August 2008


As part of the name change petition to the court, I have to provide a set of fingerprints, so yesterday I visited the Bedford Falls Police Department, housed in a formidable building in the warehouse district. When I had called about fingerprints, they told me they did them for the public every Tuesday and Thursday from 1 to 4, so I arrived in the waiting room with several other fingerprint-seekers. I paid my $10 fee to the woman behind bulletproof glass and took a seat. Whether to limit access to the inner recesses of the building or simply because there wasn’t a waiting room on the upper floors, we all waited on the ground floor for the elevator to open, at which point two or three of us would be brought up to an upper floor clerk’s office, where we filled out the top portion of the fingerprint card. Several officers or detectives, both uniformed and in suits, came through this office on their way to the back rooms, and each carried a pistol on their hip. Owning a Glock 9mm handgun myself, I thought of asking one of them about the nature and caliber of their firearms, but thought better of it.

The little old man sitting next to me turned and said that he couldn’t see very well, and couldn’t fill out the form, but the main fingerprint woman came over and asked him questions and filled out his form for him. On my form, I made sure to use all my existing legal definitions, including “M” for sex and “George Bailey” for my name. After helping the old man, the sharply attired woman took both of our clipboards and looked over them at the counter, assisted by a younger woman, perhaps her intern, both women with their backs to those of us sitting in the chairs waiting. The intern looked over her shoulder at me and smiled, and then she tapped my paperwork several times while the fingerprinting officer was looking, no doubt pointing out the space where I had written “Sex – M.” Feeling a bit like Harrison Ford in Fugitive, I briefly had visions of armed police bursting into the room, demanding that I raise my hands. They both looked over and smiled, not accusingly, but perhaps wryly or knowingly, and then went on with the procedure, first calling the old man out of the office, and then me a few minutes later.

The fingerprint station stands in a large and empty hallway, which surprised me, as I had pictured it being in an office surrounded by busy detectives, coffee machines, and donuts. She told me to relax and let her control my hands, so I closed my eyes and drifted off as she went finger to finger, first rolling the digit in the ink back and forth, then grasping it firmly and pressing it onto the card. When we were finished, she picked up my purse and briefcase from the floor, pointed down the hall to the bathrooms and said, “Careful you don’t touch your clothes! Go wash up and we’ll wait right here for you.”

There was another woman in the bathroom washing the ink off her hands, so I took a sink 4 or 5 places away and worked for about two minutes to remove all the ink. The main officer handed me the card back in the hall and cautioned me not to fold it for mailing. I told her I was supposed to hold on to it, so she amended her advice to say that I needed to let it dry before putting it in a folder. We took the elevator down to the ground floor, where she shook my hand and I thanked her.

I had not expected any difficulty and I received none.

ORIGINAL PETITION FOR CHANGE OF NAME OF ADULT AND GENDER MARKER CHANGE
1. Discovery in this case is intended to be conducted under level 2 of rule 190 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure.
2. This suit is brought by GEORGE MICHAEL BAILEY, Petitioner, who resides at XXXXXXX, Texas. Petitioner is an adult. In accordance with section 45.102 of the Texas Family Code, the following information is supplied about Petitioner:

Full true name: GEORGE MICHAEL BAILEY
Sex: Male
Race: Caucasian
Date and place of birth: 09/09/09, XXXXX County, Texas
Driver’s license number of any license issued within the past ten years: Texas DL# 99999999
Social Security number: 999-99-9999
FBI or SID number, if known, or other reference number to a criminal-history record system: None
3. No offense has been charged against Petitioner above the grade of class C misdemeanor.
4. Petitioner has not been the subject of a final felony conviction.
5. Petitioner is not subject to the registration requirements of chapter 62 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure.
6. Petitioner requests the Court to grant a change of Petitioner’s name to JOYCE XXXX XXXXX. Petitioner further requests the Court to grant a change of the gender marker on the birth certificate from male to female.
7. The reason for the requested change is that GEORGE MICHAEL BAILEY was born male; however GEORGE MICHAEL BAILEY has gender identity disorder. He lives as a female and appears female. He has plans to undergo surgical gender change.
8. Petitioner includes with this Petition a legible and complete set of his fingerprints on a fingerprint card format acceptable to the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
9. Petitioner prays that the Court grant Petitioner’s Petition for Change of Name of Adult and gender marker change from MALE to FEMALE.
Petitioner prays for general relief.

Respectfully submitted,

Billyjean Dixon
Attorney at Law

By:
Billyjean Dixon
Attorney for Petitioner

I, GEORGE MICHAEL BAILEY, Petitioner, swear under oath that the facts stated in the above Original Petition for Change of Name of Adult are true and correct.

GEORGE MICHAEL BAILEY

SIGNED under oath before me on .

Notary Public, State of Texas

As the summer wound down and I began settling down into my new role as Joyce full-time, I began thinking of legally changing my name and sex (or gender-marker as it’s called in many documents). After consulting with Chuck, my therapist, I met with Billyjean Dixon, a local attorney who has experience and success in this area. She and Chuck have worked together on several previous transsexual name- and sex-changes with great success.

Even though she and her assistant knew the reason for my visit, I filled out an information card restating it all in the waiting room of her office on the first floor of an older office building that’s on a cul-de-sac off a main street here in Bedford Falls. After a few minutes, Ms. Dixon, a late-40-something, early 50-something, well-dressed woman with dirty blond hair and a tailored jacket who looks something like Angie Dickinson, ushered me into her office, where she started with no fanfare, “So, what do you want me to do for you?”

“I want to change my name and my gender marker legally,” I said. “Chuck Garcia gave me your name and said that you and he had had success.”

She said it would be no big deal, that I would testify to some basic facts, like my driver’s license number, whether I had been convicted, and if my reasons were true. I would provide the court with a set of fingerprints, as well. The petition would give all of this information in the “whereas” section, followed by a request for the name change and the gender-marker change, and we would sit in the judge’s chambers at the first of a business day, where I would answer any questions the judge has. Ms. Dixon said that Judge Overhill was sympathetic and would take the petition and Chuck’s recommendation as sufficient and probably wouldn’t ask me any questions, after which he would grant the petition.

He would sign the order for a) the name change, b) the gender marker change, and c) all general relief in this issue, which I take to be an umbrella request to the recipient of this order to honor my request for new ID’s, paperwork, and so on. Ms. Dixon said the whole process would take about 15 minutes and we could arrange it in the next week or so.

Wow — I either said this or thought this, realizing that when you retain professionals, they go ahead and get to work.

Although my visit with Ms. Dixon was brief, professional, and easy, it occurred to me that this short encounter sets in motion a whole new layer of change, legitimizing Joyce as a legal person and not just some whimsical character. This legal change has very little to do with the much more personal (and sometimes frightening in their implications) hormonal, social, and psychological changes I’ve experienced (and continue to experience), but the results of name- and sex-change are equally serious, impacting my legal signature, bank accounts, personnel paperwork, pilot’s license, rents, leases, debts, and health insurance.

I’ll still be able to deposit checks written to George, so it’s not like the old legal entity is vanishing, but like a company engaged in a public relations makeover, I’m getting a new logo, new letterhead, and a new corporate image. I won’t have to follow it all up with an advertising campaign, fortunately, but I will be engaged in several months of writing name-change letters, visiting HR offices, and reprinting professional artifacts like business cards and bank checks to reflect the new legal image.

Maybe I should start these conversations with a flashy burst of advertising enthusiasm: New And Improved!

Not everything is a love fest, as my (terminal) correspondence with Slade indicates. You’ll recall I saw him the other day for lunch before my high school reunion. I had not heard from him, so I dropped him an email yesterday:

Hi, Slade ---

It was great to see you in Empire Falls the other day, and thanks for helping me get that red Dodge pickup from the airport to town (we'll see if they can fix the master electrical bus).

I saw Rob Peterson and Anna Cramer out at the ranch on Saturday afternoon, and Ann reported that you and she had talked at the country club and that Keith Cravat was apparently drunk and obnoxious (I suppose some things simply don't change).

Speaking of change, I know that we did not talk about me and my life transition, and perhaps it was because of having the kids in tow (which wasn't something I had planned -- Mary Jo was supposed to be in Empire Falls Thursday night and she was going to watch the kids while I did stuff in town, but she was delayed because of a medical exam).

Or maybe there was nothing to talk about -- I don't know. In any case, what you see is what you get with me, and aside from it being a bit odd (OK, even really, really odd), life is good and I feel like whole person for the first time in a very, very long time. I'm not sure what this is like to you --- whether you're pissed off or fearful or annoyed or confused or aghast or something entirely different --- and I guess it's none of my business except that I pledged loyalty to you a long time ago and attended your wedding and have always held you as my oldest and dearest friend, and the silence is perplexing. If there's something to be done, I'd like to know what it is.

Hope you're doing well and that your kids are getting all their ducks in a row for the upcoming school year.

Yours,
Joyce

To which he responded definitively this morning:

George:

You have gone somewhere I cannot go. I barely recognize you anymore and I have had a very difficult time with this situation. You talk about "loyalty" and you insist on some definite reply from me. Since you insist, I choose to reply No. I will talk over the phone or by email, but I cannot hang out. Remember, you insisted that I choose. I would not have wanted it this way. Everything was by your choice and upon your insistence, not mine. I did my best. That's all that can be expected of me and that's all that I can expect of myself.

Slade

I have gained much in transitioning, have benefited in a hundred ways since I fell into the deep despair almost 2 years ago. But there are also losses, perhaps not as many as I feared, and not as many as my friends feared, but they do exist, and they feel like enormous failures as they glow white hot with my fire of doubt and regret. Some things may never be recovered through personal atonement, and that hard realization makes me feel very vulnerable.

We went to our friends Andrea and Byron’s house the other night for smoked meats and conversation, and the hosts have 3 kids, ages 9, 4, and 1. The little girl (the 4-year old) had been suspicious of me the past few times we had visited, eying me from behind a pillar, her mother’s legs, or from behind the couch.

This night, however, she and I were best buddies. We talked about dolls, dogs, forts, her baby brother, and the fact that I used to be a boy, but now am a girl. She explained this fact to me multiple times during the night and repeated her observations to her mother (Andrea), to Mary Jo, and to the other guests.

She asked her mother if I could have babies, and her mother answered that I turned into a girl, but didn’t have the necessary girl parts to have a baby.

She came up to me and explained, “This is my dog Maddy — she likes you — but she didn’t like you when you were a boy.”

She asked Mary Jo, “Is Joyce still Lane and Ezra’s daddy? Is she still your husband?” And Mary Jo and Andrea explained, “That’s right, she’s a daddy who’s a girl and a husband who’s a girl.” Further, even though I’m a girl daddy, that doesn’t make me the mom.

At one point in the evening, she summed everything up beautifully and insightfully: “You were a boy and turned into a girl, but I’m just a girl. I didn’t turn into one.” Yes, I told her, most people are like that — they’re simply created as who they are. That’s the story of my life, isn’t it?

The little girl was fine with me and with all of her conclusions. And I think that these observations reveal a process that she must have been undertaking in her mind as she worked to make sense of a daddy who’s now a girl, a process of calling up an image or a statement, and revisiting it until it becomes familiar. I can’t tell what was in her head, of course, but this repetition was evident in her actions and words the other night, deliberate and ritualistic and catechismic and cathartic for both of us. For her, the repetition has apparently made my existence real and valid; for me, her validation, even as it comes from a 4-year-old, signifies to me that my life will eventually balance out and settle down.

Her words illustrate the power of language and the power of repetition, and upon reflection, this process is not unlike what I found myself saying a year ago, initially in disbelief and increasingly with conviction: I’m a transsexual. I’m going to transition. And I distinctly remember how utterly terrifying it was to form those thoughts and the words that accompanied those thoughts the very first time: boiling in my stomach, pounding in my heart, sadness in my head. But over time, I began to realize that the ideas and words weren’t going to kill me, that my situation and its therapy and its consequences had names that I could say, slowly bringing them into possibility while also de-fanging them of their horror.

Check out a smart and reasonable blog post by Kyla Bender-Baird over on the OutSpoken Blog on how it’s important for all of us, not just gender variant people, to pay attention to the complexities (political, social, theoretical) of the spectrum of gender expression. And while you’re there, check out the resources for trans*people and others at the sponsoring organization, the Task Force.

A few nights ago, the boys began disclosing their anxiety about starting school with a transsexual father; specifically, what will their friends think if/when they find out? Ezra (10) thinks full honesty is the best policy, and is eager to tell everyone that his father changed sex. His argument is that once everything’s open, there are no secrets and there’s no ammo for potential bullies or teasers. If there is no secret, then you don’t have to lie, and all you have to do is be proud. In contrast, Lane (11) wants absolutely no disclosure at all — why upset the balance of things when it’s not necessary, he says.

In order to break the impasse, we talked about specifics of when we all might be called upon to explain our story. In one scenario, I take them to school (or I come to school to bring a forgotten book, or I come for some other normal reason), and upon leaving, someone asks, “who was that?” Ezra said the right answer is, “That’s my dad, Joyce,” and Lane really didn’t even want to consider the possibility of having to explain.

I told them that I’d do whatever they wanted because they’ve been so supportive and loving during my hard times. If I need to be Aunt Joyce for a while, that’s all right with me, I told them. Ezra would have absolutely none of it: “But that’s a lie, Dad — you’re not our aunt.”

“Couldn’t we just pretend for a while,” asked Lane, and Ezra replied with an emphatic NO.

We talked about the range of truth and lies — after all, on the completely honest end of the spectrum, one might answer, “That’s my dad, Joyce, who used to be a man, but changed into a woman.” And on the lying end of the spectrum is “That’s just our van driver, Joyce.” We talked about ways that all four of us could tell the truth without embarrassing anyone, such as my being simply “Joyce” for a while, requiring no further clarification. It’s true, but it withholds the bigger, more embarrassing story for later.

As a way of dealing with two questions at once (“where’s your dad?” and “who’s that?”), we even toyed with “Dad went away and Joyce came to live with us,” but we felt like it would open up more questions than it would answer.

Like “who’s Joyce?”
Babysitter?
Aunt?
Former father?
Cleaning lady?
Random visitor?

Or “Where’s your dad?”
He’s gone
Joyce took over my dad’s body
He’s a woman now
One day, my dad just started turning into Joyce
Dad was abducted by transsexual aliens
Dad turned into Joyce after working with agricultural chemicals
Global warming turned my father into a woman

A principle we agreed on early was that we needed a family plan so that one boy doesn’t feel the other one has torpedoed his social life — and we vowed as a family to stick to the plan for as long as possible so that we’d be on the same team. Otherwise, Lane will feel that Ezra is trying to ruin his social life and Ezra will feel Lane is going to try to make him lie.

We also talked about another scenario in which the boys have to draw a family tree or tell what their father does or something similar. We agreed that they don’t have to disclose the whole truth during these assignments and that we’d talk to the teachers so they’d know what was going on if they assigned such work.

At one point during this big family planning session, I asked them how much they know about their friends’ parents, and they both said they didn’t know anything. “Don’t you think that that’s a pretty typical attitude among your friends, and maybe they won’t know or care about me?”

“Yeah, but this is different.”

“Do you even know that the men and women who pick up your friends at school are actually their moms and dads?”

No, and they admitted they had no idea how many of their friends had lost a parent, how many had same-sex parents, how many parents were abusive or alcoholic or even transsexual, for that matter, but for Lane, this line of logic runs counter to his fear of being made fun of.

Ezra is hugely insightful, and he offered the observation that the kids probably won’t care, but some of their parents might, and we’d learn when we hold birthday parties or sleepovers because we probably have to tell invitees and their parents about me, especially if they know us from before.

If they don’t know us from before, what do we do? What do we do when they ask questions like, “Are you Ezra’s mother?” I’ve learned from wise people on various online discussion boards that you can answer this question without lying, employing something like this: “Ezra is my son,” or “I’m here for Ezra,” and let people think what they think.

What I can’t do is say I’m their mom because a) they have a mom and b) they don’t want me to portray myself as their mother.

They met with their therapist a couple of days ago and were able to work out a compromise, which is, if asked, I’m just Joyce, not “my dad, Joyce”, or “Joyce, who used to be a man,” but Joyce. This is a compromise that’s acceptable to both boys, and it lasts for one year, after which the younger one can clarify that Joyce is his dad.

The boys now feel as if they’re in control of the situation, and this compromise has allowed them to bury their anxiety for a while. Whether this plan will work or not is secondary to the bonding we’ve had in hammering out a compromise and the communication we have had to employ to get our fears out on the table.

The older one is clearly afraid. He thinks his classmates are too immature to get it. I understand the shame and embarrassment, and I’m happy to go along with the plan, but I also asked both boys to consider the possibility that word will get out, so plan B needs to be how are you going to deal with it.

I said they could employ techniques from Kung Fu and just redirect negative energy away from them, saying something like, “Yes, my father changed sex, and I think it’s the coolest thing in the entire world,” which would take a lot of power away from someone, but they don’t really believe it would work. So for now, we’re assuming the plan will work and they will both escape the teasing and shame they assume will follow when their friends learn about my history.

How do I feel? When the boys were crying about having to lie or having to suffer the shame and embarrassment at the hands of their classmates, I felt horribly guilty for having brought this situation into our home, and it’s a guilt that reappears from time to time. There is a line of compromise that maintains my integrity and my family’s health and happiness that’s hard to find sometimes, and in this case, I’m willing to be relatively invisible for a while or to pretend I’m a two-dimensional character in my children’s lives — all for the sake of helping them make it through. I held them when they were born, and have played with them and protected them and taught them what I know about how the world works, and it utterly kills me to feel as if I’m harming them. If I need to lie low for a while or to omit the word “dad” from our public presentation to protect my children, how can I not?

We all know that I’m their father, but for now, the answer to the question of “Who am I?” — the answer that both solves a thorny problem and also catches a little in my throat — is “Just Joyce.”

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