“We have a couple of name changes before we get started with the other cases. They’re quick.”
The judge looked down at her papers.
“[Full Legal Deadname]?” She looked expectantly around the small courtroom filled with about twenty people.
Talking a deep breath, I smiled and rose. She gave me a warm smile back.
She gestured, “Please step to the microphone over here, please.” I had sat in the second row on the center aisle with a direct line to the lectern.
There was one other woman there for a name change, a newlywed with her husband. They both looked to be in their sixties and they were all smiles. I had been secretly hoping she’d be called first, but it wasn’t to be. It would’ve also been two fewer people in the room.
There was also a family of five in the front row who had been talking before the court came to order about their neighbor’s encroachment onto their property. They were feeling confident. I was a little less so.
As they heard me get up, I endured them swiveling to stare while I felt the eyeballs of everyone behind me burning into the back of my head. No one talked, so I could hear people shifting in their seats, presumably to get a better look at the woman who responded to a man’s name.
And not for the last time, I continued to experience two of the many truisms of being trans, the forced outing and overdressing to ease gatekeeping.
At some point during your transition, you will be forcibly outed. If you don’t care about being outed because you live out, rock on. I live with the knowledge that the thousand or so people who knew me pre-transition know I’m trans and I’m fine with that.
I’m less fine with random strangers knowing because I just don’t know how they’ll react and it’s none of their business. Most people are fine about it. A few are even great. Then there are the people to avoid. In public spaces, you just don’t know the mix.
How you deal with being forcibly outed is up to you. The forced outing is never fun. The first one of the day was when I filed my paperwork before court. The woman who processed my paperwork didn’t bat an eye as she typed my old and new names into the computer. Every time I have a forced outing, I remind myself that it’s just a temporary blip in time and try to roll with it.
The second was wondering if the smile from the judge would have been as warm if I had been wearing my usual jeans, tee-shirt, and tennis shoes instead of a summer dress, bling-y jewelry, and extra makeup. I was fairly certain that I was blending well from the surprised looks on the family’s faces as I passed by and the extra friendly chit-chat I received from the older male security guards as I had entered the building.
When you’re trans and dealing with gatekeepers of any form, looking as cisnormative as possible almost always greases the skids because it tends to make them feel more comfortable. Every trans person’s ability to be taken for cis varies and it depends on so many factors, it could fill a book. I’ve yet to meet a trans person who doesn’t have one or more things that they feel inhibits their ability to blend. For me, it’s my voice, facial structure, and feet.
The judge read from the petition I had submitted and asked if I was changing my name to avoid any legal issues or to defraud anyone.
“Please state your current, full legal name.”
I inwardly cringed before taking a deep breath. “[Full Legal Deadname],” I announced to the court.
“And you now want to be known as Heather [Middle] Coldstream?”
She bent over the paperwork, “Everything is in order and I have no reason to deny the petition.” She signed it and looked up, still smiling. “Congratulations!” She handed the papers to the clerk. “The clerk will help you from here.”
“Thank you!” I was smiling with happiness and relief as I approached to collect my signed papers. The clerk smiled back and directed me where to file them across the hall.
As I left the courtroom, I saw the other people out of the corner of my eye track me out the door. I didn’t look at them.
The rest of morning was filing the paperwork, (the lady used Heather, yay!) and I got ten copies of the certified petition, (pro tip from others: get more than you think you need; you’ll need ’em), the Social Security office to apply for a new card, (the gay man who helped me used she and her to his supervisor, who was confused as to who I was as they examined my birth certificate,) and the driver’s licensing office, (I think the guy made snarky comments to his co-workers when I had to go back to my car to get a certified copy of my name change,) and my bank, (the guy was super-helpful and nice.)
Whew! All told, it was about five hours of my time, but the relief of completing this part of transition has lifted my spirits.