A form sits on my desk. It is titled, “Petition for Adult Change of Name.” I’ve filled it out, and plan to file it sometime in the next couple weeks. Line 5 asks, “This application is made for the following reasons:” I thought of a few lighthearted responses I could put in the box, but opted with a simple “gender change.” Sometime after filing this form I’m told I’ll be called in before a judge to testify that I am not changing my name for purposes of fraud. An ironic question given how it has felt living as a boy my whole life. Nevertheless, it’s all but guaranteed my petition will be granted and my name will be changed without objection.
The process of legally changing my name and gender is just one of several streams of activity that seem to be converging around the end of this month. I am in the final stages now of coming out to a very small number of family with the help of my parents and my wife. Trips across the country by my wife and family to re-establish contact with family and hopefully reinforce the importance of our relationships with them have been completed, and my open letter that I will use to come out is written and waiting to be published when the time is right.
For the last six months or so I’ve basically lived two lives – switching between “girl mode” when in places where I’m known as “Madelyn”, and “boy mode” among those who know me as Matt. Gradually my time in “girl mode” increased to where I was only needing to switch to “boy mode” on Monday night’s for choir practice, or later just occasionally when I was around someone that I wasn’t yet out to. But since taking a quarter off choir I’ve been in girl mode full time, and only continuing to exist as “Matt” to my wider group of friends and extended family who know me online.
That is about to change.
Within the next few weeks I’ll have a court date for my name change, documentation from my psychologist recommending a legal gender change, those who need to know ahead of time will know, and I will come out publicly. I am still figuring out the dates for each of these events.
Coming out publicly is both scary and a relief at the same time. On one hand there are the very real fears of putting yourself out there and having people reject you, or worse to point fingers and criticize you. What if friends and/or colleagues hesitate to recommend you for a job because of your trans status? Or what if friendships strain under the initial awkwardness that is created by such a transition?
On the other hand it’s a relief. For so long I’ve lived with this and kept it in, feeling like I wasn’t living the right life for me, and then more recently literally feeling like I was living two separate lives. With part of the people I interact knowing me as one gender, and the others as the other gender. Only a couple people saw me in both modes. It will be such a relief to have this process over with and just be able to simplify my existence. To not have to show my male driver’s license when asked for ID, to not have to sign my given name, and to just be able to be myself.
But most important I think that all this will allow me to be able to move on with life. To know who my real friends are, and to embrace them more closely than before. To just go on living and not have this double life hanging over my head. To let the chips fall where they will.
So filing that petition for name change is really just a small step, but it’s part of a bigger process that brings to a close the first stage of my transition. Of officially bringing my two lives into alignment, and of the start of living my life more openly as authentically as I can.
There is still much that lies ahead of me in life, and I know that my trans status will likely impact my life in ways that I still don’t realize. But I also am hopeful when I think of the possibility of a new beginning that can start with the impending merging of two life streams into one.