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.
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].
In my previous two posts (Part 1 & Part 2) I wrote about my experiences in obtaining a name change and a new drivers license in a new state with a new name. I alluded to some deeper meaning in those posts that I would like to take some time and explore here.
To summarize, the judge presiding over my name change accused me of being deceptive because I was a “female” changing my name to a “male” name, and reminded me that I would have to work hard to not deceive people. He gave me a hard time but eventually signed off on it. Then, the DMV issued me a driver’s license with a male gender marker, despite my providing supporting documentation that I’m legally female. I rejoiced over this oversight (in this state you need surgery and a subsequent court order for a legal change on a driver’s license), but quickly felt guilty, anxious, and shameful about “cheating” the system and having “incorrect” documents. I returned to the DMV the following day to alert them of this error but the teller would not change it back without my original birth certificate. I showed her all of the documentation I had yesterday that has that stupid little “F” written all over it but it didn’t matter. I can’t be sure, but I think the teller might have changed it back without today except she was really hung up on the fact that I was born with a “male” middle name. Alas, I now have a driver’s license with a male gender marker until I return with my birth certificate.
I am ecstatic to have one piece of ID that has what I feel to be the correct gender marker, but I still feel anxious about it. This whole process has also made me think about the policies, laws, requirements that dictate gender in this country and why the system is so twisted.
Continued from: When the Letters Don’t Match (Pt 1)
So to continue on this journey…Yesterday I went to the DMV to obtain a new drivers license in my new name. This was also my first time applying for one in this state. To do so, I provided my old drivers license (from another state, gender listed as F), my Passport (from 2005, pre-transition, pre-first thought about anything trans-related, gender listed as F, pretty feminine looking picture and all–pony tail, pink shirt, tank top; my how I’ve changed!), vehicle registration, court ordered name change (again, gender listed as F), and my lease. (I also threw in the social security card and school ID for fun.) The teller made copies of all of these documents and entered my information into the system.
Well, much to my surprise the teller issued a driver’s license with gender listed as male! In HS (homestate), to change your gender on a driver’s license, the information I’ve found indicates that you need proof of surgery. Anecdotally, this means either top and bottom surgery or a strongly worded letter that indicates the individual has had “enough” surgery. Well, I’ve had no surgeries and have no letter so what happened here?