For many of us transguys, changing our legal names is a major milestone in our transition. It’s an outward expression of who we are, who we’ve decided to become, where we’re headed. Some of us were born with names we love and want to keep forever – In which case, congrats and you can skip on to the next post. As exciting as this moment is, let’s be honest – it can also be a huge pain. I don’t think I ever realized how many places my name was until I had to change it. This post will be devoted to organizing those documents for a smooth as possible post-name change transition.
Young people living outside of gender norms are everywhere.
Whether in the process of transitioning from male to female or
vice versa; identifying outside boxes; or gender-nonconforming,
the spectrum of gender identities is more visible than ever before.
Serious legal and other obstacles abound, however, and these can
be especially daunting for young people who are transgender or
gender-nonconforming (TGNC). The challenges of changing one’s
name, finding access to hormones or enduring police brutality, for
instance, demand a distinctly adult set of skills and can take their
toll on a young person.
Continued from TfTM Blog: Legally Transitioning, Part 1 — My Name Change
With 4 months of gender therapy behind me and with my hormone letter (in which my therapist states I have no underlying mental illness and am ready for a doctor to prescribe me testosterone) in sight, I began the process of legally transitioning my gender marker from “F” to “M” on my identity documents. In some states this requires you to have proof of having gone through “sex reassignment surgery” — whatever that means. Usually just top surgery suffices … but I’ll save my rant on why this is an unfair way for the state and federal government to determine a gender transition “complete” (is it ever really over, in some senses?) for another post.
Anyways, in the state of Massachusetts you do not have to show proof-of-surgery in order to change your drivers license/state ID — all you need is for your gender therapist to fill out and sign a gender reassignment document to submit. For efficiency, I decided to change my legal name on my ID at the same time, which actually required me to change my legal name on my social security card first …cue frustration crescendo as the RMV rejects my initial attempt to get a new ID!
I decided to legally change my name shortly after I began gender therapy, with the prospect of being prescribed testosterone at least another half year away. In transition, there’s no hard-and-fast rule about when to change your name (if you decide to change it at all), as opposed to a legal gender change, which does require a certain chronology (at least in Massachusetts). To change my name, all I had to do was pick one, file the appropriate paperwork at probate court, pay the exorbitant fee (~$200), and wait the 5 weeks to receive my official name change document in the mail. Unlike others I know, I did not have to announce the change in the newspaper or even appear before a judge; all I had to write was that the change was “personal”/”name I use daily” and I received the stamp of approval. I got the impression that as long as the change wasn’t in service of evading a past crime, the state didn’t really care why I wanted it.
The minute I received my official name change document in the mail is where the fun began . With this piece of paper in hand, I suddenly felt the power, duty, and burden of having to inform everyone from my school to my bank to my job to my utility companies. As soon as the name change order was stamped into being, my former name ceased to be “real” and the new one was “who” I was … yet the old name persisted on everything I had touched up until now.This left me feeling in a sort of limbo where everything felt false, down to even the perfunctory level of giving my name to the barista for my daily coffee. Unless I went to everyone individually and changed it. (I acknowledge that this sense of
“falseness” was a personal — and actually somewhat unexpected — reaction, and not everyone who doesn’t immediately switch over to using their new name after a legal change is somehow deceptive. Moreover it was a personal feeling of not being true to myself, rather than feeling I owed it to everyone else to not “trick” them — none of their business, in my opinion!)
However, to go to everyone and announce my name change was, in a sense, to announce my transition.
|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].