Last Thursday November 1st I had my official Court Date in the state of California, wherein I legally changed my name and gender. This small legal victory been a long time coming for me, even though it was set in motion just recently when I discovered that I could file a court order even as a non-US citizen.
Gathering the requirements was relatively simple. I had top surgery in February of 2011, and surgery is required for a court ordered gender change in CA. While I had a letter from my surgeon, my lawyer suggested it follow the exact wording on the CA forms in order to avoid complications. My surgeon was actually very happy to update his template and send me a new letter, but it took over a month to sort all out. Next was printing out all the forms, which gets very confusing very fast.
The day after my surgeon’s letter arrived, I paid a visit to the court house to file it. The clerk pointed out that I had filled out all the forms incorrectly (or rather, failed to fill most of the fields, 90% of which are your name and address over and over). Luckily people are quite nice in San Francisco, so she highlighted all the missing parts and gave me a while to do it properly. Moreover, she provided a life saving tip on where to post my newspaper ad for the name change (the newspaper I had chosen apparently has a tendency of “misplacing” the ads, while the one she suggested posts it and automatically files the record with the court). Last, the sticker shock: $450 fee (plus the $45 for the newspaper ad).
During the two months I had between filing my papers and presenting myself in front of the judge, I dreamt up every possible scenario for rejection. Stewing in my mind were miniscule errors that would throw everything off course, like “the surgeon didn’t sign on the actual form” or “I probably forgot to fill something in” or “the judge is going to get hostile for no particular reason.”
Despite being the most nervewracking, going to court was actually the simplest part of this whole ordeal. When my (old) name was called, I stood in front of the judge, answered “yes” affirming I am who I say I am, and was set to go.
I am now legally Micah and legally male, at least as far as the United States is concerned. Now comes the really exciting part: PAPERWORK!
I made a list of all the major documents where I need to update my name and gender. So far – a week later – I’ve completed a grand total of: 2.
Court Order in hand, I immediately went to the Social Security office a few blocks away and got that squared away. For some reason the attendant insisted that my surgeon’s letter was necessary, to ensure that “the sex change has been completed and all that” even though that is redundant, since the court order required that in the first place. This was my first encounter of many with people’s ignorance of what a legal gender change entails.
It Never Ends
I’m currently “live-blogging” the saga on my Facebook page in case you’re interested in the juicy details, like me trying to use a fax machine, or hearing the ever-usual awkward she/he pronoun confusion. Trust me, it gets juicier.
So far it’s been equally amusing and annoying, but overall it’s a hassle I’ve been oddly looking forward to.