Do You Exist?

I’ve got papers, therefore I must exist.

I walked into the Post Office. Documents firmly in my hand.  Ready for my passport interview.

The middle-aged lady behind the counter glanced at me from the lofty heights above her bifocals. Stamping her position of authority before the painstaking examination of papers would begin.

The child in my stroller was 9 months old. She needed a passport too. Her application was completed first. All boxes ticked.

Half way through checking my application, the interviewer shuffled my papers about. There was a big problem. My birth certificate. It was written in Indonesian.

I was used to this. My country of birth has been a bureaucratic bother when filling out paperwork most of my life. I was born in Indonesia to Australian parents which makes me an Australian citizen. I pointed out my citizenship form that accompanied my birth certificate. It was in English.

She went away, behind a closed door. She needed to consult with her supervisor. I was the wild card that skewed her day.

She came back. There was a further problem. The citizenship form didn’t indicate my gender. It declared every other possible detail about me, but not my gender. She needed a document to state that I was born a female. In English.

I drew her attention to the old passport on the counter – the one I had let lapse – and reminded her that I was a female in that document.  Would that be enough proof of my femalehood?

Apparently not.

I pointed out that my name on the Indonesian birth certificate was the same as the citizenship form, and that in my lifetime I had not met one boy named “Deborah Jane”.

She went away again. Meanwhile my 9 month girl was going nuts in the stroller. I picked her up before she could grab all the strategically placed eye-level toys.

The interviewer came back. Nope, it needed to be stated in English. She told me that I needed to get an Indonesian interpreter – at my expense – to prove what it said.

What the?!  There was no way in hell I was going to pay for an interpreter. All to prove that I was a female? My baby started screaming in my arms. At this point I was quite prepared to go behind the counter, pull up my skirt, and show the interviewer firsthand that I indeed had lady bits.

I took a few deep breaths and composed myself for a stealth attack of logic. I thought it was worth a shot.

I launched it:

Here was my daughter. She had been proven to exist, yes?
And the documentation to prove this fact was her birth certificate, yes?
Well, guess what? I – yes the person standing in front of her – I was on that birth certificate, under ‘MOTHER’.  Which indicates that I gave birth to her. And in order to give birth one must have female anatomy, yes?

Who could argue with this?

She couldn’t.

I walked out of there with a passport and a crazy new sense of validation.

I had papers – and a vagina – therefore I must exist.


  1. says

    Ughhh! The documentation war! My Hubby is German and so his birth certificate is invalid also, now we are having dramas because his passport lapsed and they wont take his citizenship cert because he is listed under his dads name because he was under 16 when he moved to Aus. Which is how it works! FFS! I feel your pain, sadly he does not have a vagina, so it appears may not exist…

  2. Kelly Exeter says

    Having just done the passport renewal thing for Mr X and the new passport thing for Mr 2 … and all the paper wrangling that went with both … I’d say I feel your pain, but no, your pain easily surpassed mine!!
    Kelly Exeter recently posted..It’s an oldie but a goodieMy Profile

  3. says

    Ugh! Bureaucracy at its finest!!! I would’ve loved to have been a fly on the wall to hear that heated conversation…lol!
    In Japan, all foreign residents are required to hold a “foreigner’s card”. And when literally translated into English it read, “Alien Registration Card”
    So for years, I existed in Japan – as an alien.
    I barely ever had to pull it out except for one time when a policeman pulled me over for riding my bike with a broken headlight. Ah, the life of a vagrant in Japan!
    Grace recently posted..The array of colours that is PrinceMy Profile

    • Deb says

      That’s so bizarre, Grace. Some days I think I need to carry an Alien Registration Card in my own home! Hilarious. :)

  4. Anita says

    LOL – I have a similar problem. I was born in Turkey to American parents. Fortunately, I was born on an American Air Force Base so I do have an American birth certifcate and an American passport. My passport lists my place of birth as Turkey; try traveling with a passport with that info on it! I was interrogated when I flew into Cairo as a 19-year-old. It scared the bejeebers out of me.

    Yes, we have a vagina and we do exist! :)

    • Deb says

      It’s a curse sometimes Anita, isn’t it?! I’ve been questioned many times about it at airports around the world. And the amount of times I’ve put it on a document (like a job application or similar) and they call out my name in a waiting room and look weirdly at me and say “But we were expecting and Asian lady”. Really?! Come on people! Humans can be born in a country that’s not their own… or in an airplane even! 😉

    • Deb says

      Lee, I rarely attempt humour – despite being funny in real life! – but I thought I’d have a crack at it. 😉

  5. says

    This story is a real giggle-fest – love it. Your logic is a thing of beauty.
    My ‘thang’ with bureacracy began when I married in 1968 and discovered I and everybody even remotely connected to me had been spelling my first name incorrectly for 22 years. There was a lot of hoopla about whether I existed and if I should be allowed to get married. After two marriages and three different last names and hating my first name, I decided to change my whole name to one I made up for myself. As you can imagine, the rigmarole I went through with all the petty officials at every form-filling event bordered on the absurd. Now I just tell them I’m a figment of their imagination, hand over all the official papers and tell them to sort it out. It’s a hoot to watch the looks on their faces.
    Tez recently posted..Waiting . . . waiting . . . . waiting . . . .My Profile

    • Deb says

      Good on you for changing it altogether! And I’m having my own giggle-fest at the thought of you telling people you’re a figment of their imagination! Clever lady. x

  6. says

    Ha, reminds me of my own struggle.

    I was born in Australia to New Zealand citizen parents at a time when NZ’ers could just come and go as they pleased in Australia.

    But, to prove I was a citizen of Australia I had to provide one document for each year I was alive until I was TEN to show that I stayed here as a citizen. I don’t know about you, but my parents were INCREDIBLY lax when it came to documents – such a nightmare.

    I finally got there, but my citizenship certificate states I’m only a citizen from when I’m 10 onwards. Before that? I must have been some kind of illegal immigrant out of my mother’s womb – because I didn’t have citizenship anywhere else, either!!

    • Deb says

      Liz! I’m honoured that you’re here! I adore your blog (though too shy to comment yet!). Hilarious that you were a non-entity pre-10 years old! Maybe bureaucracy exists to amuse us? x

  7. says

    Oh, bureaucratic blindness makes me laugh (then cry, then laugh again). I still think about the time my Austudy payments were apparently diverted to Naomi Campbell (because after all, Amazonian American supermodels really need university support AND Ms C and I have so much in common so it was an easy mistake to make ?!)… but this takes the cake. Thank goodness for lady bits!
    Naomi Bulger recently posted..Slums, sly grog & supermodelsMy Profile

    • Deb says

      But of course! Hilarious, Naomi, this is hilarious! I’m loving all these bureacratic madness stories. xx

  8. Claudia says

    Ha ha!! Thank goodness you were so quick on your feet! My husband and I went through bureaucratic hell just to get married. He has dual citizenship, Argentinian and Croatian (born in Buenos Aires, now lives in Croaita), and I was born in the Philippines to German parents. In Croatia they wouldn’t accept my original birth certificate from the Philippines OR the official translation and document I got from the German Embassy in the Philippines. They insisted on an international birth certificate that was not older than 6 months – and that would have taken months to get I didn’t know there was such a thing as an “international birth certificate” and I’d never heard of a birth certificate “expiring” after 6 months. Still trying to get my head around that one. (We ended up getting married in Germany where the paperwork – surprisingly enough – turned out to be much less of a hassle).

    • Deb says

      Wow Claudia – that sounds like a bureaucratic headache! I have not heard of an International birth certificate either… especially one that expires?! What a wonderful fusion of cultures you and your husband have! xx

    • Deb says

      Sadly I would have probably been arrested for a public display of flesh.. and hence would be denied a passport! 😉

  9. says

    So glad you didn’t have to flash in the end. This reminds me of a phonecall I had last week with our Bank. I spent ten minutes confirming my identity with the rep who had to call me back so I could retrieve an SMS code on my phone. He then pretended to have no idea who I was. I had to say to him “are you seriously pretending you didn’t just talk to me for fifteen minutes?” – this stuff drives me crazy!
    Carli (@tinysavages) recently posted..mummy baitingMy Profile

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge