Some of you may have noticed the countdown I had on the side bar here on the blog. That was counting down to my court date yesterday morning when I finally got my name legally changed to Caitlin, and became legally recognized as a woman by the state of Texas. Since I’ve had people, both trans and cis, asking me about how it went, I figured I’d post on it today.
In reality, court itself was the easy part. My lawyer and I walked in at 9:30 and walked back out at 9:50. In that 20 minute span of time, not only did the judge see us, but also about 10 other cases before us, mostly divorces with a couple adoptions and one case of Child Protective Services asking to be removed from a case. Every case went relatively quick. The lawyer and client walk up, the judge swears the client in, then the lawyer asks a series of yes/no questions, and the judge approves the court order as it was submitted. After the judge finished my case, my lawyer and I went down the hall to the clerk’s office for the district and got the court order certified. I won’t lie, I was crying tears of joy when I got outside and back to my car, after it all sank in.
After that, the real work began. I went next to the local Social Security Administration office to try and get my new card. They said they required a driver’s license with my new name on it first, so even though I wasn’t planning on going to the DMV yesterday, I did. They told me there that in order to get a new driver’s license, I needed a social security card. After much running back and forth between the two (both figurative and literal), I had it narrowed down to needing a letter from the SSA confirming my social security number. Then I had some other stuff I needed for the license, like current proof of insurance, proof of vehicle registration, two forms of proof of current address, etc.
Well, my new insurance cards haven’t arrived yet, stuck in the mail transferring from old address to new, and my old set expired just a couple days ago, so I had to go print out temporary ones. I went to a nearby library, and got signed up for computer use, and while there, I managed to break the librarian’s brain. I gave her my old driver’s license, the photo from which you can see to the right, and she pushed it back to me saying “I can’t accept his ID.” I pointed out that no, it’s mine, and that I’m transgender, and her brain broke. And then she kept going on about it. “I’m not mad at you, I’m mad at myself. I did not see that coming. Wow. Wow!” And more related comments. For several minutes. I mention this not just because it’s kind of funny, but because just by being open about who I am, I opened her mind. I showed her that we’re just normal people. This goes back to that “well you don’t look trans” kind of mentality. She thought trans people looked a certain way, or that we’re all sexual predators, or one of the other myths about us out there, and I broke her of that misconception.
After that, I finally went to the DMV, and after much waiting (about 90 minutes or so), I got called up to get my new license. The clerk behind the counter was not pleased that I, as a trans person, was there trying to get a license from her. She did not want to recognize me as a woman, and gave my copy of the court order to someone else to look into, then told me “we can’t change the sex on your license.” When I pointed out that the court order was saying she had to do exactly that, she said “the state of Texas doesn’t recognize it.” Around this time the other clerk came back and told her that yes, she was supposed to change it. She wasn’t happy about this, and continued being rude to me, referring to me as a man, and even tore up bits of the court order in her frustration. I included this to highlight that the “it gets better” campaign isn’t 100% true. It doesn’t always get better, but we do. We get stronger. Here I had a government employee trying to abuse her power in order to mistreat me on the simple basis of how I was born. I didn’t show her that she hurt me, but I’d be lying if I said she didn’t hurt me at all. Part of what hurt so much about it was that she herself has more than likely suffered from oppression in our society, both as a woman and as an African American, and from the juncture of the two. And I find it sad when I see minorities oppressing one another, but to be the specific target of such overt mistreatment is even worse. But, in the long run, I won out, and I got that little M changed to an F.
After all of that I ran and got dinner, then headed over to a local meet and greet event. Earlier this year, a member of the local kink community and manager of the local club adopted me into her family, considering me as her daughter in all but blood. She took me out last night to this event as a means of celebrating my legal rebirth, and the speaker for the event was trans man porn star and activist, Buck Angel. I had a good time, he gave me his business card, and he offered some good insights into how to continue with my activism. I even got a picture of the three of us to the left (and if you’re trying to read the name tags, mine is way off, she misspelled my first name and used her last name for everyone). And the best part is, that this meet and greet was just downstairs from where our weekly trans youth (17-29) group meets up. The president of said group was hugely jealous that I got to meet Buck, especially when he learned that Buck was just downstairs and that he couldn’t get in.
Lessons learned for the day: the legal system can actually go amazingly smoothly, but the bureaucracy aspects that come after can and most likely will be brutal. People can react in all kinds of ways to us being trans, from shock, to joy, to anger, and some will try to abuse power to hurt us. All of these things were things I thought I knew already, but to have them there as personal experience really puts them into focus.
Does anyone else have any horror stories (or hopefully happy amazing stories) to share about their own legal aspects of transition?