Sorry it’s been so long since my last entry. I’ve had a very busy and interesting time lately.
To fill you in chronologically, an ex-boyfriend of mine from when I lived in Brighton came to visit for 3-weeks, and proposed to me. I’m now a very happily engaged woman despite the situation dictating that it will be a largely long distance relationship for the next year, and a long engagement, with no wedding plans to be made before we’re living together.
A few days later, I received my passport in the name of Ashley Johnson, Yay! Sadly British Passports only state M for male or F for female and do not include any titles such as Mr., Mrs. etc. Having not yet legally changed my gender, my passport bears a feminine picture of me under my new name, but also bears the letter M for Male. That doesn’t really bother me, but it could make it potentially difficult to get things changed from my Mr. name to Ms., especially here in Thailand where they are not familiar with it, and as I just today discovered.
So with passport secured, we ploughed on to the next stage. Ms. Kung, the woman who assists with my work related immigration and labor department documentation processing, took my new passport to immigrations together with my old one to get the work Visa changed over to my new passport. Despite her presenting a form which was given to me by the British Embassy at the time I collected my passport confirming that the old passport and new passport were of the same person, immigrations would not process the request, and asked me to obtain another document from the British Embassy to confirm the two passports are of the same person.
I set up an appointment with the Embassy to go in for documentation, and much confusion ensued. The process of finding what I needed to set up the appointment online through the UK government website (as is required) was as difficult and confusing as I’d expected, but a very personable and professional Embassy staff member confirmed things with me by email. In the meantime I asked Ms. Kung to check with immigrations exactly what document they needed, as the options of what was available to me from the British Embassy just didn’t seem to cover what they wanted. I asked her to write full details of what was needed in Thai and sent this to the Embassy for clarification. Unfortunately the only two options which were closest to that which was required didn’t exactly match up. During this dialogue, with Ms. Kung physically at the immigrations office on another matter, I pinged her over a snapshot of my deed poll certificate and notary witness credentials, asking “why can’t this be good enough?”. After a little questioning of the origin and authority of the deed poll certificate, thankfully the cautious people at the immigrations office agreed to transfer the visa over on the strength of the document, and we arranged for Ms. Kung to come collect the originals from me and process it. Another hurdle down, and Embassy appointment cancelled!
With my Visa printed in my new passport, an appointment with the Labour department could be made and was booked for this morning. Ms. Kung collected me from my office and we headed over to the Nonthaburi Labour Office, where she deftly jumped all queues and started the process with her friends there while I sat in the waiting area fiddling with my phone for about a ½ hour until she called me over to sign the work permit. I really cannot imagine trying to sort any of this stuff out without an agent like her, and as she’s been doing this for our company for over 20 years now, she seems to know everyone at the various offices, which really helps. However, when I came over to the desk, the edit on my work permit read MR ASHLEY JOHNSON, and because my passport indicates Male, they were not keen to change it to Ms.
The next ½ hour was spent trying to persuade them that Ms. is part of my legal name, and even though my passport says M for male, my legal name now is Ms. Ashley Johnson. It took a while, but they were eventually swayed when I reasoned that my passport doesn’t say Mr. either, so they should not include Mr. in my name on the work permit. I also told them, through Ms. Kung, that in the UK the title is not a legal indication of official gender and my deed poll document (thankfully we had both copy and originals with us) is a legal change of name. They’re obliged in their internal system to use a title, and cannot omit it, so they reluctantly agreed to change it to MS ASHLEY JOHNSON, understanding that to put anything else would not be to use my legal name. (I wonder if it would have been easier or more difficult if I’d opted for Mx. as my title.)
So my work permit now reads Mr. Ashley Johnson, crossed through and re-written as Ms. Ashley Johnson with an authorized signature on the correction. They didn’t change the picture, (which is from 2-years ago and really demonstrates how much my looks have already softened,) so it’s probably the most odd looking work permit there is in Thailand, but I’m oddly quite proud of that! Now with the work permit under my new name, I have to go to the downtown immigrations office on Thursday morning for my delayed standard 90-days “check-in”, after which everything will be good to hand over to my company to begin the processes of changing my Thai tax ID, Medical Card, Company Health Insurance and employment contract! (Don’t think I’ve missed anything there.) My main worry as far as that’s concerned is that they’ll be doing all that without my presence, so I won’t be able to remind them to make sure it says Ms. instead of Mr.
When I got back to the office I had an email from the electoral section of the British Government waiting in my inbox telling me my application for “Overseas Voter Registration” was successful. I’d forgotten that when the Government stopped my passport application asking for more proof that was using my new name in every area of my life, I’d started the application under my new name (which I had to get a friend to validate for me, my new name not being found on the electoral register,). Attached to the email was the official letter on which they had written my address twice; each time differently but both times incorrectly. You can possibly imagine that the difficulty with this whole process of name change is quite stressful, but on this occasion I just had to laugh at the sheer fucking incompetency! C’mon, all that was needed was to copy what was written on my form. I replied to the email politely, thanking them and asking that they re-issue correctly, but I’m not convinced they will any time soon.
The woman sending me the email might not be the woman who wrote the letter as it’s signed namelessly from “Electoral Administrator”. Why does no one in the UK Government want to take responsibility for their work? When I send out emails I always use my name, and I come down on any of my staff who end their emails as coming from the office rather than a specified individual unless it’s a blanket announcement. Sorry for the rant, but this widespread anonymity makes it so much easier for people to just phone it in.
With all this going on I’ve managed to fit in The Irish Society’s Emerald Ball, a charcoal art class at Pop Up Art Studio, a trip to Kanchanaburi for some elephant trecking, a wander on the Bridge over the River Kwai, and a much needed, relaxing beach weekend in Takiab / Hua Hin, all with my fiancée before he headed home to England. Ms. Kung, who helps me through the Thai bureaucracy elements of everything says she’s having a really interesting time as it’s the first time she’s ever changed a name for a westerner, let alone had the complications of the Mr. to Ms. without an official gender change! She was dead chuffed today when we got the work permit, and so was I! Onward and upwards….and no longer single. (Almost knocked my counselor over with that bombshell. – hoops to jump through, hoops to wear.)