TfTM Blog: My Name Change Experience by JamesPosted: May 31, 2012
|Contributor: James Knapp|
In response to: zaac writes: When the Letters Don’t Match (Pt 1)
My experience was much different. The heartbreak didn’t come until my ordeal with the DMV. But my legal name change in Summit Co., OH was surprisingly easy. I was lucky to already be “passing” since I was less than 4 months on T. But I feel like that had a lot to do with it. I never once mentioned the phrases “trans” or “sex/gender change,” and no one ever asked me.
I printed off the application from the court (of common pleas/probate) website and filled it out. For “reason,” I listed “personal preference.” I went that day to the court and filed my application with the clerk [along with the fine].
I asked if I could speak with the judge, and by some grace of God I found myself in chambers within minutes. He asked me why I was changing my name. I told him it was a matter of personal preference and that I had been going by my “nickname” for quite a while. He asked me what I was changing my name from. I told him my birth name (which by the way, is certainly not gender-neutral) and followed it up with, “it’s a family name.” He laughed and commented that life must be hard for me. I said something back, but now I can’t remember what it was that was even going through my head because I was nervous– knowing me, I’m sure it was something sarcastic.
He read over the petition quietly to himself and looked up at me. He explained the process after that point, which I was already familiar with, but I was happy to see that the judge genuinely wanted to help this nervous, awkward little man-child barely standing from shaking so hard in front of him. He signed my petition and wished me luck. I left his chambers with a sigh of relief. Of course, I got lost leaving the court house, but no one noticed.
The next steps included going to a legal newspaper to publish a notice of name change [along with the fee]. This is to allow anyone who disagrees or wishes to challenge (ie, creditors) a chance to speak up. I went directly from the court to the newspaper. Everything was pretty much taken care of for me at this point, since it was a standard announcement.
Next, I went back to the court and filed the proof with the clerk. I did all of this in one day, but there is no time limit. The notice of hearing arrived in the mail about a week later, and the hearing was scheduled for around 40 days later. I did not go. In the absence of any dissenters, the judge signed the order for name change. The signed order was mailed to me within 3 days. I used the order to change my name on everything from my BA diploma to my gym membership.
Social Security and the Department of Motor Vehicles was a more challenging change. I had to go to each office more than twice. Once for the name change; once for the gender marker change; and once or twice in-between the two, I was turned away. But I eventually won that battle.
Ohio never changes names or genders on birth certificates. So my drivers license, social security card (which does not list gender on the card itself, but does keep a record of gender in credit reports and the like, which is linked to your SS number), and passport are all in disagreement with my birth certificate. But I’ll take it.