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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

What's in a Name Change?

There have been some really exciting things happening for my spouse and I in the past few months.  It all happened quite quickly, so I haven't had too much time for writing lately.  It's been a whirlwind of paperwork and research, but we are both very happy with what has resulted.

We went to another appointment with the hormone doctor.  That went extremely well.  I always like to go along to show my support and to listen to all the things the doctor is saying.  I know it's always a bit of an intense experience for my spouse just with all the anticipation of what is the next step, making sure all things are in place on the timeline for transition, etc.

I have to say I think my presence and honesty with the doctor has played a big role in how well he understands the true support that my spouse has.  I'm not only focusing on positive or negative...I'm just truthful.  I think expressing only one way or the other would just be deceptive.  He's a wonderful doctor and honestly wants to know how I'm doing with everything.  It's a bit of a rollercoaster, but I think the fact that we are both honest with him has had an impact.  I express that yes, I do have some frustrations but that overall this is the best thing that could ever happen for my spouse and has been a wonderful thing for our marriage in the respect that we are both much more open an honest about our feelings...which isn't easy.  Good, absolutely...but not easy.

At the end of the appointment, he asked if we had any other questions.  We mentioned that she wanted to do the official name change, so he asked if she wanted the letter of affirmation.  She said yes, but didn't understand exactly what he was about to give us.  My spouse checked just for spelling, but didn't really read the letter until we had gotten home.  I knew what it meant.  It said she has had appropriate treatment to transition to the female gender.  Only later did it really hit her what it actually said.

That was "the" letter.  "The" letter is important for many reasons.  It's important not only to surgeons who will eventually be performing the GRS (or SRS or whatever it's called now) but it also allows for some legal document changes right now.  So, as it sank in for her what it meant, I began my research.

Every state is different on how they handle name and gender changes, so not all of what we experienced will happen to all of you who want this change, but what I want to emphasize is that you need to do your research.  The clerks and other state employees aren't real familiar with the process, so the more documentation you have ready for them, the better.  From what my spouse said, most of the clerks (really all females in our case) were kind of excited for something different.

The name change itself was not too big a deal.  I mean, yes...a big deal for us, but wasn't much trouble.  The entire process does cost some money, a few hundred bucks all together with all the filing fees, but totally worth it in the end.

In our case, we were able to petition for a "confidential name change."  This has a few implications.  In our state, if you want to change your name, you usually need to publish that in a newspaper for a few weeks in case you are trying to get out of some type of debt, etc. but there is another confidential form you can petition for if you have just cause and you are not trying to ellude some finincial difficulty.  We debated this because we don't really care if anyone knows, but it would publish the name and address.  You never know what stranger might have a problem with who you are and want to commit some crime against you.  That really was our only reason for going that route.  The name change doesn't affect the gender on anything.  It's just the name.  That all went through without a hitch.

In our state, the gender marker on the birth certificate cannot change until after surgery.  Bummer.  Right away, we were a little disappointed because we thought it would impact the driver's license.  I did more research and found out how to approach the other documents and I found out how we could get around that.

Social Security (which is Federal, not state) passed a law in something like 2003 that all you need to do in order to change the gender on your social security card is a letter of affirmation from a medical doctor.  Aha!  We had that!!!  Then came the driver's license.  In our state (and I'm assuming most others) the way they check the identity of someone during a name change at the DMV is if their social security number, name and gender all match.  They use the Social Security records.  So, as long as we changed the social security record first, then the DMV record, it all went through.  What a relief!

Both Social Security and the DMV went through with no problem except perhaps a bit more waiting time than the normal customer.  They just had to verify the documents and laws we presented to them. (I recommend highlighting the areas they need to focus on)

The biggest thing that has been such a worry for my spouse is having to explain the difference between what someone is seeing and the identification presented.  Sure, the birth certificate won't change until after surgery, but who cares?  Who really looks at that anyway?

I just thought I'd share the process we went through in case anyone else was having thoughts and concerns about how to approach it.  My advice is to look up the laws first yourself, print out what you find and highlight anything of importance for the clerks who have to decipher it.  Check with your state Vital Records office on their particular requirements for birth certificate, marriage certificate, etc.

Long story short, my spouse now officially has a social security card and driver's license which indicates her new name as well as the appropriate gender.  We could not be more excited!