You Haven’t Changed Your Name
At least, not legally.
Allison; what a strange name for a boy— there’s always someone to remind you of this:
The brown-haired lady who hands you your marriage license; did you get made fun of for having a girls’ name?
The waitress who picks up your bill at the diner; Are you sure this is your card, sir?
The cashier who asks for your driver’s license; do you have another form of ID?
The telemarketer who immediately apologizes; I must have gotten the wrong number.
The insurance-approved physician’s assistant, who, though he specializes in endocrinology, has never before met a transgender person; I hope you don’t mind, I just have so many questions
The co-worker, who repeatedly let you know that a woman with a name she didn’t recognize was supposed to be working that day, now I know why it says Allison on the schedule.
Often, people ask you why you haven’t officially changed it. After all, things would be so much easier. You could keep your past a secret for:
a couple hundred bucks and some paperwork
a publication in your hometown newspaper of the name you now know as your own
followed by a name that never felt right, letting everyone who still reads newspapers know that you officially made the switch.
You think about your grandmother, your great aunt, your beer-breathed and grey-haired cousins, their eyes pacing down the black and white and what they would say.
Aside from those who knew you before, no one would need to know that you lived 22 years as a woman.
Well, at least 22 years where the majority of the people around you read you as such.
You come up with reasons why you haven’t made that leap to make it official, even though you’ve passed as a man for the past four years:
it’s expensive and you don’t have the money.
it takes time and you’re not so great with paperwork.
your aforementioned relatives, their comfort, your mother, her comfort.
And all of these are true.
But here’s another truth: that old name is a part of you.
With every privilege you pick up because you pass as a man, you lose the woman you once were.
With every ‘sir’, you forget the fear of being found out in the men’s room.
There’s a part of this that feels like lying; like you’re pulling a fast one on the world around you. There’s the fear that someone will doubt you more than you doubt yourself.
There’s a part of you that likes to be the proof of every how these things we assume are wrong, a part of you that takes pleasure in watching people process what a name might mean, how it influences the way they treat you, there’s a part of you that likes to be seen for name you once what by, because the name you once went by is and always will be a part of the person you are.
Alex Clark is an MFA non-fiction candidate at Northern Michigan University. He is an associate editor at Passages North. His work received an honorable mention in Storm Cellar’s 2017 Force Majeure Flash Contest and can be found or is forthcoming in Barking Sycamores and Foliate Oak.