a passport for 12 months validity only, and state that I would merely have to show medical evidence of having had Gender Affirmation surgery for it to be extended or re-issued with the same details. Basically, treat this as a normal Gender Reassignment, even though it's not. It is surgery that results in a normally appearing body for the gender opposite to my birth certificate, and that's what's important. As I was born overseas, there is no requirement for a Birth certificate change, nor to divorce.

4. Withdraw the application for the passport, refunding the fee as it was not actually refused, and issue a 3-year DOI restricted so it is not valid outside Australia, it can only be used for re-entry in conjunction with other travel documents, but it can be extended upon application. This is the best option if you as Minister believe that it is undesirable that Transsexual people who are married should be issued passports. It would allow me to complete my PhD, and have my surgery, and not embarress the country as I'd be using a UK passport whenever I was overseas.

5. Consider the application De Novo, taking into account only:
i) The Citizenship Certificate in the name of Zoe Brain
ii) The application form, and attached photos
iii) The drivers license
iv) The medicare card
v) The UK passport
vi) The Medicare Australia letter showing a Female Gender, and treatment regime.

This would in the normal course of events be sufficient to establish a normal female identity. None of the controversial or contentious (and arguably obsolete or misleading) documents need be considered.

Also note that it is impossible for a Transgendered (as per the meaning defined in the Notes) person to be undergoing treatment as a non-pregnant woman, unless they were a female living in the identity of a male. I am living in the Identity of a female.

It could be argued that the previous Australian passports were in a different name from the one on the citizenship certificate, so are irrelevant.

6. Issue a passport showing a male gender, despite the details shown on the application, but in accordance with the determination that I am Transgendered according to the definition in the Notes. This will cause problems entering the USA, as it is inconsistent with both my body configuration post-November and my UK passport. It would solve the immediate problem, but would certainly cause a legal appeal in future.

7. Issue a passport showing an Indeterminate Gender, as given the inconsistent medical evidence and the documentary evidence, you have been unable to determine my Gender while still being satisfied of my Identity and Citizenship. As I was born overseas, this determination is not within the realm of any Australian RBMD, it is yours to make, and is entirely consistent with past practice.

As Minister, as opposed to a delegate acting in accordance with ministerial direction, it is open to you to do any of the above while remaining within the law. Of the proposed alternatives, only the 6th would result in the matter being taken further.

Yours Sincerely,
Zoe Ellen Brain BSc MinfoTech(Distinction)
When the expected reply saying that the decision stands, that's when the AAT process begins. Which I'll watch from afar, in the UK, exiled from my Homeland and Family.

Tuesday 12 September 2006

Current Reading

Political History, and interesting too.
Researching the News on an area dear to my heart.
ComLaw Crisis Management

That's in my copious free time of course. No time for blogging though, apart from this feeble attempt. The Islam article is interestimg though, but I'll cross-check it.

Monday 11 September 2006

Acting on Legal Advice...

You should seek a Ministerial Review ASAP. In your request, you should ask for a full statement of reasons to be included in the decision.

I'd also resist the temptation to debate your case at length over the 'phone with a minor minion. Keep everything in writing and write as if you expected a Judge to read it.

And so I will. And leave a record of what I did, and why I did it, on this Blog.

This isn't a Ministerial Review; it's a first instance 'knock back'by a Ministerial delegate.

You now need to write to the Minister iaw s49 of the Australian Passports Act seeking a review of the Delegate's decision. You should do this immediately as you only have 28 days from the date of being advised of the Delegate's decision.

The passport matter will take some time to resolve.

Yes, it will. Maybe a year, maybe two.

Next stop: Under Section 49 of the Act, a written request to the Minister asking for review. I have 28 days from date of receipt (8th September), but I'll treat that as 28 days from the date it was written (6th September). It should be off within 7 days anyway.

I even managed to get something done today about my PhD too.

4 hours to go, just about. 5 years ago, I was helping change Andrew's nappy in front of the TV, when I saw what happened, as it happened. Not the first plane, but yes, the second.

You know what I thought? I thought that they'd better be careful, what better time to detonate a small nuke just where all the city's fire and rescue services were concentrated, to get maximum effect. I was more than half expecting that.

Things can always be worse. You just have to be prepared as best you can be.

An Upsetting Telephone Conversation

I got this down while it was still clear in my mind. So there's evidence of something I never in all my born days thought would happen.
Record of TELCON 11 September 2006 1000(approx)-1010

It was contended by the APO that the reply to the letter of July 26th, dated 6th September and sent on the 7th September was an adequate response to the Section 13 query.

This was denied by me because it did not state whether an appealable decision had been made, nor what evidence had been considered. The letter was not a reply to the Section 13 query and made no mention of it.

An apology was tendered by the APO for the delay.

It was brought to the APO's attention that the APO was in breach of the Administrative Appeals (Judicial Review Act) due to no reply having been received within the time limit.

This was not accepted by the APO. They considered the absence of key personnel to be an adequate excuse.

It was stated to the APO that the 28-day limit was a maximum, intended to take into account such matters, and that a reply should have been received within about 7 days in the normal course of events.

It was brought to the attention of the APO that legal action was not desired by me, that I was trying to be as reasonable as I could. I accepted that the situation was unusual and difficult. I stated that I had already given them a great deal of benefit of the doubt, and had taken steps to avoid legal action. I stated that I had no wish to have a hearing before the AAT or Federal Magistrates Court, but was being forced into that.

The requirement to divorce was discussed. I requested details of which Australian legislation I would have to comply with in order to get a full passport with the requested gender.

It was affirmed by the APO that in order to gain a passport of therequested gender, I would have to be unmarried.

A statement was made by the APO (Exact words)
"Under the Marriage Act we can't possibly have people who are still married changing their gender".

This was denied by me, and the letter to the contrary from the Hon Phillip Ruddock in the APO's possession was used as justification.

I stated that as a person born overseas, there was no legal requirement that I be unmarried, and to say that there was was false.

This was denied by the APO, who restated their position that I would have to be unmarried to get a passport in the requested gender. They stated that the letter contained no false statements.

It was brought to the APO's attention that a gender reassignment (as apposed to gender affirmation) to female was impossible for a person already medically female, and that they had evidence to the fact that I was medically female.

The APO's position was that their hands were tied by the Australian Passport Act 2005 and the Australian Passport Determination 2005 regardless of the individual circumstances. To get an Australian passport of the requested Gender, I would have to have gender reassignment.

I reiterated the biological impossibility of the requirement. That the only gender reassignment I could have would be to male.

The APO re-stated that they were the requirements of the Act and Determination, regardless of circumstances. I would have to have a Gender reassignment.

I advised the APO that they better get a lawyer involved, as they appeared to be under a misapprehension as to what the law stated. I stated that if the internal regulations said that I had to divorce, they were in error. I pointed out the absurdity of a ministerial determination of identity being dependent on someone's marital status.

The APO made it clear that in order to get a DOI I would have to make formal application and do so stating that I had a male gender.

It was pointed out that given the medical evidence this would be making a materially false statement.

At this point I had to terminate the conversation as I had a medical appointment at 1030.

Zoe Brain - 12:34 September 11 2006

I will be making no important decisions regarding this for at least 24 hours. I'll need that to calm down. I have a raging headache, God alone knows what my Blood Pressure and Heart Rate are. The stress is overwhelming. There's outrage, and disbelief, and sympathy too - I mean, how could anyone be so heartless? Their lives must be Hell.

I feel like splashing this across the front page, going ballistic, a full Thermonuclear attack with no holds barred, papers, parliament, TV, everything.

So I know I'm not thinking straight. The idea is to be able to get back to Australia, and in the slightly longer term, allow travel to complete my PhD. That's all. Not to have some grand expose that will probably be forgotten in a week anyway. Not to blight careers. Not to have a cause celebre exposing heartlessness, incompetence, and even illegality in a small part of the Australian Public Service.

If I can keep my son out of the public eye, I will. He comes first.

From the Australian Passport Determination 2005 Explanatory Notes :
A document of identity is normally issued to Australian citizens in relation to whom the Minister (or a delegate of the Minister) considers it is either unnecessary or undesirable to issue a passport (paragraph 6.3(1)(a)).

An important example of when a document of identity may be issued when it is unnecessary or undesirable to issue a passport is when a person has lost or had stolen two or more passports and the Minister (or a delegate of the Minister) has decided to refuse to issue another passport. The person may be issued with a document of identity for international travel for a particular purpose. This enables the Government to balance the competing policy priorities in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1980 ATS 23, Article12) ensuring freedom of movement for a person while enabling the Minister (or a delegate) to act where there are reasonable grounds to believe that the person is allowing others to use the passports for identity fraud or other criminal activity, or that the applicant is simply not adequately protecting his or her passport.

88. Such a power is an important part of a key policy objective for the revision of the Australian passports legislation – to minimise the problems caused by lost or stolen travel documents. Lost or stolen travel documents can provide criminals with the potential to assume another identity, to carry out criminal activity in another name, and to travel illegally. These provisions are part of a range of measures in this Determination, which include:

· limitation of the period of validity (paragraph 5.1(2)(d));

· notification of lost, stolen and otherwise invalid travel documents (section 7.4); and

· additional fees for replacement of lost or stolen travel documents (subsection 8.1 (3)).

In addition, an Australian travel document which has been reported lost or stolen will be permanently and immediately cancelled (Australian Passports Act, paragraph 22(2)(b)).

89. Other examples include:

· Australian citizens travelling to or from Norfolk Island; and

· Australian citizens who request a document of identity instead of a passport; and

· Australian citizens who are transgender, that is are living in the identity of a member of the opposite sex; and

· Australian citizens being repatriated or deported to Australia or extradited; and

· Australian citizens in circumstances when an identity document is required to permit travel to a country in which there is an Australian embassy, high commission or consulate to obtain a passport; and

· Australian citizens to travel until the Minister (or a delegate of the Minister) is satisfied the person meets all the requirements (such as citizenship, no refusal requests, or full consent of all persons with parental responsibility for a child); and

· Australian citizens whose travel the Minister believes should be restricted.
92. Validity periods are expressed as maximums and may be reduced depending on the circumstances of the applicant. In most cases, a document of identity is issued for a short-term or single journey.

Saturday 9 September 2006

A Short Intermission

No blog post of any great worth or moment today.

I've been trying to cycle one of the hormones I'm on - a progesterol. The safe progesterone isn't easily available here in Australia, so I have to take a variant that has been known to cause depression.

Knowing it's chemically induced makes it easier to bear, but the timing is bad with the recent stress over the passport. Never mind, I've completed the 3 days a fortnight now, and I will be good for another 11 days. I had hoped that only taking it for 3 days would allow me to dodge the neurochemical imbalance, but it looks like I may have to discontinue entirely.

But it may not be entirely biochemical. This passport business has meant I've had to work 7 days a week for months now, so many letters written, so many trips to DFAT, and the National Library, so much legal research, so many legal appointments. And I've received some information which would indicate that the letter I received yesterday was not exactly in accordance with the regulations they're supposed to be following. That there is either malice or extraordinary incompetence involved.

So this morning, a reply to a parliamentary staffer who'd e-mailed me a few days ago, one stating the whole sorry, sordid mess. Preparing for questions in Parliament, if it comes to that.

I spent much of the night awake and crying. Must be the 'mones.

Well blow that for a joke, I'm going to have a cup of tea. Worse things happen at sea - including being stung by a ray. And as I was quietly sobbing, my little boy was cuddled up next to my back, reminding me of all the things that are truly important, and not mere transitory and inconsequential problems. Might even blog again today if I'm not too exhausted from sleep deprivation.

Friday 8 September 2006

The Great Passport Fiasco : September 8th Edition

No, not an answer to my request under Section 13, this one's the answer to my request for a Ministerial Determination back in July.

6 September 2006

Ms Zoe Ellen Brain
(address 1)
(address 2)

Dear Ms Brain

Thank you for your email fated 26 July 2006 to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, requesting an Australian passport be issued showing your gender as female although the change of name certificate issued by the Registrar for Births, Marriages and Deaths (RBMD) indicates your gender as male, I have been asked to reply on behalf of the Minister.

Section 8 of the Australian Passport Act 2005 (the 'Act') provides that before issuing an Australian passport to a person the Minister must be satisfied as to the person's Australian citzenship and identity. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (the Department) has developed processes to ensure that this requirement is met.

Persons born overseas who have undergone gender reassignment surgery, and who apply for a full validity passport to be issued in their new gender, are required to provide medical certificates from two registered medical practioners confirming they have undergone this surgery. Provided the circumstances comply with relevant legal requirements in Australia (for example, the person is not married), consideration is given to recording their new gender in the Australian passport. Persons who have not undergone gender reassignment surgery may be issued with a Document of Identity (DOI) with limited validity which does not specify the gender of the holder.

As you have not undergone gender reassignment surgery, you may be eligible for a DOI with a limited validity which would include your name change. This would enable you to travel overseas in November for the specialist medical treatment you require. Please let us know if you wish to pursue this option.

Yours Sincerely

Bob Nash
Acting Executive Director
Australian Passport Office


1. Since according to Medicare Australia, I am female, and actually being given treatment for "moderate to severe androgenisation of a non-pregnant female", the only gender *reassignment* surgery (as opposed to gender *affirmation* surgery) I could have would be female to male.

The reason I have to travel overseas is because, although gender reassignment surgery is available in Australia, the reconstructive surgery I require is not.

2. "Provided the circumstances comply with relevant legal requirements in Australia (for example, the person is not married)".... So I have to get divorced????

3. "consideration is given" as opposed to a positive entitlement.

4. A DOI with "limited validity" (as opposed to a Full Passport with limited validity)

And if you look at the original request, the reply ignores virtually all of the issues raised.

I hope they don't consider this a reply to my section 13 request, because it certainly isn't a "a statement in writing setting out the findings on material questions of fact, referring to the evidence or other material on which those findings were based and giving the reasons for the decision.". Because the only document it mentions is a change-of-name-certificate, not the Medicare statement or UK passport.

And now I have a new citizenship certificate, I could make a new application without the damning change-of-name certificate being relevant. That may be my next step.

Oh this is so silly. People playing games, ignoring reality, dodging questions.

Thursday 7 September 2006

The Great Passport Fiasco : September 7th Edition

Or : Legal Square Pegs and Round Holes

From the Australian Passports Determination 2005

5.1 Period of validity

(1) For subsection 20 (2) of the Australian Passports Act, and subject to subsection (2), and sections 5.2 and 5.3, a passport ceases to be valid at the end of the day specified in the passport as the date of expiry.

(2) The maximum period for which a passport may be valid is as follows:

(a) subject to paragraphs (c) to (j), for a passport issued to an adult — 10 years;
(h) for a passport issued to a person travelling internationally for the purpose of gender reassignment, if the passport is issued to the person in the intended gender — 1 year;

There's the smoking gun. This is the subordinate legislation that they think applies, I think. I have to guess as the APO still has told me absolutely nothing.

All this so I get a passport for 1 year instead of 10, for the same price? Nah, couldn't be, could it?

Of course, since Medicare Australia says I'm medically female, even getting treatment for "moderate to severe androgenisation of a non-pregnant woman", to say that I'm going overseas for "gender reassignment" to female is at best contentious, at worst a nonsense. Yes, the operation I'm having is usually for gender reassignment, so it's arguable that it counts. It's also arguable that it doesn't, and if I can't provide acceptable surgical evidence of gender reassignment, it will be back to the old male passport again. Assuming they issue one of those.

This has actually happened to someone a few months ago according to a first-person report on a mailing list I'm on, which is why I'm determined not to give any benefit of the doubt. According to her post, the evidence of her overseas surgery was deemed "insufficient", her limited-validity passport confiscated on entry, and she was refused a new one with the appropriate gender.

A regular poster, she hasn't been heard from since. Yes, that probably means what you think that means. It happens sometimes. With luck, it's just a breakdown, and she's in hospital somewhere.

I had hoped that she was exaggerating. From my treatment by the APO, well, maybe, maybe not.

Maybe I could get a Document of Identity instead, if the APO deemed it was "un-neccessary or undesirable" that I be given a full Passport. They can be valid for 3 years, and in conjunction with a UK passport, would be adequate for my purposes. Travelling to the USA, for example.

Except that from the case VAK and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade [2002] AATA 588 (11 July 2002) It was held by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal that
36. Given that a document of identity is more circumscribed than a passport and is only given to an Australian citizen, who does not also possess the nationality of a Commonwealth country, in circumstances in which the issue of a passport would be unnecessary or undesirable, it would follow that it should, as a general proposition, only be given in circumscribed circumstances. It should not be issued in terms that would permit freedom of travel that equates with a passport even if for a shorter period of time.
That was under a previous Act, but it's arguable that it still applies.

But all this is guesswork, as the APO still hasn't told me anything.

So I've sent this off to my local MP, Bob McMullan:

Ms Zoe E Brain
[address 1]
[address 2]

PH: [phone 1]
E-mail :

Dear Mr McMullan,

I'm a resident of your electorate, and I would appreciate your help.


I'm about to be effectively exiled from Australia, despite being a citizen.


I'm an Australian Citizen with dual UK/Australian nationality who has to travel overseas for necessary surgery not available in Australia no later than November 12th 2006. I applied for an Australian passport back in June.

The only written communication I have received from the Australian Passport Office back in early July 2006 was a letter demanding two separate gynacological examinations to ascertain exactly what surgical procedures I have undergone. This despite me informing them that I hadn't had any, the somatic changes were due to an Ideopathic medical condition.

I wrote to the Minister concerned, the Hon Alexander Downer on 26th July 2006 to try to get the matter cleared up. I have heard nothing from him since then, other than a formal recognition that my letter was received.

I wrote to the Director of the Australian Passport Office on 4th August 2006, requiring him to give me a written response within 28 days, in accordance with the Administrative Appeals(Judicial Revew) Act Section 13. I have had nothing in writing from the Director either, and the deadline is long past. The APO is in clear breach of the act.

As an Australian Citizen, I cannot re-enter the country without an Australian Passport, as I don't qualify for any form of Visa for my UK passport. As matters stand, I will be effectively exiled from my home, my family, and my 5 year old son from the 11th of November this year, unable to re-enter, as lacking any visa or Australian passport, no airline will carry me, my citizenship certificate notwithstanding.


I'm Transsexual, and by most definitions, Intersexed too. Certainly a victim of an astoundingly rare and spectacular medical condition anyway. Therein lies the problem.

As at the 26th July 2006 I had supplied to the Australian Passport Office, in response to repeated verbal requests for more data:

1. A passport application form, correctly filled out and checked
during a passport interview.
2. Citizenship certificate in my former name
3. Name Change Document (showing a male gender as that was on my unchangeable UK Birth certificate) showing both former and current names
4. Medicare Card in the name of Zoe Brain
5. Drivers License in the name of Zoe Brain
6. Photo Student ID in the name of Zoe Brain
7. Last year's tax return in the name of Zoe Brain
8. Medical letter stating Zoe Brain is undergoing hormone therapy
9. Letter from the Federal Attorney-General about my marital status to Ms Zoe Brain
10. Letter from my former place of work confirming my odd medical condition, and the radical changes that happened before any therapy commenced.
11. Bank statements in the name of Zoe Brain
12. Credit card Statement in the name of Zoe Brain
13. Letter of Offer for my PhD in the name of Zoe Brain
14. Expired Australian Passport showing a male gender and former name
15. Current UK passport showing a female gender in the name of Zoe Brain

Since then I have also supplied:

1. Written Confirmation from Medicare Australia that I am medically female, and undergoing treatment for "moderate to severe androgenisation of a non-pregnant woman"
2. A re-issued Citizenship Certificate in the name of Zoe Ellen Brain, indicating recognition of my status by the Department of Immigration, who do not issue new certificates for mere name changes.
3. A letter from my PhD supervisor at the Australian National University pointing out the necessity of Overseas Travel for me to complete my studies, and their importance to Australia.

According to advisors on the Passport InfoLine, my file has been marked with an instruction that no verbal information is to be given, all inquiries are to be referred to the Policy Section for a written response. Counter Staff at the APO in the R.G.Casey building have also been instructed not to give me any information.

How Can You Help

Right now, by you or one of your staff meeting me, or requesting further details, confirmation etc of my Kafkaesque situation. Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence after all.

I expect some written communication from the APO at some stage, but I would be astonished if it did nothing but refer to the current Manual of Australian Passport Issue (not available to the public any more), and completely ignored both my individual circumstances and the provisions of the Australian Passport Act 2005.

These state that every Australian Citizen is entitled to a passport, provided only that the Minister is satisfied of their Identity and Citizenship, and that they are not fugitives or security risks under Section 3 of the Act. A passport has already been granted in the past where the Intersexed applicant, Alexander MacFarlane, was of indeterminate gender. Being unable to conclusively determine gender is no barrier to determining Identity.

Should my passport be granted in the near future, then all will be well, and no action neccessary. But when I can't even get an answer from the APO, I think this a most remote possibility.

If my application is rejected, then I will also be contacting Senator Gary Humphries about the matter. Hopefully a Bi-Partisan personal appeal to the Minister to exercise his discretion (not to mention some common sense) on purely Humanitarian grounds might succeed. The APO's delay - I won't say delaying tactics - have ensured that no avenue of legal appeal is open to me before my exile, and their problem goes away.

The longer I leave my operation, the greater the risk of Cancer in the abnormal organs. I have to leave in November 2006 : the only question is whether I will be allowed to return.

Yours Sincerely,

Zoe Ellen Brain BSc MInfoTech(Distinction)
I Am Not A Lawyer, either. I don't even play one on TV.

Right now, I can't even say for certain that a decision has been made or not, since I haven't been notified in writing about it.

By Miller and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade [2003] AATA 395 (30 April 2003) :
16. The definition of "decision" in the AAT Act is similar to that in subsection 3(2) of the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977. In Australian Broadcasting Tribunal v Bond (1990) 170 CLR 321, the High Court considered the meaning of the word. Mason J, with whom Brennan and Deane JJ agreed, stated at 327:

... a reviewable `decision' is one for which provision is made by or under a statute. That will generally, but not always, entail a decision which is final or operative and determinative, at least in a practical sense, of the issue of fact falling for consideration. A conclusion reached as a step along the way in a course of reasoning leading to an ultimate decision would not ordinarily amount to a reviewable decision, unless the statute provided for the making of a finding or ruling on that point so that the decision, though an indeterminate decision, might accurately be described as a decision under an enactment.

His Honour stated that "Another essential quality of a reviewable decision is that it be a substantive determination": (1990) 94 ALR 11 at 23-24. (170 CLR 321 at 337)
And I can see nowhere where the APO can be forced to make a decision in a timely manner. I can't even see if the AAT has the power to compel them to do so. Perhaps the Federal Court, but there it will cost an estimated $30,000.

Is it incompetence or malice? It doesn't matter, the effect is the same. All I can do is wait for the APO's reply, should they manage to send one eventually.

News, Fact and Fiction

From The Australian:
Newspapers that allow themselves to be seduced away from the bedrock of good journalism do so at their peril. The "fridge door" journalism of lifestyle inserts that confuse entertainment with news will find it difficult to compete with the endless stream of similar material available elsewhere.
So far, so good.
There is a popular view that news-gathering will be taken out of the hands of journalists and taken over by networks of internet bloggers or computers using complex programs to compile information from the internet. Under Googlezon, a scenario put forward by internet company Google, newspapers will cease to exist on March 9, 2014, as a result. While on-line communities and technologies may produce an impossibly vast bank of information, it will mostly lack credibility and therefore authority, and it will overwehlmingly not be news. It ignores the crucial point put forward by Philip Meyer in his book Vanishing Point, which gives newspapers a bit longer than Google – until the first quarter of 2043.
One problem: Googlezon is a Fictional Company that appears in the film Epic 2014. It is no more "put forward by internet company Google" than Greenpeace was responsible for writing "Moby Dick". It is Entertainment, and shouldn't be confused with News or Opinion.

This was first brought to my attention in a comment on Tim Blair's blog.

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.