As anybody who reads this blog or my FB wall knows, I recently was granted my legal name change. While I have been living under the name Narcissa for some time now, my legal designation was still the name given to me at my birth. It was a very masculine name, and having to show a card with that name led to more than one embarrassing or dangerous moment.
Have you ever been in a big city hospital ER on a Friday night to have them scream “Mister” across the waiting room when you are obviously female, and the gender marker on your ID is female? I have, and it’s a terrifying walk of shame. Then they tell you that your name is masculine so deal with it.
It makes store clerks look at you funny, and in some cases accuse you of having a fake ID. Some of them demand explanations before they will give your ID back. And when cis people demand explanation from a trans woman, they immediately dive into her panties, so to speak.
It makes going through security checkpoints a scary thing, because you never know who is transphobic and just waiting for their chance.
It affects every business relationship you have, every paper you sign, every government agency you must deal with. More misgendering, more strangers demanding intimate knowledge of your genitalia- and don’t think complaining will get you anywhere. It’s more likely to have them threaten to not do their job, because “they don’t have to take abuse,” the abuse in question being a request to use proper pronouns and desist from using the first name on your ID.
With a legal name change, all that begins to change, slowly. It takes time, and hoops. And the Denver civil court system considers it a privilege of the moneyed. Poor trans people are locked out of the system unless they can find an organization to foot the bill for two background checks, court fees, and publication fees. Not many exist.
It’s not an easy process. It takes a long time, and a lot of effort. But there is a joy when you sign YOUR name for the first time, legally, that is indescribable. I hope that Denver’s policy of denying access to the name change process to the poor is discontinued, as well as the onerous publication requirements, which are a forced public outing of trans* people. But I’m not holding my breath.