7. University Change-of-Name Form and “Sir”

Seriously, WTF?

Changing one’s name is a very messy business. People getting married and taking someone else’s last name (or hyphenating, or whatever) know this. But as with many other things in life, it seems a little bit harder for trans persons. I’ve posted before about my adventures in acquiring new ID. This is about changing my name at my University.

metamorphosis_nameform.pngLegally changing my name requires filling out a roughly 20 page document, including having a guarantor sign (I had my physician do it, who was happy to oblige). Then I had to take it to a commissioner of oaths (I chose someone at the City Hall), and mail it off. And then wait 4-8 weeks — it’s a lot closer to 8 — to receive a certificate in the mail, which I would have to copy many, many times (and have some of them notarized as certified true copies) for all of the places where I need to change my name. That’s all fine, though the wait is a little interminable.

However, there are two things. First, everyone has to send in their birth certificate so that it can be destroyed. If you’re from Ontario, they send you a new one for free. But I wasn’t born in Ontario (B.C.), so I have to wait for the certificate, then contact B.C. and order a new one — at my expense. So the name change costs $137, plus the fee for a new B.C. birth certificate, and another delay. All in all, it’ll take about three months to have the “official” documents changed. And this is well after I’ve stopped using my old “legal” name. It’s actually a little painful when I have to keep using my old name for medical appointments, but at least they’re happy to use my new name in the meantime.

UPDATE: Seriously, changing my OHIP (provincial medical insurance card) was one of the biggest reliefs yet. It was very painful to have to show a male ID, with a male picture, to all of the healthcare providers, particularly after I transitioned to full time living.

Second, all name changes are published. In Ontario, the name changes are published in the Ottawa Gazette. This is true of most (if not all) provinces. So trans persons have to separately write in to request that their name change isn’t published, which creates an extra barrier. This added at least a week to my application. I don’t understand the need to publish name changes. I don’t like that it requires a person to come out to the Ministry as transgender. (The typical reason for a name change that trans persons give is “Common usage.” I put that, as well as that it’s part of a gender transition.) People tend to express shock when I tell them about the publication of name changes.

OK, that’s the legal name change. But most people don’t know that it’s often fairly easy to have one’s official name of record changed at one’s university, as a student anyway. There’s a form that requires a commissioner of oath’s signature, and most universities have at least one on staff. I filled out the form, and put “Gender transition” as my reason for changing my name. Again, I’m open about the transition, so I don’t have to put something ambiguous like “Common usage.” Here’s where things got weird, twice.

First, after the commissioner of oaths read my form, signed and notarized it, and handed it back to me, she said, “There you go, sir.” SIR?! I’m dressed in female clothing, have painted nails and earrings, and I’ve just had you sign a form to change my name to something obviously female, AND the reason for changing my name is “Gender transition” and you still “Sir” me?!

Yeah, I know that it’s just automatic for some people, but that’s no excuse. (See post #5.) That was simply carelessness on her part, to the point of being insensitive. There’s a broader lesson here, of course: people need more sensitivity training on dealing with trans persons. There’s apparently no training on these issues for employees. I’d like them to learn about not using pronouns or prefixes like Ms/Mrs/Sir/Ma’am, especially for trans persons. (I’ll have a separate rant on prefixes.) OK, chalk that up to careless insensitivity.

I walk downstairs to the graduate studies office to submit the forms, hand them over, and the receptionist (she’s more than a receptionist, but I don’t know her job title) says that she needs to see some ID with my new name on it.

Me: “No, you don’t.”

Her: “Yes, we need to see some ID with your new name on it.”

Me: “No…you don’t.”

Why am I always teaching people their own policies? The university policy on this name change form explicitly says that ID isn’t required; one just needs the notarized form(s) that I’ve properly submitted.

Her: “Uhhh, I’ll go check on that, hang on.”

5 minutes goes by, and she returns with what I can only guess is a supervisor. The supervisor then says, “OK, no problem, we’ll take care of this Sir.” AGAIN! What is wrong with people? Don’t they read the forms? Or, if they do, why do they think it’s appropriate to give the inappropriate prefix when it clearly states “Gender transition” on the form and I’m changing it to an unmistakably female name? Geebus.

Yours truly,