April 13, 2011, Wednesday
Anxious to change my two middle names! I’ve asked my parents to each designate a new one. Thought they’ve been somewhat detached from this whole process and wanted to include them more somehow. Also, picking new names sounded hard. How do you do that for yourself? I’ve chosen lots about my own identity. It’s nice to have them still choose something for me as their kid. Grateful they accepted the task.
Anyway. Mother leaning toward Denae. Father reported the consideration of Athena, but then again, father was intoxicated. Appreciating pretty-and-badass combination of “Denae” with “Goddess of war who broke out of Zeus’ head.”
April 24, 2011, Sunday
Athena Denae it is! Will file paperwork Tuesday. Have to publish name change in the newspaper apparently, and list both old and new name, but whatever. Not exactly going for stealth at this point.
April 26, 2011, Tuesday
Eventful day. Went to ugly Eisenhower-era Civil Court building and idled at Name Change window while clerk stamped documentation. Told to go upstairs to pay $65 (!) then was given court date for next Wednesday! (!) On May 4, I will appear before a judge to receive name judgment. (Sounds intimidating. Must remember to say “Your Honor.” And what to wear?)
This is unsettling, though: Apparently the publication of a name change must include the changee’s address. Grew kinda queasy at the thought of newspaper stands carrying the equivocal text of CASEY ATHENA DENAE PLETT IS A FRESHLY MINTED TRANNY AND SHE LIVES RIGHT HERE. Might as well install a neon sign over my building saying GIRL WITH WIENER INSIDE.
Calmed a little after pleasantly sunny excursion outside to find ATM. (City Court, like half of New York vendors, only accepts cash. Unsure why city that houses financial center of North America allergic to credit cards.) Paid fee and went back to Name Change window for final stamping. Then left Civil Court in bipolar swirl of excitement and anxiety.
Jazzed name change is happening, but kinda worried about this address-publishing and appearing-before-a-judge thing. Went to Internet café, where a nice smiling man leaving a table cleaned it off before I sat down. Smiled back. He left after an awkward nod. Wonder if he thought I was flirting? Felt a bolt of sadness for men. Strangers so rarely smile at men.
Over delicious fat mug of coffee, called up old New York Times article on transgender name changes. Discovered following paragraph:
“The publication requirement insisted upon by some of the Manhattan judges has fed an eerie subculture of readers, many of them prisoners, who follow the newspaper notices. One man forced to advertise that he was becoming a woman received several seductive letters with prison return addresses. ‘Hello Angel!’ said one of the letters. ‘I am not afraid to take new roads,’ said another.”
Made me feel even queasier about the whole thing. Considered yanking petition altogether, actually. But then read of possibility for publication to be waived altogether! Compassionate Westchester judge recently ruled trans people could obtain exceptions due to hostile society. Then discovered Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund runs a thing to help trans New Yorkers with legal name change hullabaloo!
Thrilling developments. Emailed them amongst wash of gratitude, was then told to call them, which I should do tomorrow. I’m not always a big fan of NYC, but institutions here protect us to an extent unprecedented and that is a ceaseless blessing.
So, a seesaw of a day. Really hope it’s possible to get that publication requirement waived. I’m squirrelly enough about appearing before the judge as it is. Difficult enough to do all this shit without going to a court of law. Though no different than anybody else who wants to change their name, I guess.
Those letters unnerve me. What about us makes people that fascinated?
April 29, 2011, Friday
Finally called Name Change Project. Why didn’t I call earlier?! Been so busy with end of school… but still. Stupid. Friendly person with high-pitched voice answered. (Male? Not sure. Suppose I should know the fruitlessness of trying to figure that out.) High-Pitch assured me that appearing before the judge is not scary at all. As far as waiving publication goes, I can try to amend my petition at the courthouse, but there’s no guarantee of that working since the court date is so close. No time to go down today. Fuck. Fuck. Will try luck Monday.
May 2, 2011, Monday
Went downtown with new petition, amended to say, “PLEASE DON’T MAKE ME PUBLISH THIS,” (or rather, TLDEF’s helpful emailed legal equivalent thereof). Was soon in front of Name Change window again. It was only two days till court. Considered alternatives if I was too late to amend anything. Could I just not show up and resubmit the petition later? Wondered if that’d be contempt of court. Guessed High-Pitch would know.
Standing in line, I pondered the bored short man with light eyes at the Name Change counter who might determine if my status and address went in the paper or not. And when my turn came, I went up to him and perched my boobs on the counter, twirled my hair, spoke in a soft, shy sing-songy voice, and smiled at his bored eyes. I only really realize now I did that. It wasn’t an active decision. Can I really do that now? I was always rankled in dude-y days past when women did that. Hmm.
Light-eyed clerk stamped my papers thoroughly and told me to ask the court clerk to put them in my file, then come back Wednesday before my court appearance to get documents re-notarized. He smiled with confidence. No Civil Court employee so far has smiled. All these smiles from males imbuing me with empowerment and nervousness lately. Like I’ve been promoted to a job I don’t actually know how to do.
May 4, 2011, Wednesday – 10:37 AM
Judging day! Sitting in courtroom waiting for judge now.
Morning was off to bad start after heading downtown resembling star of Art Teacher Sluts 6. The black tights and flats were nice, as was the thin black zip-up cardigan, but the black cable knit dress had the bottom coverage of booty shorts. Had planned to pick up pencil skirt at cleaners to complete ensemble, but then informed skirt not yet clean.
“But the ticket said it’d be ready today?!” I whispered forcefully to the fellow at the cleaners, as I do in public now when I’m angry but wary of slipping into a giveaway man-shout. Fellow shook his head. “Ready in one hour?” he suggested. Walked to subway and made note to keep legs jam-locked together until back in the apartment.
Downtown, waited in interminable security line for another motherfucking day at Civil Court. Next in line at Name Change window when a woman in a white shirt scooted up behind me. Guessed she just needed one more stamping before departure, so I asked if she wanted to go ahead of me.
“Oh, really?! Thank you, thank you!”
“No problem!” I said softly, delighting in her gratitude.
Thinking about it now, there’ve been a few moments like this that I file under some new sisterly connection I have with women. And I wonder if I’d have yielded my place in line to a man. Thinking the odds are lesser. I don’t like that. I used to try to treat people the same regardless of gender (not that it’s possible to fully succeed at that), but my actions have seemed different lately. More wary of men and warmer to women. Hmm.
At window, woman in white shirt pulled out cell phone and exclaimed something about husband. Then, “Hi sweetie! Yeah, I’m down at the court.” Overheard her needing the spelling of somebody’s name. Hoped it wasn’t her husband. Ten minutes in, sisterly connection forgone in favor of mild rage. One hour before court.
Got to Name Change window and told the clerk I was there to re-notarize documents. He said I was fine and told me to go up to court. Repeated that I was told otherwise, but he was immovable. Sullenly said okay. Would’ve felt better if he’d stamped something. Got up to court and checked in with officer. Now almost 11. Hope this starts on time. Gotta pee.
11:09 – Nope. Judge maddeningly busy with other affairs. Been curious if other T-folks are here. There’s one woman I noticed. Tall-ish, black pantsuit. Large-ish frame, jaw line just a little pronounced. Entertained the idea of sitting next to her, but opted against it: What would I say? What if I’m wrong? We need a signal. Someone should work on that. (Contact National Center for Trans Equality when home?)
11:13 – I really have to pee. Concerned about missing my time though…
11:37 – Gave up bathroom battle. Imagined thighs were turning magenta from chafing. Court officer said I was fine to go. After relieving myself, I went up to the Maybe T-Woman and asked if I’d missed anything, trying to—I don’t know, smile knowingly? She gave a sharp “no” and looked away.
Now, I know there’s a lot of reason not to read into that. She most likely wasn’t trans (there just aren’t that many of us) and either way, it’s not like New Yorkers are the cheeriest bunch. But I guess if it were me, I dunno if I’d be that pleased. Impromptu reminders of being trans are rarely fun, no matter who’s doing the reminding…
Assimiliation. To be just another girl in the world, not a T-girl, not a girl*, just a girl. I am proud of being trans, but I am also so, so sick of it being an everyday factor of my life. Maybe that’s got something to do with falling more into gender roles or whatever. Would really fucking love this to end sometime—oh shit the judge just called my name!!!
12:08 – Judge expectantly stern. Only asked a few questions, one of which: “I see you don’t want to publish the change. Why is that?”
“Well, um, I’m transgendered. And, transgendered people. Y’know. Face a lot of violence. And hostility. As a group. Er. And so privacy. Um, reasons. For privacy reasons, I mean, I’d prefer not to publish it. Both name and address, but if not, at least the address. Because of that. I mean, safety,” I concluded.
She took a second. “Alright,” she said, “I’m going to ask you to publish your name, but not your address.”
Thank God. “Okay, thank you.”
Shit! I just realized I never said Your Honor! Still waiting to get the official signed order back. Hope she wasn’t latently affronted.
12:35 – Court order in hand. Gotta publish it in the paper before it’s certified, but the judge signed it and it’s a done deal. Phew. Phew phew phew.
May 11, 2011, Wednesday
Guy on my stoop this morning smiled and said, “Hey, sweetheart.” His smile was sorta like the one from the light-eyed clerk at the Name Change window a couple weeks ago. Smiled back at this guy too. Can never quite tell if these smiles are benevolent or not. Mysterious smiles as a woman, no smiles as a man. Plenty of things to cleanly like and dislike about both man-ness and woman-ness, but finding the smiling strangers factor a crappy toss-up.
Announcement printed in the paper, sans address. Saw a few name changes in that section that looked like gender changes. Wonder if any were in the room with me last week.
Went back to Civil Court and ordered seven certified copies in hopes of never standing by that fucking Name Change window ever again. Now at federal building across the street to change Social Security records. Another long, explorative day with waiting rooms. Had a lot of those. Electrolysists, endocrinologists, insurance officers, sperm banks, therapists, laser clinics. The perpetual gripping of plastic armrests. More to come, I guess. Gotta change birth certificate, driver’s license, passport, school records. Can’t fight bureaucracy. Still. Transitioning is a lonely game.
June 20, 2011, Monday
Told a friend the other day that I knew being trans would always affect my everyday life in some way. Coming to terms with that. Twenty-odd years of a male past isn’t possible to erase and that’s probably not a bad thing. Assimilation is part of the goal, I’ll admit (if it wasn’t, I wouldn’t try to pass) but it shouldn’t be the whole thing, and I’ve been leaning on that, because I just want all this to be over. I’m tired. But, I suppose I’ll always be transitioning to some extent. There are worse things.
I don’t regret flirting with the man at the Name Change window; I’d do it again in a second. But I’d hate to think, I guess, that I wouldn’t yield my place in line to one gender over another, for instance. That’s silly. Subconscious or not, it’s just silly. More to figure out, maybe, but I know that. Gender continues to be silly. Time to stop writing and have a whiskey.
Well, one other thing: Years ago, I saved this post a trans woman made to an online community board:
“You know, actually, I think of myself as one of the luckiest people alive because I get to live out my dream that I never thought possible, every day, all the time. How many people get to do that? Not many. But I do.”
A good thought. Mustn’t forget it.