Victory

victoryAside from learning about things that I never dreamed I would be researching, I am learning a lot about the “loophole.” Nearly a year ago Hunter asked that we start calling him “Hunter,” rather than “Olivia.” While I choked on the name (I could hear it in my head) as it moved from tongue to my lips, we were committed to doing what was necessary for our son.

What I didn’t really think about was what would come next. When my friend (in a similar situation but about 6 months ahead of us on most fronts) announced that she went to court with her son and now he was legally “Jack,” I found my self in the midst of conflicting emotions. These kids are so young; a legal name change just felt so FINAL. And yet, somehow I was envious of how she took charge and did what she needed to do as a parent of a child who was transitioning from female to male.

We spent nearly an entire school year getting used to the new name. Little by little we expanded our vocabulary until we were using only male pronouns in lieu of the female ones that we had grown accustomed to. Summer came and with it greater acceptance and more knowledge. It was time to apply for a legal name change. It was important that Hunter begin the new school year “officially” as Hunter. We didn’t want any mistakes. It would’ve been devastating for him to sit in a class on the first day and have a teacher take attendance and look for or call out “Olivia.”

So, I filled out the paperwork and waited. Hunter was at camp and I wanted him to sign the documents. Not only did I want him to be a part of the process but I wanted him to tell me that he was 100% sure about the name. Admittedly, there was a tiny part of me that was hanging on to the familiar; I was not quite ready and it was easy to find a reason to wait.

You would have no idea how complicated this entire process is. Legal name change at the state level. Birth certificate legal name change at the state level in which one was born. Gender marker changed on birth certificate. WHOA. Not so fast…this too, is at the state level and every state has it’s own law about changing the gender marker. I went into a tail spin. What good was the name change if Hunter’s birth certificate still indicated that he was female??? According to the state of Florida (where he was born), in order to legally change the gender marker, one needs to submit an affidavit from the physician stating that gender reassignment surgery has occurred. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Many transgender individuals never have surgery for various reasons. This was crazy and unacceptable.

I reached out to a number of people and organizations (including legal teams) within my network to see if there was a way around this. Hunter was about to start driver’s ed – I had been told that once you get a permit or license it is nearly impossible to change the gender marker on the document.

Facebook at its finest … another mom, who just went through the exact same scenario, was a wealth of information.

LOOPHOLE.

The federal government, not too long ago, changed its policies regarding passports and gender markers. Too good to be true. All we needed was a letter from the doctor stating that Hunter was in the process of transitioning along with the legal name change document from the court. In addition, while the social security administration doesn’t put a gender on the card, they track it for employment purposes. So, the passport and social security card (with new name) become the legal documents in place of the birth certificate.

VICTORY… until the next hurdle.

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Call Him Hunter, Please

It’s been quite a week.

If you had told me a year and a half ago that we would soon be calling our daughter by a different name, I would’ve looked at you as if your head were on backwards. If you had told me that not only would her name change, but that gender pronouns would be different also, I probably would’ve distanced myself from our friendship. No kidding.

Hunter gets legal name changeFast forward seventeen months and not only do we call our child by a different name and use male pronouns, we had his name legally changed. That’s right. A few days ago, my husband, my (FTM) son and I stood before a Judge in family court and affirmed that we wanted to change Olivia’s name to Hunter. WOW.

Side bar: Going into a courtroom made us all a little anxious but aside from that, I didn’t really anticipate the flood of emotions that was to follow. As we finished our business in the courtroom and moved into the hall, I found myself blinking back tears. I wanted to wrap my arms around Hunter and let the emotion flow freely. That’s what I wanted to do. In reality, I sensed that it wouldn’t be cool for me to hug my teenaged son in public in the courthouse. So, I kept my emotions in check as we filed down the hall to the county clerk’s office to get the certified name change documents. I would not embarrass my son; at least not at that moment.

As we approached the parking lot I made Hunter stop for a hug. And he did. He stood there and let me hug him. I know he was happy with the steps taken thus far. I know he knows that we are on his side; that we are walking this journey along side him.

I hope this step in the process makes things a bit easier for Hunter. Now, I can change his name on a host of official documents and files: school, health care, passport, Driver’s Ed and so on. Health care is a biggie — it is awful to wait for an appointment and have them call out, “Olivia, we’re ready for you.” UGH. Until now, some of our doctor’s have been really great. The orthodontist has been calling him Hunter for quite some time now…also, the pediatrician’s office (most of the time).

We can plan and dream and hope. We wish for dreams to come true. Blow out the candles and “make a wish.” Wish upon a star.There is no crystal ball. We certainly don’t know what the future holds. These last seventeen months have been surprising, unexpected, emotional, difficult and momentous. We have travelled an uphill journey that is far from over.

Where will we be seventeen months from now? Let me check my crystal ball.

 

Legal Name Change

One of the camp counselors called the other day to give us a few last minute reminders. He wanted to make sure that we send a brown bag lunch (for the bus ride), bug “dope”, some spending money and Olivia’s passport, among other things. ALARM BELLS. He also wanted to let us know that he was looking forward to having Olivia up at camp (ALARM BELLS) and that we should arrive by 6:30 a.m. Monday morning. 

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Of course, he was looking forward to meeting Olivia. Hunter is registered for camp as Olivia. We have not yet changed his name legally. I reminded the youngish sounding counselor that while the name “Olivia” is on all the official forms, she is transgender and prefers male pronouns and goes by Hunter. “Oh, Hunter.” he said with some recognition. Apparently, he had been told about Hunter but did not make the connection between Hunter and Olivia. WHEW. Glad we got that cleared up before the bus on Monday morning.

Recently, we had to send official school transcripts to a doctor’s office. I got this email in response, “Thank you for sending these. However, I think you sent your daughter’s transcripts.”

At first I was confused. Wasn’t I supposed to send the transcripts? Then, it hit me. The transcripts say Olivia. 

It is mortifying (for Hunter) to sit in a doctor’s office waiting room and hear them call, “Olivia, we’re ready for you.”

From what I understand, it is not all that complicated to change one’s name legally…just a bunch of paperwork including filing a petition, a $150 fee and a court appearance. We can get his name changed on the birth certificate as well. And, then there’s social security. Oh, and the passport. It is tricky to travel because the photo on the passport is of Olivia with long “girl” hair. This really is all fairly straightforward. HA.

Do not confuse name change with changing the gender marker. This is a big deal. And, I don’t believe we can do that until sex reassignment surgery takes place or at least “top” surgery. This is where breasts are removed to achieve a masculine chest appearance. This usually doesn’t happen until the age of eighteen.

I have a friend, Sarah*,whose son is also FTM trans, who has already gone through the legal name change with her son. Though her son and Hunter are the same age, they are about 6 months to a year ahead of us. She has been a great resource for me. My friend and I met when we were at the beginning of our journey. I marvelled at how she embraced the process of dealing with a transgender child. Sarah seemed so together. It was really impressive. Her son is her only child and she was determined to do everything under the sun to aid his transition. But, there was something she said to me in that first meeting, our first of many cups of coffee, that stuck with me.

“I would rather have a live son, than a dead daughter.” As an Emergency Medicine physician, she had seen her share of bad stuff…not to mention the above average suicide rate among trans teens. For months that statement reverberated in my head. Sarah put things in perspective for me. I needed that.

So, it is time for a legal name change. It is the least I can do for my son to make his life just a tiny bit better on a daily basis. 

*Not her real name

http://courts.mi.gov/self-help/center/casetype/pages/namechangesh.aspx