Annie and James Rushden were man and wife, until James revealed he was transsexual. Annie writes about the experience of falling in love all over again with her partner Claire. Same soul, different gift wrap.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

A rose by any other name...

Is still just as smelly. *grin*. I actually don't like roses, but Claire loves them. I buy them for her every now and then and she buys me wildflowers. We understand each other.

BUT... that's not what this post is about. Our name change gauntlet is finally complete. Claire is now in possession of a driver's license with her real name on it. You may remember that she actually changed her name months ago by doing it in her native country in the UK. However, the local driver's license office wouldn't accept a UK document, so we had to publish in the paper and spend another $150 to get it changed here.

Want to talk about nerve-wracking? I hate the public information act. Publishing that you are changing your name from a definitely male name to female name is attention getting enough, without someone being able to easily track you down via public info. Ugh.

It was a roller coaster day, starting with the courthouse.

We were all done, and we finally got our appointment to do the name change in judge's chambers. The judge was a woman and had done several name changes of a similar nature, so we were pretty comfortable going in.

Then, while waiting in the public area we hear that she's not hearing our case, some senior judge is. Okay, no panic really yet... sure it is going to be okay. I start wondering on what grounds a judge can refuse to do this. Claire starts getting nervous.

The staff attorney comes out and calls out the names of three people waiting to go see the judge. And of course, in a very loud voice - 'James Rushden?'


So I jump up and say "That would be me" before Claire even stands up. I was hoping that maybe the others might think it was a probate issue, etc. and deflect attention from my already extremely nervous spouse. The last thing we wanted was one of these people to follow us into the dark garage and mess with us.

We follow him to the elevator and crowd on with these others that are giving us the hairy eyeball now. We get to the other floor and I pull the attorney aside for a second and verify that we would still be doing this in private and to please just call our last name.

We finally got called into the office (as Ms. Rushden), and discovered that we would be in front of an older male judge. Of course, being in the ultra conservative state we're in, we started really hoping he would be cool about this.

Well, let's just say I'm now enamored with this judge. He was not only polite about it, but warm and funny, and said congrats and shook our hands at the end. I sure got a kick in the head not to prejudge people. Ouch.

SO... we left on a high note now, this went great :)

We go to the DMV. That's when it goes downhill. I have some advice for anyone about to change their name. Before you do the name change, go in to the DMV in androgynous mode and get a new picture. Because it really, REALLY sucked for us not having done that.

We get there and get called up to the booth. The clerk starts looking over her paperwork and pondering the issue at hand. She's ready to do this until she sees that Claire is a permanent resident, not a citizen. It's not a problem, because you can change your name if you're a PR, but this is *why we were told to go change her name in a local court* - for these people at the DMV.

So I seethe for a moment, and then she calls a supervisor over. She hands the supervisor the old drivers license with the male photo and name. So the supervisor asks 'what does HE want to do?" The person helping us starts to say (loudly) that "HE" wants to change "HIS" name. When they dropped the "HE" bomb one more time, and Claire is trying to shrink herself under the counter I lean forward and say "She, please say SHE."

The clerk realized what she was doing and said "Oh, I'm so sorry, I don't know why I did that."

I mean, come on. A little tact? You have both IDs in hand, and you see a woman in front of you, and you call her out?

So after much back and forth while they decide if they should let her change her name on her license, they sign the documents and let her move on to the other room to get her new picture taken.

So we're standing there in line, trying to relax for a moment after that horrible incident, and we get called to the desk. We're hoping that anyone that heard that exchange has left.

I'll paint the scene for you. Imagine a waiting room full of people. Imagine a desk with a 24" monitor that is turned so half the waiting room can see the very large picture that shows on her screen as she pulls up the license with the OLD picture (huge picture) of "James" before transition - obviously a MALE picture.

Then, imagine the woman looking at it taking her time and reading the address out in a nice crisp, clear voice for all to hear. She leaves the picture on the screen as long as she can while telling Claire to remove her shades, etc. Then she takes the picture.

Any shred of dignity that Claire could have had left after the counter incident was now totally stripped. Mortified. I was just mortified at how they treated this. I can't tell you just how awful I felt for my poor Claire.

To top it off, her picture turned out like crap, and she thinks it made her look old.

And of course, it still has the M on it. But we figured that would happen.

But, she recovered, but was really down for a while afterwards. She has a license (that she hates) with her female picture and new name. Now, social security and all the other paperwork can finally start getting changed and we can bury the old name that she's suffered under for so many years.

It feels good. She wondered if we should have a funeral for James. I think that would actually be kind of fun :)

Take care all, I'm going to go play in my studio and hammer some metal.