‘Thanks For The Memories’
(23 Aug 2020)
Thank you to social media ‘Friend’ Melissa for this walk down Memory Lane. Her daily question today sparked this flood of thoughts from quite a long time ago.
As you advance each step in the journey of your Transition, you will acquire your necessary documents. This may seem to be a major undertaking looking at this from the start – so many little things that we collect along the way, take for granted in our daily workings, and that establish our place in society.
As you obtain each item, you may ask yourself:
– When does this become routine to not notice?
– When does this not matter anymore?
The answer, for me anyway, is:
Four decades later and I am as elated as that first moment that first time.
Allow me to present this tome.
My first ID change was my Social Security Account file in July 1978 – Thank You to Linda my co-worker, Thank You to Janus Information Facility, you both instructed me how to do this. I admit that I was scared. I was nervous. Was I really certain that I wanted to take this next step in my Transition? With a dry heave and a deep gulp, I decided that a resounding ‘YES’ was the only answer for me. I completed the green Social Security Account change card, deposited it in the mailbox, heaved one final sigh of relief, and began my waiting.
Would SSA take my Change card seriously? From Nick to Sharon, from male to female. Surely someone at SSA would take it as a joke, a stunt, and send a stern rejection letter to me.
My Social Security card arrived in the mail one Saturday morning in early September, perhaps a little more than a month after I submitted my change request. When my father brought the mail inside that day, he set it down on the kitchen table and made his announcement to no one in particular, though we were the only two people living at our home:
– ‘Who’s Sharon? There must be something wrong. There is this card from Social Security addressed to Sharon. I need to take this to the Social Security Office on Monday and tell them that this is a mistake.’
I was in my bedroom that mid-day Saturday when my father brought the mail inside. Hearing my father’s announcement initially made me scared and nervous all over again, but in a different way – afraid that he would initiate another fight about my Transition. Please, Dad, not now, not today. He knew that that item addressed to Sharon from Social Security was meant for me. He had been intercepting numerous other postal items for me Sharon during the past year since I began using Sharon in ever-increasing opportunities; another argument, another beating about my Transition ensued each time.
Yet I was excited.
I would need to first retrieve whatever it was from the kitchen table when my father was out of the room; I would need to see exactly what it was before I could get too excited. The opportunity came, I brought that envelope to the privacy of my bedroom; I stared at it seemingly forever, unsure of its contents. It was a window envelope that I studied for what seemed the longest time. I was afraid to open it in case it was a denial – simply re-issuing my present card. But no, I could see through that window – ‘Sharon’ was the name showing in that window of that envelope, not ‘Nick’. That envelope contained a Social Security Account card for Sharon, not Nick! I finally brought up my courage. I opened that window envelope to see what was actually inside it. It was the real thing. That card really was MY card, MY real Social Security card, MY real name – SHARON.
Sadly, because of our tense relationship about my Transition while I remained a resident at his home, I could not celebrate with my father. My father’s Aunt Lena and Cousin Jack would be coming to visit for the day; maybe it was their impending arrival that put Dear Ol’ Dad on good behaviour that Saturday morning. Solitary in my bedroom, I could not celebrate with family. I could not celebrate with anyone – not that day, not that achievement, for years to come.
Next was my legal ID and DMV change that I accomplished early-1980. I went to the DMV thinking that maybe I can get lucky changing my driver’s licence. The DMV agent was about as nervous as was I when I explained to him that I am Transsexual and need to obtain my driver’s licence in my corrected name and sex. The DMV agent told me that I must complete the legal Name Change self-declaration form to accompany the driver’s licence change request. He watched me as I completed both forms. He took my picture for my first driver’s licence as Sharon.
There was a time when I knew by rote the Arizona statute that specified that application for Name Change required only the Applicant’s self-declaration to the change, an oath that there is no attempt to commit fraud or evasion, and continued use of that Change. This was the Arizona statute that provided the opportunity for me to make my Change in 1980.
My new driver’s licence arrived with my mail a week or so later. I must have studied that driver’s licence for days, weeks. As with my SSA card 18 months earlier, I celebrated its arrival alone. No family. No friends.
I have re-newed my Driver’s Licence several times since 1980. I am in awe each time – as a giddy school-girl.
Nope, Melissa. The feeling never goes away. At least not for me. Keep this feeling with you forever.
People have been changing their name and their sex on their legal ID for ages.
Lemme tell you, these current change processes are becoming convoluted. I submit that these, well, to extend the application of that term, are ‘Gatekeeping’ hoops added in the legal sphere meant to demean, obstruct, complicate the efforts of Trans persons.
Changing my SSA file in the Old Days was that simple green ‘Change’ card that I could submit to the SSA Office or send by mail. No physician letters, no counsellor letters, no court orders – just one simple self-declaration postcard.
Legal ID change and DMV change was one-stop at our state’s Motor Vehicles agency. I completed my name change declaration form with my new name and I checked the ‘Female’ box for ‘Sex’. That self-declaration legal form was stapled to my DMV change form.
With my legal ID, I went to wherever I had an account or business, presented my legal ID, and they completed my change.
Though I did not request it, my federal employing agency changed my ‘Sex’ status to ‘Female’ in my personnel record while I was still in Transition though still presenting as male (1983). Immediately following my departure (1985), Gary (the Forest Service Administratve Office where I was employed) changed my name to Sharon; that is what I learned a decade ago when I submitted a request to the federal government employees’ records center (2007). I sought papers regarding my employment and status. I could later submit those documents to the State Department to obtain my re-newed Passport. (See the attached letter from the records center. My employing agency, USDA Forest Service, changed my name to Sharon immediately upon my separation from employment.)
I managed to obtain a new Court Order a decade ago. It was still quite simple then. I went to the County Court Clerk’s desk, obtained the Change form, and paid the $35 filing fee. The Clerk instructed me to go to the assigned Courtroom and wait for the Judge to call my name. This was a simple Court for routine requests. The Judge called my name when my turn came. I was nervous – for myself and for standing there in the presence of countless strangers; I lived decades as Stealth, this was one public event that violated my Stealth. What if, after all these decades this judge decided to refuse to re-confirm my name and my sex, my legal identification that I have been using for four decades? I presented to the Judge my collection of legal papers, ID cards, employment records, tax returns, mortgage bill, utilities bills, credit cards dating as far back as I could go to the 1970s; I brought a variety of multiple items to be certain that nothing was missing. She asked the standard questions, I replied under oath that I am making my request for legal intents and purposes. She stampt my request approved and issued her Court Order. Relief! From the time when I first arrived to the time when I was completed at Court was probably about 30 minutes. I obtained my copy of my certified legal Court Order right there before I departed (attachment).
There was one minor glitch. Notice the ‘from’ name is Nick, not Sharon. I originally completed that self-declaration name change form with ‘Sharon’ not really knowing what to enter into that space. This action was simply obtaining another, replacement legal document for me Sharon, not actually changing my name from Nick to Sharon; the Court had no such legal form to use other than this Change form. I showed my SSA papers to the judge. I explained that SSA required me to bring a new Court Order to them to get them to correct their mistake when they erroneously reverted my file to Nick the prior year. The judge changed those items accordingly.
You can read an earlier essay that I wrote in 2015 here at my web-site that discussed those multiple complications regarding my name and sex change requests:
Nowadays, name change and sex change applicants here at Arizona must pay about $400 filing fees, spend untold Dollars buying advertising in the newspaper of record to publish their request, wait several weeks, and then appear at Court still not assured that the Judge will approve their request.
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