Tuesday, July 11, 2006

who can judge a judge?

Haven't posted much lately- I've felt pretty closed off this past week, and unhappy. Most of that can be directly traced to the rather stinging rejection I received at the hands of the Manhattan Civil Court last week, when the judge denied my name change petition.

He cited in his denial a particular case from 1992, when a transperson was denied a namechange because they failed to submit any medical documentation from doctors/surgeons etc providing proof of medical transition. As far as I can make out, the judge's reasoning is that if you're not actually having a "real sex change" (the words raise my hackles just to type) then you can't change your name from a "girl" name to a "boy" name because it's fraudulent.

I could spend the rest of the day unpacking why that is unfair, narrow-minded, oppressive, unreasonable and ridiculous, though it basically extrapolates from the basic tenets of 1) who the hell are you to say that I need to be undergoing certain medical procedures to validate my gender identity? and 2) who are you to say that the name I've chosen is legitimate only if I meet your notions of a real transsexual?

But I'm at work, and I don't want to work myself up, so I'm just going to leave it by saying that I'm very unhappy. Particularly because under the law in New York, the judge CAN'T require me to provide medical documentation in order to grant a name change. The Sylvia Rivera Law Project has done a lot of work in just this particular area (www.srlp.org, go to Issues on the right and select Identity Documents) to ensure that just this sort of thing doesn't happen. Which is why I didn't bring any documentation in the first place. I think it's fucked up that the court would try to require it, but that doesn't mean I'm not tempted to just suck it up and do what they want in order to make this go smoothly....on some level, I want my name change to go through without a hassle more than I want to stand up for my rights. (is that awful?)

Anyway. So I was rejected (and consequently dejected) last week, and it's sticking with me. On the advice of the clerk at court, I filled out an amended namechange petition that made no reference to gender, just put down "personal preference" as a reason for name change, as she seemed to think that might sneak in under the radar. If it does, I'm just going to take it and put this behind me. If it doesn't, I think I'm going to square my shoulders and deal with the hassle and take this where it needs to be taken...there is no reason for me to be rejected in this name change. Every single other person in the court room was approved without hassle, while I got to hear "All petitioners except [me] proceed downstairs to the clerk who will give you your paperwork."

I'm supposed to hear about this decision by Friday, so I'll keep you posted.

In the meantime, that was pretty much a lowpoint in a week with some other tough moments. I haven't been to group lately because I work late on Wednesdays now, but the last one I went to was pretty intense...we were talking about fears and self-defense in physical situations, and then just at the end of the session got in a few upsetting and emotional comments about emotional self-defense, and taking care of ourselves in an often unforgiving, unwelcoming world. I was reminded of something a friend of mine once said...."Everyone just wants to be seen, but a lot of trans folks want to be seen as something the world doesn't know how to see."

I forget sometimes, when I'm so happy, how painful that can be....not just not being seen, but everything that spins out from that. It's not always easy being trans. It's often not easy.

This last week, I got a lot of reminders of that- my friend's ribs, trying to juggle my next shot into my schedule, the judge rejecting me, a couple of the random but regular flashes of dysphoria happened to strike, having an intense talk in therapy about being scared. It was a hard week, and made a little harder by my instincts to withdraw, and my still unfamiliar and unsteady hormonal state. I'm still not used to my new hormonal balance, and it's not even steady yet.

Everything sort of built on everything else- the Judge's decision was stinging in its invalidating and hurtful denial...I read that short order (DENIED) and basically heard him saying "I'm not going to allow you to continue pretending you're a man." Way to kick a guy when he's down, after a hard morning in therapy where I let my guard down and admitted to Amy that I feel sad sometimes about what it feels like I'm giving up to transition...I'm giving up the chance to grow up and be an adorable old lesbian, giving up the chance to really be a part of the sisterhood, letting Emma disappear and be replaced by Eli. I know that some of those things aren't 100%true (my past is not going to disappear), but it's hard to feel them, and harder still to articulate them when there's a voice in the back of my head (backed up by the same public narratives about trans people that are enforcing the judge's decision) telling me that any feelings of loss or sadness mean REGRET! UNCERTAINTY! You're not REALLY trans after all!

Needless to say, all this has chipped away at the carefully, joyfully cultivated feelings of solidity that I've been enjoying this spring and summer.

But while I'm remembering and relearning the downs as well as the ups, it bears mentioning that while last week was definitely a low, this week is getting higher all the time. I'm getting a shot tonight (#7? #8? Is it crazy that I can't remember right away which one this is?), and Rochelle is cooking me dinner afterwards. Tomorrow is four weeks to the day til my surgery. This coming Saturday is the Gender Identity Project's Trans On The Sands! Day, when all sorts of gender-nonconforming folks are planning to take Coney Island by storm. I haven't been in the ocean in about a year. It's going to feel good.


lunatopaz said...

it is NOT awful. as you, yourself, have said, no one can be 100% activist 100% of the time.

too exhausting.

Julian's Mom said...

That is really fucked up about the judge and the denial. What esp. pisses me off is his reasoning, which, even from a non-gender perspective, truly makes no sense. If a celebrity can name his child Moxie Crimefighter, and it's perfectly legal to change my name to a number, which apparently it is, why the hell would anyone care WHAT you wanted to change your name to, and frankly, who decides what is a boy name and what is a girl name? Is "7" or "X" male or female? Hmm... I hope the Sylvia Rivera Law Project can help you out, or that you can fly under the radar by stating your reason as "personal preference," which is completely true. I can't believe it, in NYC.... Good luck!

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