It seems that these days nothing gets done without paper, and by paper we mean documentation. This is a particularly crucial aspect of proceeding along the steps of your transition. Having the “right” pieces of paper in hand at the right (or most unexpected) times can truly be a life-saver. They serve to validate for others the roles we assume in the everyday course of living, and, no doubt, give us personal comfort in just having them. Proper documentation confers legal and legitimacy upon a most fundamental characteristic of our personhood. Two articles we usually think of first are the driver’s license and birth certificate. And — of course — that name change itself! These are certainly important, to be sure, but there are others you should consider as well.
You know who you are, or at least who you want to be,. The only problem is, you’ve got all these documents saying you’re somebody else. Of the wrong sex! That can be embarrassing or even dangerous if someone discovers the incongruity under inappropriate circumstances. That’s the bottom line paperwork/practicality part of why. The real part is in your head and heart. You want to be able to prove who you are without undue embarrassment and get on with your life, without being sent to jail, and you’d probably like to also collect that $200. Despite what you may hear or believe, nobody has a monopoly on the only right way to do this, but the sequence and method detailed here seems to work fairly well.
Obtaining your legal name change is a/the next logical step. In Connecticut this is generally straightforward, but not always. Contact the office of the Probate Court in the Town in which you reside. You will be sent (or can pick up in person) a form to fill out, on which you detail the nature of your request. Do so, but judiciously. Where they ask your reasons for wanting to do this, you can state “personal and medical reasons”, to be provided at the occasion of your hearing. that much is sufficient, and it provides less= opportunity for someone to head you off beforehand. You then submit this completed form, along with a fee, formerly $90 but possibly greater today, and receive (either in person or by mail) an appointment with the Probate Judge. You may bring — but do not need — witnesses. Most importantly, you do not need an attorney — save those $ for more important things!
At the occasion of your scheduled hearing, be there on time! Be polite and factual, and — most importantly — appear as the person you seek to be, not the one you wish to leave behind. Try not to be (too) nervous. The judge will ask your reasons, perhaps some personal history. He is being asked by you to do something that for him may be totally new, foreign, or even distasteful. Do consider his (most judges are still men) point of view. But remember, you have a practically absolute right under the law to have your request granted, assuming there are no complicating factors.
It is most valuable for you to frame this as a medical issue. Do present your letter from your clinic/health care professional regarding their diagnosis. This carries a lot of weight: not only does it give you credibility, it should help establish in the judge’s mind the seriousness of your pursuit and indicate that you are following the rules, which is important to judges. It says you are not some kook who walked in off the street with some cockamamie idea, or someone trying to perpetrate a gross fraud. To wit, the judge will likely discuss the issue of fraud, to ensure to his/her satisfaction that your motives are aboveboard. Answer all questions as fully and honestly as you can, especially about the medical nature of your condition and the requirement of the full or real life test period. Give the judge good reasons to grant this request, which comes from a serious, responsible, straightforward individual. Give the judge an easy way to find an excuse to turn you down.
If he should give you a problem, do not despair — you will prevail, eventually and unquestionably. It may take another round, however. If he asks for more information, provide it if possible. But whatever happens, don’t embarrass yourself by losing your composure; do let him know that you know your rights under the law. Depending on the circumstances, be assertive if it can help you, but remember Rule #2: “Never argue with an idiot — people watching may not be able to tell the difference.” If the judge does turn you down, then contact the Clinic, your health care professional, or the XX Club for information. Every single case that we have ever encountered has been met successfully.
When the judge grants your requested name change, he will sign and seal a legal document to that fact. While still there, you can and should request several more official [signed and sealed] copies (about six should suffice), for use necessary along the rest of your paper trail. These may cost about $2 each.
At this point, just about everything else (except birth certificate) can and probably should be converted as well. Pay attention to that “probably should” — a word on that shortly.
An excellent place to start (immediately) is to obtain a new Voter Registration Card, perhaps next door to the Probate Judge’s office, and a Social Security Card. The first is another legal piece of identification, which also establishes your residency, and you can’t legally work without a valid Social Security Card. Look in the phone book; locate the nearest or most convenient Social Security office or call the number for information. With your legal name change document and your old/current Social Security card both in hand (advisedly along with some further identification to show that you are the person in question), you can also request that they change the “sex” designation. This will probably be done without question, given the obvious difference between your old and new names. These people probably won’t care what’s between your legs — their only concern is that the paperwork matches up correctly. Your new Social Security Card, which will probably arrive by mail in a couple of weeks, will still bear the same number since you’re still the same person.
Also with the legal name change, you are ready to go for that driver’s license. Take along a copy of the clinic’s/shrink’s letter and the legal name change document, and present yourself in the gender of choice at your local (sometimes) friendly neighborhood DMV office. They must grant your request regarding name. They should grant your request regarding sex; we understand that their official policy now is to do so, though some DMV offices may not be aware that such a policy exists. The XX Club can provide you with a copy of a letter written by Connecticut DMV’s chief legal advisor. Again, human nature being what it has long been (with ignorance and arrogance never in short supply) you may encounter unwarranted delays. Be patient. The good news; unless your old license has expired or is from out-of-state, all this will be accomplished without charge or fee.
If they refuse to honor your request regarding sex designation, do not despair; contact The XX Club for information. There should be no problem. However, we’ve heard many tales of woe. And, while you’re there at DMV, get those vehicle (and boat, trailer, motorcycle?) registrations updated too and don’t forget the titles to any vehicles you own. You’ll have to do that sooner or later, so it’s always good to utilize one-stop shopping whenever possible.
Next, you’ll want to change over everything you can think of; records involving finance, ownership, taxes, subscriptions, prescriptions, academic transcripts and degrees, medical and dental histories, insurance coverages. And perhaps, notify ex-employers regarding references for work history. Each of these should be done in writing, with an enclosed copy of the legal name change document. In general, Xerox copies of that will suffice, but some may require one of your several precious original (no, in this instance, “original copies” is not an oxymoron). Social Security, US passport, and birth certificate are three that do require original “official” versions. Spend those carefully; you have only a small, limited number on hand and they go like hot cakes!
It all depends upon where you were born. Most states today will issue, upon certification that you have undergone SRS, a new certificate as if you had been born with your new name and sex many years ago, without any anomalous indication otherwise. Some states, unfortunately, still signify the amendation, but at least they give you that much. Some states won’t even amend at all. A comprehensive list is given in “Legal Aspects of Transsexualism” by Sr. Mary Elizabeth, SSE (referenced below). (We recommend this text for its treatment of a broad range of legal issues.)
But, whichever categories you may face, do not despair. If you cannot obtain satisfaction from your native state, you can, with US citizenship, obtain a valid passport that, for nearly every purpose, substitutes for the birth certificate. Contact your local (sometimes) friendly (sometimes) neighborhood Passport Office (or US Postal Service office) for information. Generally, you’ll need to take in your original birth certificate, an original/official copy of your legal name change, the medical certification of SRS, a fistful of $$, two pieces of photo ID (a driver’s license & a work or school photo ID), your passport pictures, and a positive sense of self-esteem. And BINGO!! You’re home free — just be prepared to wait in line.