Trans in the Courtroom: A Name Change

One of the biggest and most frequent problems I’ve encountered as a transgender woman is my legal name. As of right now, my legal name remains my male name. This, obviously, causes a lot of problems in my life. For example, I once handed my driver’s license to a bartender, which resulted in me being called “Sir” all night, very loudly. I once called my credit card company and, because of my voice, my account was frozen and I was forced to go through an hour of jumping through hoops to do something as simple as pay my bill. My legal name has caused years of discomfort, discrimination, and even danger. So getting my name changed is very, very much a priority.

Lucky for me, I was able to connect with an amazing attorney, Natalie Hrubos, who helps transgender clients with the legal name change procedure pro bono. Her help walking me through the whole process has been amazing. And last Tuesday, she and I met at the courthouse in Easton for my first of two hearings. The hearing last week was sort of a preliminary, before we actually put in for the name change hearing. The hearing would be held in chambers, so it was just the judge, my attorney, a stenographer, and myself in the small office behind the court room. Despite being an activist, despite speaking in front of crowds of hundreds before, I was trembling as I sat there, waiting for my time to speak.

When the judge sat down and looked at my attorney and I, he had the unmistakable air of a very busy man who felt like his time was being wasted. This was either a very good, or very bad sign. Impassively, he let my attorney speak, then the time came when I was to speak. He looked slightly bored, but watched me and listened courteously as I explained the discrimination and danger I have faced as a transgender woman. I spoke for about 5 minutes, and then I stopped, and waited. He started talking about some technical stuff with my attorney, and I still wasn’t entirely sure whether he was really on board, or really reluctant.

And then I made out something through the legal-ese. The judge said “Why do we have to have another hearing in two months? You’re here now, can’t we just do it now?”

I can’t describe the feeling of elation as I deciphered his support, and frustration at so much of his time being taken up by this. My attorney’s disposition also suddenly shifted. It seemed she was trying to stop herself from laughing. Carefully, she explained there were procedures and laid out steps we have to go through, though he could sign off that we wouldn’t need to come back in 2 months, after all the paperwork was done. And so, I was told,  the paperwork would take, at most, 60 days. After that, the name change will be done.  For the entire rest of the day, I was literally bouncing up and down with joy! And now, as of today, my name will be legally be Ashley within the next 54 days!

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4 Comments

  1. Congratulations Ashley!

    Reply
  2. The one good thing I can say about North Carolina is that I did not need to see a judge. I got all my paperwork in order – two notarized character references (done for free at the local chamber of commerce) and a document with the correct spelling of my old and new names.

    Had to post name change request on a bulletin board outside the court house for 14 days – a board filled with property sale and rezoning requests.

    After that, I went to the clerk of the court, payed $50, and all was done.

    Reply
  3. Sixty days, a legally qualified representative, and a judge? I am Scots. I wrote out a document myself, copied off the internet; signed it in front of a solicitor, who made copies which he signed as true copies; and sent them off to the tax office, driving licence etc. Cheap and quick. My friend did not even use a solicitor, she had a load of friends round and had them all sign her change of name document. Banks, authorities, whomever, all accepted it. I got a passport and driving licence saying I am female after my GP wrote to the passport office saying I was unlikely to revert.

    Reply

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