Week 167 – What other people need to update when you change your name

Being trans is rarely easy and in the hustle and bustle of my name change updates last year I overlooked an important type of name change: things that only other people, usually family, can update. This discovery came on the heels of the death of my mother earlier this month and it’s already causing me some friction.

While my mom mentioned we should update the bank account I’m listed on as the beneficiary, as I’m the executor of her estate, we never did. It turns out nothing connected to her estate was updated with my new name. This included the will and all of the financial-type accounts she had.

If you legally change your name as a part of your transition like I have, you’ll find there are many, many places to update. Some are easy, requiring just a phone call or web form update. Others are more complex, requiring a certified copy of the name change order from the court. Sometimes they even want a supporting affidavit and/or a third-party letter or two.

I’m finding that settling an estate is on the more complex and annoying end of things.

Most firms want to see a certified copy of my name change order. One bank is even insisting they need, “the original name change order,” and seems impervious to understanding a certified copy is equivalent because the original is on file at the court. (I’m still working my way up the management chain on that inanity.)

Then there’s the fun of getting outed over and over. My brother and I validated the will and the lawyer looked really confused trying to reconcile my old name with my new look. The phone calls where I’ve had to explain my name has changed remind me of when I was changing my own accounts.

It’s tedious, tiring, and sometimes demoralizing because my phone voice doesn’t always sound very feminine. As an example, I attended a meeting at a bank and was asked, “Was that your brother I talked to on the phone?” and having to say, no that was me, and getting the puzzled look from the banker.

Worst so far has been spreading the news to her friends. My mom had a very small group of friends she stayed in regular touch with and they all seemed to know my name had changed, but friends of hers from high school and college who knew she had two boys are a different matter. One lady seemed very confused when I said my mom had died and asked me if I was my mom’s granddaughter.

To save you some of the same heartburn, here’s a list of things that other people should update with your new name. The good news is that generally they can just update these without any documentation or involvement from you.

  • Will and estate planning documents
  • Beneficiary information for life insurance, brokerage accounts, etc.
  • Joint bank accounts and safety deposit boxes
  • Emergency contact information
  • Auto and health insurance (if you don’t pay the bills)
  • Friends of the family

I post I wrote a while back, Name change and gender marker change resources, is now updated with the list above. Let me know in the comments here or there if I’m missing anything and I’ll add it to the lists.

©Heather Coldstream


Please consider supporting my writing by buying a poetry collection of mine from the Kindle store!

2016: Poems from a Year of Change

Uncertain: Poems About Gender Transition

Thank you!

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Week 166 – Misgendered to the end

The last person my mom ever misgendered me to was the hospital security guard who came to notarize a durable power of medical attorney listing me as the responsible party. As usual, her misgendering was unintentional. I didn’t correct her because it would soon be moot.

‘Who are you designating?’ he asked.

Gesturing at me, ‘Him,’ she said.

He looked momentarily confused until he connected the dots and then looked embarrassed and awkward. By that point I was used to it. It still sucked. He beat a hasty retreat once done with his task.

My brother and mom’s boyfriend didn’t seem to notice. They stood in opposite corners of the intensive care room lost in their own thoughts. A couple of hours earlier mom had firmly reiterated her decision to a doctor to stop all curative treatments for her lung cancer, emphysema, and pneumonia, saying she was ready to die.

Even though her living will was in order, I had asked to have the power of attorney before she went on the morphine drip that would slip her into death – just in case something went sideways and a decision needed to be made.

The misgendering and deadnaming from my family felt relentless in those last few days of my mom’s life. It made an already emotionally grueling time that much more unpleasant.

In my brother’s defense, it was the first time he’d ever met me as me. He’d been very good in the beginning at catching and correcting himself. As our mom’s situation worsened, discussions with the doctors and nurses shifted into harder conversations and they all started slipping more and more along with fewer self-corrections.

In times of stress we often fall back into deeply laid, predictable grooves of routine, and these people who had known me my entire life defaulted to their memory of who I used to be. Mom had been admitted twelve days prior and the misgendering and deadnaming slowly became worse and more annoying. Each time I’d correct them with, ‘her’, ‘she’, ‘hers’, and, ‘Heather’, and each time they’d apologize.

On the bright side, the hospital staff was always courteous to me, even when they knew I was trans or had come to the realization like the security guard after a misgendering. This turned out to be a huge relief and I never felt like I wasn’t listened to or taken seriously because I was trans.

Even though my mom misgendered me to the end, I know there was no malice behind it and that she loved me. She just never quite made the full cognitive leap to replace the old with the new in her head. For me, it does not take away from the times she introduced me as her daughter to the nurses and didn’t mess up.

Being trans requires making your own cognitive leaps to accept yourself and decide what to do about it. It also asks those around you to make their own leaps. Some will fall short. That’s just how it is.

Mom never fully understood why I transitioned and was resistant to it at first, but she did come around to support and respect me. That meant a lot to me, even though she couldn’t keep my pronouns straight right up to her end.

©Heather Coldstream


Please consider supporting my writing by buying a poetry collection of mine from the Kindle store!

2016: Poems from a Year of Change

Uncertain: Poems About Gender Transition

Thank you!

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Week 165 – My one year transition anniversary

In some of my darkest pre-transition days, loneliness stalked me and often hurled barbs that burrowed and injected poison like bee stings when I tried to pull them out.

It would whisper things like, ‘Nobody will want to be around you if you transition. Who wants to be around a freak?’ and, ‘You’ll never be happy and no one wants to be around unhappy people,’ and then mockingly jeer, ‘Your wife will leave you if you transition and the only people who will want you are fetishists.’

This internal narrative was often hard to ignore when I felt like a freak, was almost constantly depressed, and chasers with their dick pics would pop up online like diseased mushrooms.

My one year full-time transition anniversary was April 1 and I am now very, very far away from that dark place.

There are days when I still feel lonely, but I can call a friend and they welcome doing things with me. There are days I get down, but it’s no longer a state of being. While I’m not in a relationship now, I did have one for a while post-transition and have also been on some dates; I am not un-lovable or unwanted.

Deciding to transition was the hardest decision I’ve ever made in my life and many of my fears came true.

My wife did leave me, but that’s a good thing as I was trying to lean on her in a way she couldn’t support. Now I’m free to find someone who wants to be with me instead of tolerate me.

I still get unhappy sometimes, but instead of falling into the dark pit of despair it’s more of a cloudy day.

The dick pics still show up, but they are gnats I brush away in my confidence that for someone special, I’m worth getting to know for reasons beyond my genitalia and trans-ness.

Transition works for gender dysphoria but sometimes it was like chemotherapy where getting to the cure is a rough ride. I had a very rough ride but my life has been transformed for the better.

It was all worth it and I look forward to the years ahead.

©Heather Coldstream


Please consider supporting my writing by buying one of my poetry collections from the Kindle store!

2016: Poems from a Year of Change

Uncertain: Poems About Gender Transition

Thank you!

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Week 164 – ‘my sister’

‘I’m here with my sister now, so I gotta go soon.’ I motioned to my brother for the car keys and went and sat in the car while he finished his call.

We had just finished lunch while discussing my mom’s lung cancer diagnosis and early estate planning. As one of my besties pointed out, it was a huge moment. For him to acknowledge me as his sister to someone I don’t even know when compared to past behavior is really amazing.

It’s another sign of how what used to be extraordinary is becoming ordinary. The past week has been a rough one, so that was a bright spot.

My mom went into the emergency room last Thursday with shortness of breath and a CT scan revealed a large mass pressing on her bronchial tubes. She had a bronchoscopy Saturday and the biopsy results reported non-small cell carcinoma lung cancer.

The good news is yesterday’s PET scan revealed the cancer hasn’t spread beyond her chest so she’s stage 3 instead of stage 4 and there’s a hope for a cure. The bad news is it showed some pneumonia and the five-year remission rate for her cancer is 14%, with the overall cure rate being 33%.

These are not good odds. She’s smoked for 60 years, so while I’m sad about her diagnosis, the only surprise is that a heart attack or stroke didn’t get her first.

She’s resting as comfortably as possible with pain medication and supplemental oxygen. Radiation treatments start this afternoon. Chemotherapy should start about a week out after she’s stronger and is breathing easier. After the initial chaos of the ER and waiting for a diagnosis, we’re now down to waiting on treatment and seeing how she responds.

I’m marked on her hospital room whiteboard as, ‘Heather – daughter’ and none of the staff has misgendered me. My mom and my mom’s boyfriend have been misgendering and deadnaming me about 75% of the time, and my brother about 25%.

I chalk it up to stress—there’s no malice on their part. I correct them each time and they’re apologetic every time. While it’s an annoyance, especially when they’re referring to me with the medical staff in the room, it’s really a small thing in the grand scheme of things right now.

Its been helpful to have my brother here. He lives overseas and just happened to be in town for a business trip. That’s saved having to relay information on a time-delay and I know he feels better being able to quiz the staff directly. It’s also a relief to not be the only person shouldering the patient advocacy duties. My mom’s boyfriend is not very confrontational or pro-active and I know this would be a much rougher process for her if it was just him.

For now, I wait and advocate.

©Heather Coldstream


Please consider supporting my writing by buying one of my poetry collections from the Kindle store!

2016: Poems from a Year of Change

Uncertain: Poems About Gender Transition

Thank you!

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Week 163 – Queer girl – part 2

(Continued from Queer Girl, Part 1)

We cut through the bar to get to the restaurant. Holding the side door open for her, I could smell stale grease and smoke hanging in the air. The bar was roadhouse style. Dim lighting hung from the ceiling in large metal fixtures and tall booths of black Naugahide with black Formica tables ringed the wall. A pool table with red felt stood in the middle of the room. The requisite Budweiser light hung above it. A CD jukebox played Aerosmith.

Above the long wooden bar, a Rainier red R neon sign was flanked by Olympia and Henry Weinhard’s mirrors. Bud, Bud Light, Rainier, and Olympia were on tap.

The patronage was thin at the early hour. Middle-aged barflies in blue jeans, jackets, and ball caps sat at the bar nursing schooners filled with pale beer. The booth tables contained a loose scattering of couples nursing cigarettes, bottles, mixed drinks, and fried food served in red plastic baskets with black and white checkered paper.

I followed Hailey across the floor towards the restaurant section, her boots clicking on the hardwood floor, appreciating her walk and curves while wondering what I had done to deserve being her date. Halfway across the room, the usual bar chatter fell silent as guy after guy at the bar swung around to stare at her with glittering, hungry eyes.

A quick sweep of the room showed that even the men with their girlfriends or wives were staring with the same look, while their companions scowled hot daggers. The room suddenly felt claustrophobic as leering, predatory faces with toothy grins mentally undressed and fucked my date on the pool table, over the bar, in a booth, and wherever else their minds took them. Hailey seemed unperturbed and if she noticed, she didn’t show it.

If I was a guy, I suspect I probably would have felt like the cock of the walk and strutted appropriately. I wasn’t, so I almost had a panic attack and my feet felt like clumsy cinderblocks.

Latent sexual malice filled the air like an arcing electric current from man to man and I felt afraid. The room felt claustrophobic as the leering faces seemed to morph into predatory, toothy grins. I feared some invisible switch would be thrown to set off a chain reaction, and my mind whirled and my heart hammered in an attempt to formulate some sort of response other than fleeing.

A guy would have probably put his arm around her to clearly signal that she was his, but I wasn’t, so Hailey turned to take my hand with a big smile and pulled me along behind her and out of danger. Passing through the baffled doorway into the restaurant, raucous laughter swelled behind us.

It was a moment I’ve returned to several times. How did she so easily ignore the un-ignorable? Why did I feel so lost in that moment and not know what to do? It was another piece of the puzzle of figuring myself out.

The first question was answered last but faster when I began my own tentative steps out as myself a few years ago and learned first-hand the feminine art of watchfully ignoring the male gaze and comments. It’s self-protection and self-preservation against a man’s world hostile to women.

The second question I wrestled with for years. I used to tell myself it was because I wasn’t a very good at being a guy because I didn’t understand the signaling well. Throughout my life I had been coached on how to ‘be a gentleman’ but no one had ever covered how to be protective of your date. It’s apparently such a fundamental behavior, it wasn’t considered worth remarking upon.

The truth is that I wasn’t a guy, so of course I was terrible at. Hailey’s behavior again lit the way: get the hell out of there as fast as possible with a smile on your face to hide any fear.

If she showed any concern at my lack of gallantry, she didn’t let on. Conversation over dinner was nervous first date talk about family, weather, and the current events of 1990.

Halfway through our second beers I realized she was flirting with me. Between sips of beer and through lidded, smoky eyes she said, “I think you’re really cute.”

I stammered out a thank you while realizing she had probably been flirting with me all through dinner, but I was missing the signals so she decided to be more direct. I returned the compliment and after a bit of back and forth she suggested we shoot some pool in the bar.

This struck fear into my heart. Head back into dangerous territory? But how could I say no? I couldn’t and didn’t. After paying and being fortified with beer I followed her back into the bar.

There were more people now and the tenor and makeup of the room had shifted to more of a younger, louder, after-work crowd. This was a relief to me. There was safety in numbers and diversity.

I racked the balls and Hailey leaned over with a smile to break, providing me a direct view down into her ample cleavage. I swooned with triangle hanging in my hand. The crack of balls clattering in their scattering brought me back.

We played a couple of games and she asked for my help a few times. Being the dumb bunny I am, it took me a while to realize was maneuvering me to touch her.

A few men tried to insert themselves into our game and each time she’d sidle up to me and sweetly blow them off. I was content to let her handle this, because I had no idea how to get rid of them.

After being pounded on by her with the cluehammer for most of the night, one entered my head. I asked if she wanted to come back to my place in Seattle. She agreed.

I shared a rental house with my best friend and his girlfriend. It was your typical small, Seattle box house built in the 30’s. By the 90’s and after years of being a rental, it was a beat-up shack with a chain-link fence and gate in the front yard. A long-unpruned apple tree graced the back yard next to a rusting garden shed. A wild tangle of white grape vines grew on the side next to the car port.

On North 87th street up the block from Aurora Avenue, a tavern was on the corner, street walkers strutted up and down cruising for dates, and gunshots were a regular occurrence in the summer from the tavern or the motel a block north. The neighbor across the street had his Jetta broken into twice, both times to steal the front seats.

The night we moved in we watched a large cocaine or heroin deal go down on the sidewalk out front by a guy on a moped and called the cops. They never came. If she was concerned about where I lived she didn’t show it as I parked in the car port.

My room was in the basement and we entered through the ground entry in the back to avoid the kitchen by the front door and my roommates. The state of the kitchen often ranged from untidy to health hazard and there was a 50/50 chance my roommates would be arguing.

We kissed standing in my room and the smell of her intoxicated me. Her soft body felt lovely to hold. My excitement was rising. And per usual, I was lost as to what I should do next. Squeeze her butt some more? Rub her breasts? Start to undress her? Undress myself?

Sensing my uncertainty, she pushed me back and shyly pulled her dress off. Taking the hint, I started to undress. She looked slightly embarrassed at being seen in the shapewear she wore under he dress and, if anything, this made her more attractive to me. I would have killed to have her body. Feeling more certain of the next steps I led her to the bed and we began the final steps of the dance we started when she had beckoned me to her table.

The entire act was unremarkable except for the fact that while we both seemed to want each other, we were wildly out of sync. She offered zero guidance and little feedback as I blundered about trying to prolong things.

I’d ask a question like, ‘Here?’ or ‘How’s that?’ and receive not much more than a shrug. There were awkward pauses as she looked at me like she was expecting me to do something and then looks of confusion when I didn’t do whatever it was she was expecting that she didn’t ask for. This was and remained a common motif in my life for many years when it came to dating and sex.

In my first relationships hormones drove passions on both parts and mistakes were a part of figuring things out and easily forgiven. My second serious partner claimed throughout our relationship she never had an orgasm, and I look back and laugh at what was either my naïveté at a blatant lie on her part to get me to try ever harder or our shared naïveté at being unable to recognize her orgasm.

The rituals of courtship were still slippery things for me to grasp up until a little over a year ago. I’ve been on a few dates post-transition and they’ve been…easier. There’s an ease I never felt before in just talking and getting to know the other person.

The navigation of these encounters has been smoother because instead of being a woman pretending to be a man for a woman who’s expecting me to act like a man, I’m a woman for a woman who expects a woman.

It shouldn’t surprise me because I’m more comfortable with myself, but it still does. It’s been another one of those pleasant post-transition surprises. The energy is just different in a more relaxed way.

And what of Hailey?

After our awkward sex we went to sleep and I drove her home in the morning. On the way there she asked if I wanted to get high and while I’m not opposed to it, I don’t drive intoxicated. She looked at me strangely and proceed to light a joint. We fell to talking and she told me her parents moved to Washington to get her away from her friends, who they had deemed a bad influence.

She also said she went to visit them once a month as part of her job.

‘Job?’

‘Yeah, I take the train down to California to visit with them overnight and then bring a suitcase full of pot back up with me that I hand off to some other friends up here.’

‘Oh.’

Dating a drug mule whose friends were probably in a biker gang didn’t fit into my life plans so I dropped her off and didn’t look back.

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Week 162 – The wedding

Saturday I attended a wedding in Portland for a friend I’ve known for almost twenty-five years. He and his bride, his parents, his kids, and some people who I’d only known online for over a decade but met for the first time there knew I was trans. It was a small wedding, so I’m reasonably certain most people there knew I was trans. This was the first wedding I’ve attended since my transition.

Other than the groom misgendering me after a few drinks, my correcting him, and him apologizing later, me being trans was a non-issue. I got to wear a pretty dress with some high heels and even gave a brief toast to the couple over a microphone.

In the hours before the event, I was anxious. Doubts began to cloud my thoughts. Could I really pull off this dress? Am I just faking it? What if someone says something rude? Am I going to topple off my heels? Why did I agree to come to this and make a spectacle of myself?

Silly thoughts, all of them, but such is the leech of dysphoria. It feeds silently on doubt until you can’t but help noticing its engorged body. You hesitate to pull it off out of fear you’ll rip off skin with it.

I took a deep breath before I left my hotel room, wrapped in my scarf and clutching my clutch. ‘I can do this. I can do this. I can do this,’ I told myself.

I did. And I had a good time.

The leech only came to feed briefly when I saw the young nieces of the bride, with their up-dos and pretty flowers in their hair, and when I had to walk across the empty dance floor to the bathroom. In the former, it was from wistfulness about a youth I never had. In the latter, it was about having a body that doesn’t move the way I’d like because my hips are the way they are.

After the wedding I changed and went out for drinks with one of the groom’s sons and a couple of those people I’d never met before. We were just people out having drinks after a wedding. Nothing more, nothing less.

Which is exactly where I want to be right now.

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Permission to transition

As I struggled with the decision to transition, I looked for someone, anyone, to give me permission to transition.

I wanted my wife to give me permission. I wanted my doctor to give me permission. I wanted my counselor to give me permission. I wanted my friends to give me permission. I wanted the trans people I communicated with on the Internet to give me permission. I wanted medical science to have a test to prove I was trans and give me the permission I desperately sought. I wanted the facts to prove beyond a reasonable doubt transition was the thing I needed to do to feel whole and the permission it would have given me.

How much easier it would have been!

Instead, I shirked responsibility for myself and attempted to offload it onto the people around me. It was a form of dissociative mania that gripped me. It was a desire to look away from the truth of myself and not have to take responsibility for myself. I was the person trimming hedges with a lawnmower who slipped and cut my arm off and then complained the label never said to do that.

In the end, my abdication of responsibility made things worse. One of the most truthful things my ex ever said to me was, “You’re not owning this and it’s making our lives hell,” as I again sought her permission to do what I knew I’d eventually do way back when I was fourteen.

It was as if I’d asked, “Excuse me, I’ve had this lifelong dream that has left me emotionally crippled because I haven’t been able to pursue it. Is it okay if I do it now?”

What madness!

When I owned it, when I gave myself permission, a switch flipped. My ex was still not happy about the whole thing but she no longer spat daggers at me all the time. I felt calmer. I had a plan and a future instead of the foggy, pink cloud high I was chasing with ever diminishing returns.

If it helps, I give you permission to transition. But it’s not mine to give.

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