Last year I legally changed my name from Amy Caren to Jamie Ray. If you have changed your name you know it is a complicated thing to do, socially and legally. Once you get the court order, you have to change all of your paperwork. All of it. And I didn’t want to keep seeing mail with my old name on it.
When I changed my name I kept my sex marker at F. This irks me, because if I could, I would set it to N/A, or N/F, or ∏, or Q. Something more descriptive than F. I could handle two markers, one for sex (Female) and one for gender (Butch, Queer, or Trans*). It would be more honest.
I applied for a new Social Security Card, a new Drivers License, a new Passport, new credit cards, and a new work ID. I changed my checking account, savings account, 401K, health insurance, house insurance, and car insurance. I didn’t change my pronouns. Then I got a piece of mail from Vanguard addressed to Ms. Jamie Ray. I became apoplectic. What was that Ms. doing there in front of my name?
When I chose Jamie (or when Jamie chose me) I liked it because I could think of it as a boy’s name, but it worked both ways. I didn’t realize how much I had internalized the gender of Jamie until I got that letter. Then I started looking at my mail very carefully. Most of it comes addressed to Jamie Ray. No honorific. Perfect, that’s me.
It took a while, but when I calmed down, I got on the computer, opened up my Vanguard account, went into my account details, and found out I could not change my honorific. I called Vanguard and spoke with a slightly miffed customer service agent. He was eventually able to pass me along to someone with administrative privileges who could remove the errant Ms. without replacing it with anything else. It was a small victory.
I went back to the computer and logged into every account I have and tried to get rid of the extant honorific. I had not realized that most of those forms let you insert a blank or leave the field empty. A few hours later, I had changed what I could and had a list of the ones I couldn’t edit remotely. I got back on the phone. I spoke to people around the U.S. and in India; eventually they understood what I wanted and complied with my request. To them it may have seemed trivial or it may have seemed pathological. I don’t care. I don’t require formalities. I just want to be Jamie Ray.
Being who you are is what it is all about. It shouldn’t have to be so complicated to make it a formality.
I like the idea of a sex and gender marker. It’s brilliant and simple. It would be much better though if people could just be themselves on paper without all the legal hoops to jump through.
Thanks. Conceptually, I like being able to self identify rather than having been identified the day I was born and being stuck with it. On the other hand, some people would constantly be changing their markers and it is a lot of work to file all the paperwork and get it all lined up!
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I have the same panic with honorifics. My partner is starting to understand after I blew up about a joke that went horribly wrong. Luckily due to my profession I can use the gender neutral “Professor” but this isn’t generally an option outside the university.
Fortunately many jobs have gender neutral titles and have dropped the diminutive “ess” off the end of the word. Don’t think professoress would sound to good.
There was a big brouhaha in transit when we changed titles from Motorman to Train Operator, but eventually everyone adjusted. Now all of our titles are gender neutral although it is still culturally a male dominated environment.