If you have proceeded far enough into the 24/7 stage of transition you may well encountered the often-maddening labyrinth associated with changing your legal documentation.
In some states, of course, it’s much easier than others (although you can often be surprised to think you live in a progressive state only to find them laboring under archaic laws and policies). At the worst extreme, in Tennessee and Ohio you can’t change the gender on your birth certificate EVER. By contrast, the (non-military) document changes on the Federal level are much smoother and constantly improving.
It’s beyond the length of this space to go into specific details about resources – there are several quality sites a Google search away. But it’s worth commenting on the diversity of potential outcomes, particularly for the interest of those who might not have looked into the potential road blocks in front of them. The challenges exist on Federal, state, and local levels of government, as well as sometimes in the private sector.
Of course the first thing most change is their legal name, which is usually not terribly difficult though in can range from routine in terms of expense (say, no more than the fee one might pay for renewing a business license) to a matter which requires the services of a lawyer driving the cost over $1,000. Trans people in rural areas which tend to be more dominated by Christian Traditionalists, usually fear running up against and obstinate judge (or clerk) who lets their personal religious views interfere with their duties (I certainly do!) but objectively, there are only a few cases – at least only a few that managed to make it into the national pro-LGB/T media) in which that actually happened, and always overturned. In most cases, name changes require nothing more than reasonable determination that you do not intend to defraud creditors or avoid legal action in order to be approved. Other objecting parties have no standing.
Another area to be addressed that does feature a string of notorious news items is dealing with the DMV. Some obstinate functionaries even go so far as to require trans persons to adhere to gender stereotypes for their photo. This is usually, though, an issue with the frontline clerk and once the case moves to higher level officials it is resolved in our favor.
The next stage of dealing with papers is changing your gender marker. This can be more difficult as most jurisdictions want some documentation the change is authentic and long-term – which practically amounts to documentation from your care-givers that you have received whatever level of treatment the require. For some that’s as little as psychological evaluation and hormones, for others it can’t be done without Genital Reconstruction Surgery. Which is a real issue if you are a trans-man who can’t afford the problematic FTM version of that surgery.
Even when you can document your care – which is a huge issue for those who cannot afford the potentially prohibitive cost of the care required – it can be a significant aggravation to navigate the obstetrical presented by ill-informed bureaucrats. Because it’s still relatively rare they have to deal with it, they often are ill-informed or completely clueless concerning the rights of the citizen in question and their obligations in their position towards us. In my own state, which will not actually change the gender marker on your BC (or name) but rather strike-through and amend, the Department of Records will go on record with the court as opposing even a name change (though they don’t bother to fight it) and can be obstinate on the gender change.
Thankfully, on the Federal level names changes, again, the military can be more difficult, are a breeze and gender marker requirements can be fairly reasonable. It’s often suggested that changing your official gender with the FedGov is best done by obtaining a passport, new or renewed, in your lived gender and letting that document serve as a persuasive evidence in the face of difficulties elsewhere.
When you’ve changed either of these, or both, in the legal sense you still have to propagate that through various public and private systems. Changing the driver’s license is just the beginning. You certainly have an official relationship with the IRS and your state division of revenue, but all official interactions will have a record associated with your dead name – and require notice. Legal documents such as deeds need to be updated.
On a private level, there’s your employer (if you have one) to start with, as well as banks and other financial institutions, former employers, schools attended – basically anywhere an inconsistency between the name they have and the name associated with your SSN – will need to be informed.
For me, when my pending change is complete, I will much enjoy the “tour” of my present and former life in which I report the change to each in turn, counting each as a small victory. But for others, particularly those seeking to maintain a low profile, such a duty can be quite traumatic. But it must be done. As trying as the process can be, there’s a great relief and joy – so I’m told – in having accomplished it.
I am very anxious to find out for myself!
Photo by: Kat