Like a large number of other transgender individuals, I pursued a legal name change earlier this year in my home state of Pennsylvania. Luckily, it was granted and I now live free of the chains of my birth name. Or at least, I’m trying to. . .
Here’s a list of seven things I wish I had known or thought of a little more before having my name changed at the legal level.
Renting Or Buying A Home Outs You
Earlier this year, my girlfriend and I were looking to rent. Now, we’re in the process of trying to buy, but both processes come with a snag — verifying my identity means verifying my identity past when my name was changed. In order to check my job history for two or more years, my credit score, and even checking my tax returns shows potential landlords and home sellers that I am trans. Especially since my name before was very feminine and my name now is generally masculine. Renting was harder, as I got a lot of raised eyebrows as soon as I brought up the name change. However, buying seems to be a lot friendlier and I’ve even been correctly gendered more often in this process. It still outs me, though.
Everyone Hears “Name Change” And Thinks You Got Married
Six months after the fact, I am still changing my name at doctor’s offices and various places. When I approach someone behind the counter, it usually goes a little bit like this:
“Hi! My name was [birth name], but it’s now Kane, as I’ve had my first and middle name legally changed. I need to change it in your system.”
“Okay. . . all right. . . let me pull it up in the computer here. . . All right. . . Hmm. . . Let’s see. . . Okay, now, what’s the new last name? And your marital status has updated, right?”
“. . . I said first and middle name.”
And Believe Me, There’s Lots Of Places To Update Your Name At
More than you even realize. I even considered taking off of work for a week at one point just so I could make phone calls to update my new name at places. There’s Social Security, health insurance, auto insurance, work, PayPal (which was a HUGE pain in the butt), Amazon, the dentist’s office, that one gas station you have a rewards account with your name in the account, and more and more and more. And each one of these is an opportunity to out yourself if you weren’t ready. Fun, right?
Your Mail Is Gonna Be Interesting For A While
Here’s the thing, I get my health insurance and dental insurance from the same company. For four months, I would get two bills per month in the mail — the health insurance one was in my new, correct name. The dental one was in my old, incorrect name, despite the fact that I had been calling and calling and calling them to demand they change it. They knew I changed my name, after all. I still get tons of junk mail in my birth name, and it’s become a way now of knowing whether mail is important or not.
Scumbag Gmail Doesn’t Let You Change Your Name On Your Email Address
This one is pretty self-explanatory. However, if I had known it before I changed my name, I wouldn’t started using a new email address a long time ago. Now, too many of my important contacts are in my Gmail account to abandon it at this point. If you work at Google and you’re reading this: I hate you.
Changing Your Name Doesn’t Mean You’re Going To Get Gendered Correctly
This one was a pretty crushing blow to me, as it is to many trans people who find despite becoming a “Steve” or a “Max”, they are still called “ma’am” over the phone. Even over a year on hormones, I am still frequently misgendered. I cringe when I am in public and someone refers to my girlfriend and I as, “ladies”. But interestingly enough, recently, someone said to me, “Oh, I guess I didn’t realize Kane could be a girl’s name, too.” Meaning they really thought I was a girl who’s parents had named me Kane.
After A While, You Start To Forget Ever Associating Yourself With Your Birth Name
I honestly didn’t think this would happen. But after using my correct, chosen name everywhere for six months? It is a striking, startling response inside when I hear my birth name, even if it’s just someone else with that name. I used to answer to it for over twenty years, despite always hating it. But now? It’s no longer a part of me, and I’m pleasantly shocked by how I’ve distanced myself from it thus far.
In spike of the ups and downs, I am thrilled with the freedom that a legal name change has given me. 10/10, would do again!