Tuesday, November 05, 2002

birth certificate bloopers

My father's last name is different than mine. It's because of a Polish nurse. That's not intended as an insult to Polish nurses, or Polish people in general. But, it's the truth. Last names are a fairly complex concept in Poland. If you visit this page, and scroll down to the section on Last Names, or Surnames, you see that a polish last name may be spelled differently depending upon whether the name refers to a male, or a female.

When my grandmother arrived at the hospital ready to let my father into the world, the Polish nurse who checked her in spelled her last name Slawska. Unfortunately, my father didn't have a Polish nurse prepare his birth certificate, and his name wasn't adjusted for gender. My father's birth certificate lists his last name as Slawska. As he was gowing up, he used the correct spelling, Slawski. At least, until he got into the Marine Corps, who insisted that he had to use the name indicated his birth certificate. Why he never had his name legally changed, I'm not sure.

Mistakes do happen on birth certificates. A man in Italy recently had a similar problem (via blogdex). His birth certificate incorrectly lists a feminine version of his first name, and also carries the designation "female." He applied to have the erroneous name and gender corrected on the certificate seven years ago, but bureaucracy has conspired to keep the change from happening. When applying for a marriage license, the information on his birth certificate caused the Italian government to deny the license. Wanting to get married, he tried a different approach:
Buonocore was driven to try an unorthodox legal tactic. He appealed to a court in Torre Annunziata, south of Naples, to have his sexual identity overturned under Italy's sex-change law. He's never had a sex change, but no matter. If he could prove he was a he, his lawyers reasoned, the court would have to alter his birth certificate and let him change his name to boot. "It was a trick," he said in an interview. "But it was an open trick."

Last week, a judge agreed. He ruled that Luciana is really all man and always has been, and whatever the pretext, it was high time to put things right. "I'm going to get married right away," the soon-to-be Luciano said.
Let this be a cautionary note to all the parents-to-be out there. Check that birth certificate over carefully before checking out of the hospital. Failure to do so may impede your child from getting married sometime in the future. And, when my father gets mentioned on the web (congratulations, Dad!), they spell his name wrong...

No comments: