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The weight of a name change

July 19, 2012

Argentina’s gender identity law went live over a month ago but I still haven’t changed my legal name and gender. I needed time to mull over the decision and do a little mourning, though I think I’m finally ready.

Every step of my transition was deliberate, carefully thought-out. I knew full well that I didn’t have to bind, or wear clothes from the men’s department, or take T, or have surgery unless I really wanted to (or needed to). Transness isn’t a package that you buy whole. And I know that my ID says nothing about me as a person: not changing it is a valid option. There are a few trans people in my life who are choosing to keep their old IDs even though they publicly transitioned years ago.

For me, changing my name legally is fraught with emotions, especially because I have to modify my birth certificate before updating anything else. In part, I feel like I’m erasing my past, dishonoring the person I’ve been, pegging myself like a butterfly in the little “male” box. It’s like reliving what I felt when I socially transitioned, and again when I physically transitioned. Once again, I have to remind myself that change is part of life, that it’s ok to move forward, that no change in appearance or documentation can take away my past without my consent.

On the one hand, correcting my ID is a no-brainer because I’ve been living as male for a long time and it’s worked for me so far; on the other hand, it feels like a big step because it’s my final one (I might get a hysterectomy eventually, but only if it’s medically necessary and it won’t be about transitioning). It’s the only thing left that marks me as visibly trans, and though being visible can be uncomfortable, it has its bright side too: some people are deeply moved by knowingly meeting a trans man for the first time and I’d like to think that the encounter makes them more trans-friendly. Having to share something so intimate has also brought me closer to some people, like teachers, who I might not have approached personally otherwise.

Ultimately, I know I need to change my documentation to function in daily life. I avoid situations where I need to show ID –like doctor’s offices– because it’s awkward and people get suspicious; at school I’m constantly afraid of discrimination and being “outed” without my consent. I guess I could handle it if I were more self-confident and willing to disclose, but I feel prepared to move on and save my fuel for other battles. I’m ready.

One Comment leave one →
  1. July 20, 2012 5:56 pm

    Great post. When I first came out as a gender nonconformist I was horrified by the idea of changing my name; it means so much to me, and I’ve always thought of it as gender neutral, but others don’t! It’s great that you’re ready.

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