Name Change Updates!

I’m aware that I’ve already posted about the two biggest parts of the name change process (filing the paperwork and the court date). It seems, however, that the name change process just keep continuing on and on and on. Who knew that there were so very many things to change?

Today, I changed my name on my bank accounts! I had originally thought that I needed to have my state ID in order to change my name on my bank accounts, and since Minnesota actually mails the updated licenses back to people (making it take eleven days and counting*, instead of the two minutes it takes in Chicago), I’d been putting off changing my name at the bank. I discovered today, however, that all it takes is the judgement order (that beautiful form, an official copy of which I carry everywhere with me). So, the names on my accounts are now all my fabulous new legal name, and I’m just waiting to receive my revised debit and credit cards. And, I will shortly have brand new checks — and I know exactly to whom I’m writing my very first check as Ryan (hint: I’ve been trying to get people to donate to them for ages).

I changed the name on my social security card back in Illinois. I’ve changed my name at the temp agency with whom I’m working while I look for a full-time job. I’ve changed my name on my resume, and I’ve notified the people I use as references. I called Bryn Mawr today in order to change my name in my records and in alum mailings.

I also called my old high school in order to change my name in their records (just in case an employer ever wanted to check that I did, in fact, graduate from their school). It is a very good thing that I highly doubt an employer will ever call them — I presume college transcript/diploma/etc. will be more important — because they will not ever change the name on the file. If anyone wants information from my high school about me, they will have to use the name I used when I attended high school.

I had one fleeting moment of absolute panic before I realized the very slim probability of anyone actually caring enough to check that I graduated from the high school from which I claim to have graduated. Not only is that policy forcing me to out myself to anyone who needs that information, it requires me to reveal my former name. My former name as a girl. That is a very, very big deal.

I know it might not seem like much, given how many people know what my name was; however, since I’ve started going by Ryan, I have told very few people my old name. Of all of my wonderful Chicago friends, it’s possible only two of them know what that name was: I told one friend because he told me his, and then the person who signed the affidavit that I am who I say I am for the name change and was there at my court date (and thus heard them call my former name) — he also needed to know my legal name back in the fall for a potential prison legal visit (and was very apologetic about it and never referenced it again). There may be one other person on whom I’m currently blanking, but that’s basically it. In my trans community, preferred names are the rule. No one asks about previous names, unless it is an absolute necessity (for example, legal documentation). Some people are comfortable with sharing previous names, but that’s always offered, never asked.

I just realized that providing my former name won’t be what outs me as trans, given that I’ve spent the past ten years of my academic life in women’s/girls’ schools. Clearly, that will make a statement. I also have no current intentions to go “stealth,” as it’s called (deliberately passing as cisgender and not coming out) — being trans is very much a part of who I am. Plus, I’m proud to claim Bryn Mawr as my alma mater, and I couldn’t really do that if I were trying to pass as a cis man.

I’m actually not so bothered by the insistence on the high school name in relation to outing me; my real frustration/panic is that it would require me to tell people my name as a girl. Once you tell someone something, you can’t ever take it back — you can’t erase that knowledge. If I tell someone my former name, it creates an association, and not all people are as hyper-vigilant about using preferred names as the trans and genderqueer people I know. To put it bluntly, you can’t slip up if you don’t know my old name; you can if you do.

My given name is just not something I want to be forced to share with people. It is very distinctly a name given to female-assigned infants, and I’m not currently comfortable with it being common knowledge. I neither want, nor need, another thing marking me as a woman. The name is a part of who I was and thus am, but I would prefer to share it with select, trusted people because I want to, not with potential strangers because I have to.

Overall, the fact that the name in my high school transcripts and records will not change will not likely impact my life in any substantial way. My reaction to it, however, is indicative of why it is so important to me that my name be changed in all of my documentation and accounts (aside from the fact that Ryan is now my legal name). Hearing and seeing my former name make me feel dysphoric and disempowered, similar to the way being referred to with feminine pronouns makes me feel.

On a more positive note, I am thrilled with the progress I have been making regarding my name change, and it is largely thanks to the Transformative Justice Law Project (TJLP) that my name was changed in the first place. I filed my name change paperwork at our first name change mobilization. Today was actually TJLP’s fourth name change mobilization of 2011, and it was the first at which I was unable to be a name change advocate and assist people with the process, given that I am in Minnesota.

*Within the six hours since I wrote the beginning of this post, I have received my revised Minnesota driver’s license with my new name! I am very relieved to finally have proper identification.

4 responses to “Name Change Updates!

  1. I just received a very interesting phone call from someone at my old high school. It began: “Is this Ms. Anderson?” Me: “. . . Uh, yes? Sort of.” She then informed me that she was calling back about changing my name on alum mailings and such, and we figured that out. And then I tried to figure out how to phrase a request for emails, etc., to not say “Ms. Ryan” (because really, that’s almost defeating the purpose of changing the name in the first place!), and as I was trying to figure out how to phrase what I wanted left out, she offered to leave out the salutations, when possible.

    It was fantastic! I was totally expecting I was going to have to fight her on it (well, not fight, but come up against a lot of confusion as to why I didn’t want to be called “Miss” or “Ms.”). Not everything can be changed, of course, but she was very willing to change whatever could be (on the address of the alum magazine and in alum emails, for example). It was surprisingly positive.

  2. Congratulations! Great reading about your thoughts and experiences.

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