Thursday, April 17, 2014
Friday, March 7, 2014
Sunday, February 16, 2014
I find myself in the unusual position of agreeing with Justice Thomas. I've met many people who consider themselves so forward thinking that they can't see their own prejudices. They make belittling statements about transgender women; they take actions that denigrate and harm us. All the while, these people couch their words and actions in high-sounding language that is, in fact, intended to minimize and comparmentalize us. The people of St. Mark's United Methodist Church in Atlanta are just one of the many examples who come to mind as I write this. They congratulate themselves on their own acceptance of each other while refusing to admit that their motto "All Are Welcome" is simply not true.
At least the haters are consistent and easy to identify. Liberal bigots try to hide their thoughts and actions for their own protection. The African-American civil rights movement made its greatest gains when African-Americans stood up and claimed their civil rights for just what they are---rights, not gifts from self-congratulating white liberals. Transgendered people should, in my humble opinion, stand up for ourselves and rely less on others for gifts that may never come.
Friday, February 14, 2014
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
The next step after the court order is the driver's license. Since I had a court order, the process was in principle straightforward. But I knew that my local Driver's Services office had a gal who was used to dealing with transgender people, so I asked to see her. Everything went pretty smoothly and my photo turned out well. I left with a temporary license with my new name. The official, laminated license arrived in the mail a little over a week later.
When that arrived, I drove north on I-85 once again to the Social Security office and waited in another line. The young gal who helped me was very nice; at the end she said, "Congratulations!" She was very thorough, even noting that some paperwork event in the '80s had caused my old middle name to be misspelled. I left with a notice, but it would take about two weeks for the change to go through the system and for my new Social Security card to arrive in the mail.
In the mean time, I could start to work on other quasi-legal documents: the car registration and title, car insurance, credit cards, and utility bills.
Georgia Tech's name change process, however, had to wait for the Social Security document. They claimed that they couldn't act based on the court order, which seems interesting given that they are a state institution. Mind you, they had announced my transition six months before, officially announcing my gender and updating my Web page. The fact that my name on the class registration lists didn't conform to my published identity made for some uncomfortable moments. To make things worse, their process involves two different offices: my Buzz Card ID came from the Office of Human Resources; I then had to trudge to the Registrar's office to change my name on the course catalog listings.
Meanwhile, I continued to work on all the other memberships and documents that needed to be changed. In several instances, the people processing these requests refused to comply. The implications of my request were clear---my first name had changed, not my last. Delta Air Lines first ignored my name change, then made up excuses as to why they couldn't change my frequent flyer account; I had to make several rounds of complaints for them to comply. I saw the same pattern at the Stanford Alumni Association: first ignore it, then make excuses. They processed my name change only after I threatened to email Stanford's president. TIAA/CREF, my pension organization, managed a particularly blatant insult. During a phone call about my accounts, their representative accused me of lying about my identity: "I know you aren't Marilyn." I eventually received a curt apology letter from them.
I still get my utility bills under my old name---I don't have the energy to file the paperwork. I still get junk mail and robocalls for my old name; at this point I know that these people are very out-of-date.
Sunday, February 2, 2014
Saturday, February 1, 2014
Let's start with two caveats. First, this blog post is not legal advice. Second, the legal procedures for name changes vary from state to state; tsroadmap.com has some very useful information on name change procedures.
Georgia's name change process take several steps but it isn't inherently difficult. (If you plan to change your name in Georgia , be sure to plan for it to take about 3 months.) I decided to conduct my legal name change myself for two reasons: I didn't want to pay $1000 to a lawyer; and I wanted the experience of doing it myself. I found sample name change paperwork online and filled it out. I then took it to the county courthouse and got in line at the clerk's office. The clerk who helped me was very nice; I clearly wasn't the first transgender woman he had dealt with. He showed me several things I needed to fix. I scratched out a few things and wrote them in by hand; not neat, but it didn't cause any problems with this judge. I paid the filing fee, was in the $100-$200 range. The law also requires that a notice of the pending name change be published in a particular newspaper several times (four, as I recall). I got the form from the clerk, filled it out, and mailed it in along with another check. When the notice had run the required number of times, the newspaper sent me an official form stating that I had completed the public notice process.
I then received a court date. Georgia law states that the only reason a name change can be refused is if the person's intent is fraudulent. Our intent is quite the opposite---transgender people change our names to be truthful about ourselves. tsroadmap.com has some stories of Georgia judges turning down transgender name changes improperly. My judge was very helpful, but my divorce did complicate the issue. The court session was a general one, with perhaps a dozen cases ranging all across the board from my name change to criminal matters. I think that another person there was also transgender. My spouse's lawyer hijacked the proceeding, asking the judge to rule on a number of matters on the divorce. He also asked that the name change be refused, citing his client's feelings. The judge asked me if I was willing to wait a few months until the divorce was final for the name change to be granted. I wanted to show that I was willing to be accommodating, so I agreed.
The divorce proceedings continued for another 2-1/2 years. A few months after the court hearing, I wrote a letter to the judge explaining my situation: I had already transitioned at Georgia Tech, but both my Georgia Tech records and driver's license referred to my old name. The judge was very accommodating and made sure the name change order went through promptly.