Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Hats off to the ladies in City Hall room 269

With all the budget talk, taxes and general fear and despair in the city of Philadelphia, I thought I ought to tip my hat to some of the greatest ladies I've run into in a while. I'll name no names to protect the awesome.

My legal name change went through in August but in order to take care of any of my identity documents I would first have to go to City Hall to get a certified copy. Not only did this cost over $40 after a long process that has nickle and dimed me to death, but I in no way felt like dealing with City Hall. For those that have never been, Philadelphia City Hall is an enormous building and incredibly physically daunting. It just felt like an intimidating and grossly overwhelming endeavor. After weeks of dragging my feet I finally steeled my reserve to just get it taken care of.

I rode my bike straight up Broad Street, entered where I had when I had attended my hearing. I prepared for what would hopefully be one of the last times I would have to show my ID and get a name tag that said "Elizabeth." However, this time no one asked. I just got a sticker that said Eli.

I went up to room 269 expecting a long line but instead walked right up to the counter. This efficiency was tempered by a sign on the wall that said all certified copies would be ready for pick up in 3-5 days. I cringed at the thought of having to psyche myself up all over again to enter the building. I handed the women my paper and said I needed a certified copy. I bit my lower lip as I watched her read the paper that lays way too much of my life bare and exposed. She looked up, said "$42," and immediately went to make copies.

"Is it less expensive if I buy two copies at the same time?" I asked.

"Yes. Two copies would be $83.64," she said with a coy glint in her eye. I smiled and said I'd pass on that "deal" and just take the one. While she went to make the copies I joked with her co-worker finally giving in to feeling a bit of comfort about the way things were going. The first woman sat back down and asked when my birthday was--I assumed for official reasons though no where on my documents is my birthday listed.


"Get out!"

"That your birthday?" her coworker asked.

"No, mine's the 21st. His is just two days after Valentines Day," she said.

"I'm always getting cheated on Valentines Day presents," I chimed in, her use of 'his' ringing in my ears.

"At least it's not in December," she said, "I always felt bad for those people in December." I nod as she signs the papers in front of her. She then looks up and smiles. "Well, I'm going to say to you--Merry Christmas," and she stamps the embosser, "Happy Valentines Day," she stamps it again, "and Happy Birthday," and again. She hands me some paper and holds up three fingers. "Always keep one for yourself," she tells me.

I thank her with a look of shocked amazement. Something free from City Hall? I didn't think that was possible. I left room 269 and walked out into the cavernous hallway. It was a small success in the grand scheme of things but somehow it felt like so much more.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A Line in the Sand Revisited

I had just been thinking of the Semenya story (the runner with ambiguous gender) today and wondered what ever came of it. Someone brought it up at dinner and I heard some of the rumors. Then a friend posted this link and asked what are they doing to this girl?

Turns out she may be gender variant. Read the story. I've already said most of my thoughts in my origional post (linked above) but I think the last line of the video is the most interesting--"if she didn't know, she wasn't cheating. it's not like she was taking drugs" (quoted very loosely). There are, again, so many bigger theoretical questions but now, in the very base level of competition, I am also wondering--if she is "mostly male" (whatever that means) and were to compete with the boys--how would she do? Even better--assert she is a woman and say fuck all you all and race the men. We could use another Billy Jean King!