A big part of transitioning for me (and by all accounts, for everybody else) is changing one’s name. It’s fairly simple: if I want to live as a girl, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to do it with a boy’s name. Since I wasn’t fortunate enough to be born with an androgynous name, changing it was a pretty early priority for me.
Picking a new name is no easy task. I wasn’t entirely sure what the best way to go about it was. There was nothing that I really felt strongly about, I just knew I didn’t want it to be the name I was born with. I tried asking my parents, but I have two younger sisters; they’d used up their planned girl’s names already, and didn’t really have an immediate answer for me.
Next plan: I asked around, asking close friends for suggestions. What did they like? What would suit me? I came up with a list. I was going to bring the list to my parents, give them a second chance to get my name right. The longer I had the list in my possession, though, the more obvious the choice became. One name on the list stuck out to me, and eventually, I realised it had to be that, regardless of what anyone else thought. (It’s not Snow, that’s a pseudonym. I won’t tell you what it is, but I will tell you I chose it because of a very specific piece of literature)
With a name chosen, it was easy enough to tell people to start using it. Some people had more trouble than others, but as a general rule, people picked it up pretty quickly. It felt natural, it felt good. It wasn’t enough.
My old name was on all my cards, all my mail, my name badge at work, everything. The longer I spent operating under my new name, the less I could stand seeing the old one. My old name became emblematic of everything I wanted not to be; everything I hated about myself. I had to get rid of it, purge it from my life. A legal name change was always part of the plan, but I couldn’t wait any longer to get it done.
So here’s how you get your name changed in Australia: you print out a form from the internet, fill it out (including a section that requests a reason. Mine was something to the effect of “A gender-appropriate name is an important part of the transgender transition process”) and round up a bunch of ID. Passport, drivers license, bank statement, something else. I forget what. Take it all to a police station, where they can stamp it and say it’s all legit. Take it into the registry of births, deaths and marriages, wait for an hour or two, they process the paperwork, charge you $100 and send you on your way. A month later, you get a new birth certificate with a list of your old names on the back.
So a month later, I could start changing everything else. Drivers license was first, which was another 2-3 week wait. I changed my name at work, so if I wasn’t out before then, I pretty much was after (although, you’d be surprised. Even with an obviously feminine name, feminine clothing and as much make-up as I can get away with, it doesn’t seem to register with a lot of people that I am, in fact, a girl.) Medicare had to be changed. Health insurance had to be changed. Bank cards had to be changed (that one was nice – I went in to change my name and without my needing to ask, the lady helping me asked if I also wanted to change my title to ‘miss’, made my day).
Now here’s a fun thing. When I get mail, it’s like playing Russian roulette. Pretty much everything shows up with the right name. Very little of it shows up with the right title. So I get a lot of mail addressed to MR <VERY OBVIOUSLY FEMALE NAME>. If I’m in a good mood, it makes me laugh. If I’m not, it makes me feel shitty and I want to just rip it up and burn it.
These days, I almost never hear my old name. There are a few people that just refuse to make the effort to learn the new one, which sucks, but I’ll live. Took probably about four months, start to finish, but it wasn’t particularly painful. And now it’s done, so that’s that.