For the sake of clarity, I’m going to give myself a pseudonym dead-name, for this article. Assume that before changing my name, my name was “KD Shorts.” And my new, legal name is “Kameron.”
A little over two years ago, I was at a workshop at the Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference, and one of the presenters was mentioning that they go by the honorific, Mx. (Mixter) in their professional settings. I had heard of this before, but I thought it was just a theoretical pipe dream. Here was someone who was actually using it, in their actual life! I felt soooo jealous. I thought to myself (with a good dose of biting envy), “Oooh, look at the progressive academic who gets to waltz around in an enlightened and indulgent bubble all day long.” I never thought I would get there. Furthermore, even though I’m in my thirties, it was tough to envision a world where I was grown-up enough to have an honorific of my own.
I’d done an excellent job at avoiding it. No Mr. or Ms. for me! I am a janitor at an elementary school: a place where there’s a lot of “Mr. / Mrs. / Miss / Ms. [last name]” around the kids, and then first names amongst ourselves. Except for the custodial staff. It’s first names all around for us, generally. Everywhere except for our name plates on the custodial office door. There, we are “Mr. [last name]” and “Mrs. [last name]” I had somehow gotten away with requesting that I be simply “KD Shorts.” It was awesome.
There was another sticking point though: every year, at school pictures time. We get our pics taken, and then we get some freebies, as well as a sheet of all the staff pics – just like a student would get a sheet of their class. And so, we had to give our names, to be recorded on the sheet. It would vary from year to year, depending on how vocal/empowered I was feeling. I usually told the portrait employee, “no Ms. or Mr. Just KD Shorts.” There were a few years though, where I was “Ms. Shorts” as the default.
These past few weeks, I’ve been riding the wave of legally changing my name, which has been especially gratifying at work, where I was still known as KD Shorts, (she/her/hers). Everywhere else in my life, I had been going by “Kameron” for about two years, and (he/him/his) for many many years prior to that. So, essentially, I utilized this time of change as a chance to come out at work.
I talked to the principal and assistant principal on Friday, December 23rd. I stated that I was changing my name and my pronouns, and that I identify as neither a man nor a woman. The impromptu meeting was less than stellar – they fixated on bathrooms and the fact that the change was going to be hard for people to remember. They did mention that they wanted me to feel comfortable, but didn’t offer any concrete ways that that could happen. I did not panic though – I was thinking, “do not catastrophize this.” I remained neutral and open, but I didn’t use it as a teaching moment. I shouldn’t have to! I thought that things would work out fine, ultimately, and if not, I could always call in the big guns: my local gay alliance’s speaker’s bureau, to do the educating on my behalf.
We all took a time out for winter recess. I then came in on Tuesday, January 3rd, and the principal asked me if I’d come speak to her. Of her own volition, she had consulted the head of HR, and she had basically done a 180. We had a much more fruitful discussion. She still was strong in her opinions, but she made it clear that every choice was up to me, and I could take some time to think it over. We ended up talking about:
– How to come out, and the timeline
– How my name would appear on my name plate on the custodial office door
Coming out: I said that I have already pretty much told the people I would naturally tell in person, the ones I see regularly or semi-regularly. And I wasn’t going to be able to get to everyone, so if she could either make an announcement at the next staff meeting and/or send an email, that’d be great. We agreed she would do both. I told her I’d get back to her with the content I’d like her to say.
Name plate: The biggie! I said I had two ideas, but I didn’t say exactly what they were. (I’ll say it here though! Either 1. just “Kameron” and nothing else. 2. Mx. [last name].) She said that her thought was that my co-workers have Mr. _____ and Mrs. _____, so it’d be great if I conformed to that and picked one or the other. I said, “OK! Great, there is another option that I will go with. It’s Mx. That’s pronounced ‘Mixter.'” She wrote it down in her notes. It was a done deal!
Bathrooms: I could write an additional article about this (heck, probably more like a dissertation!), but to keep it short and sweet: We agreed that I get to pick where I go, and I am making no big deal of it, and it does not need to be a part of any announcement.
All’s how it should be! Just one more small way I am joining the world of adults. That’s Mixter, to you.
On Saturday, I got my signed court order in the mail, along with all my supporting documents (including an exemption to having to announce my name change in a publication) and instructions to go back to the County Clerk’s office and file again. It only took 26 days – didn’t expect such a quick turn-around. I got this piece of mail immediately after coming home from a birthday lunch with my spouse and parents, at which I told them about my legal name change (tough conversation to bring up, but I did it!) Monday was my birthday, and my spouse and I went on a day trip. I had also taken Tuesday off, which was perfect because I had plenty of time to go back downtown and keep this momentum going.
I got there at about 11am and, after filing, I purchased two certified copies of the court order for $10. I then thought, wow, I could go down to the DMV too at this rate! I did some stuff at home (including coming up with and practicing a new signature!!), and then I headed down there at about 3pm. Filled out the form, wrote my new signature in a box, got my picture taken, and then was told that their system was down. The lady re-booted the computer two times, I took another picture, wrote the signature again, and, …no go. She gave me my number anyway, but when I finally got to go up, they just told me I needed these things scanned first, and since the computer was down, it just wasn’t going to happen. Blah!
So, I came back the following morning (this morning). Wrote my signature two more times, got my picture taken two more times, with technical issues in between. It finally went through though. And now I have a temporary license, and I’ll get my new one in two weeks!
I had always thought I was going to stick with “F,” legally. As I went through the day yesterday though, I came back to that – it suddenly had a lot of weight attached to it. NOW was my chance to change to “M,” if I wanted. I would have just waited on the DMV until I’d gotten a note from my doctor, psychiatrist, or therapist. (That’s all it takes where I live! No proof of HRT. No proof of surgery. Just a letter from someone saying that you identify as you say you identify!) Ultimately, I decided, no, I’m not changing it. If I could change it to something else (“X,” “N,” or whatever, I’d have done that in a heartbeat. It was a fairly easy call – I was no more attached to “F” than “M” – they equally do not define me, so as a default, I’m sticking with F. At least for now. I know it might be harder to change it in the future, (Trump) but, that’s a risk I’ll have to take, because now is not the time…
I actually had an idea while thinking through all this, and I wonder if others do this: I think I will put a teeny tiny black sticker over the “F” on my new license. It’ll just be a blank square. And if for some reason I have to show a cop or something, I can peel it off real quick first. But for purposes of showing bartenders, etc., hey, they don’t need to know!!! I think it’ll feel super validating to black out “F.”
So, right now, all systems are open! There’s nothing in my way from changing my name anywhere and everywhere. It now is timely for me to come out at work. I can finally have an actual name on Facebook.
Etc. Now, where to start???
I started going by “Kameron,” socially, in May of last year. I had a turning-point conversation with my spouse a couple of months before that, but I wanted to let it sink in, because once, years ago, I picked out a name I thought I wanted to go by. But then I just didn’t do anything more with it. So I wanted to see if that was going to happen again, or if I would actually move ahead. My spouse started calling me the name around the house, and then, a pivotal moment was trying the name out within a group of strangers that I was only seeing on a temporary basis: Being transgender while in a partial hospitalization program. That helped immensely; to hear the name repeatedly and see if it would sink in. Once that felt right, I emailed a bunch of people with this new information (and with a new phone number). That was a big move, but I haven’t regretted it. It’s been a super easy transition – no one, surprisingly, has messed up in front of me, once. Plus, acquaintances and friends of friends heard word from others, so I barely had to tell or remind anyone! So cool! (Well, ok, except for family members, which is different).
Last Monday, I finally went downtown to get the process rolling on getting it legally changed. I think the hold-up was: I wasn’t ready to come out at work, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to change my last name, too, while I was at it.
I’m now feeling good about coming out at work within the near future. Also, I decided to change my first, middle, and last name. That’s going to take some getting used to, since I haven’t changed that anywhere yet, even socially. Guess I gotta come up with a new signature too.
The process was not too bad: I printed some documents out from an online site, and fortunately my spouse’s dad is a notary, so we were able to go over to her parents’ house to get that all in order and signed, the day before. I had Monday off work, and it turned out to be a gorgeous day, so I decided to bike. (So glad I did because I ended up having to go back and forth, and to a few places. Parking is tough downtown, and I was able to zip around and lock up at VIP spots anywhere I was going, haha – VIP spots meaning street signs and trees.)
I first went to the information desk at the County Clerks’ office. The lady was brusque, giving me 2 other documents that had to be filled out, asking me if I had my index #, and telling me I needed 3 copies of all these papers. Luckily, my spouse’s dad, who works downtown, had told me I could contact him if I needed anything else. I called him, biked over the few blocks to his office – it was cool to see where he works! – and he helped me fill out the rest, plus he made copies of everything and paper-clipped everything neatly and efficiently, with clips on both the top and the sides!) I thanked him and rode back and got in line, where I stood for probably a half hour. When it was my turn though, I got through quickly. I paid the $210 fee, got my index number, and got a receipt.
They told me I then had to go to the Hall of Justice, to the Judicial Clerk’s office. This involved more bike riding, plus a walk through a metal detector and asking around in order to find the right room. Things went smoothly there too, although I noticed that on the receipt I got from the County Clerk’s office, they spelled “Kameron,” “Kamerson.” Aarrgh! I asked if this was going to be a problem, and I was assured that it was fine – the judge wasn’t going to be looking at that at all.
I then biked to a coffee shop and worked on some writing for the rest of the afternoon. About to head home, I ran into a friend, and we chatted for a while. Then a stranger approached us with a digital recorder, and he asked if he could ask us a question for a radio show. I said, “probably!” So he launched into, “OK, so the Cubs won the world series, and that hasn’t happened in 108 years. And then Trump was actually elected president. So, with all this going on, what’s next?” I said, “Flying lizards,” just because it was the first thing that popped into my head, but if I had thought for even just a second, in retrospect, I would have said, “SUPERMOON!” because I’d heard that on that day, (November 14th), it was the biggest it’s been in 69 years, and it’s not going to be that big again for another 34!
Oh well. Next time I’ll make more sense.
Two states down, 48 to go!
I am starting to work toward getting in on this!
In June, I posted about Jamie Shupe, the first person in the US to successfully petition for the gender status of “non-binary.” Now as of September 26th, Sara Kelley Keenan is also legally non-binary. Here is a full article about it: Californian Becomes Second US Citizen Granted ‘Non-Binary’ Gender Status.
I want to be the third! (Or the fourth, or the fifth, or the sixth, etc. The number doesn’t matter to me at all; just that I get to do it, eventually.)
I’ve been stalling about changing my name legally, for a long time now. It’s been a year and a half since I socially changed it, everywhere except for work. Part of the reason for waiting is because I don’t know what I’m doing with my last name. And if there’s a chance I’m going to change it, I don’t want to go through this process twice!
And yeah, work is the other reason. I mean, I can legally change my name without coming out at work, but it would be great if the two goals aligned.
And now I’m wondering if I can change my name and also request the status of “non-binary” all at once. I’m in the process of finding this out. There is a social justice group called Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF) that partners with lawyers and law firms for pro bono work on issues including the Name Change Project. Luckily, I fall within their geographical range, so I filled out their form, and should hear back within two weeks!
I also am fairly close to feeling good about moving forward with a new last name. I had one idea a long time ago but was unsure. Over time, I stopped thinking about it entirely, until just last week. I went to a therapy appointment for the first time in a few months, and that jump-started some thought processes that had been calcifying in the corners of my brain. Things got shaken up, and I’ve been feeling consistently euphoric ever since.
A little more about Sara Kelley Keenan: She is a 55 year-old retired paralegal who was born intersex. According to the article,
Her court petition was a quiet, unannounced test case for a group of California people who also seek to change their legal genders to non-binary rather than female or male. About five people—all working with the Intersex and Genderqueer Recognition Project—plan to petition courts in the counties of San Francisco, Alameda, Santa Clara and Sacramento over the next few weeks.
How awesome is that?! I’m picturing a floodgate opening and people just pouring through. First five more people. Next fifty!
… “I’m 55 years old, this doesn’t really change my life very much. But I want to leave the world a better place for younger intersex people. This represents a huge opportunity for acceptance and awareness for young non-binary and intersex and trans people—and for their parents.”
There are still more barriers, though, of course. The DMV. Getting a passport. Other documents. Things are changing though, slowly but surely. Just last week, Shupe’s attorney got an email from the Oregon DMV, stating,
“[the Oregon] DMV received the okay to move forth with forming an advisory committee and drafting administrative rules regarding the capturing of sex on the driver license. The rules will allow DMV to capture and print an identifier for sex other than M for male and F for female on the driver license, permit, and ID card.”
Hassles! But, things are moving…
About half of the people in my life are aware of the fact that I socially changed my name. I came out to friends, about half of my exended family, and I’m working on work. But what about those other isolated areas we run into from time to time? The pharmacy. The bank. The library. The car mechanic. The eye doctor. The chiropractor. Places that have your legal name on file or places you have to use cards that have your legal name on them. Personally, in these cases, I’ve done nothing – just gone with the default. I guess it’s because the hassle of explaining isn’t worth the infrequency of the encounters and the impersonal nature of the relationship anyway. But more than that, it’s about the frustration I would feel if I did explain and then they reverted to my legal name the next time I was there, anyway. In my mind. that seems highly likely. Partially based on times I have asserted a different name and/or gender, and it wasn’t observed.
Yesterday, I went to the dentist. That’s an example of one of these places. I’ve gone to the same place since I was a kid, so they use an even older version of a nickname that is long gone almost everywhere else in my life. It’s almost cringe-worthy. But I still had decided it wasn’t worth the effort. However, this time, when I walked in, the receptionist greeted me and immediately said that when she had called (the day before, appointment reminder), she had noticed that I have a different name on my voice mail. She had some forms in her hand and asked if I’d legally changed it? I said no not yet, so she kind of said, well, we’ll save these forms, but go ahead and put it in parentheses on this form that you need to update so we know what your preferred name is. We will be sure to use it here. She then proceeded to ask me how I spell it, said she liked that spelling, and chatted about how much it costs to legally change your name and was I going to do it soon, etc.? I took the form and delighted in leaving the GENDER: CHECK ONE: M F blank. I wish I could do that all day long: fill out forms and blatantly leave that blank. (Well, maybe for one day – all day every day would get super tedious and I would totally want to quit that job if that were a job.)
The dental hygienist opened the door and announced, “Kameron.” That was me! At no point had the hygienist and the receptionist talked while I was there, so there must have been a conversation before I got there. I followed her to a room to get my teeth cleaned, and it was the best teeth cleaning ever.
Unfortunately, it all went south from there: When I went to pay, and the receptionist said, “Alright lady! Let’s get you scheduled for your 6 month appointment.” What is with the “lady?” Seriously. I get lady-ed and ladies-ed ALL the time.