November 4, 2014

The Name Change!

The night before my hearing for my name change, I started to cry. This strange, melancholy mixture of regret, sadness, failure swept over me. It was like I was mourning; I guess would be the way to phrase it best. I blogged about it early Friday morning because I needed to work that crap out before I went to court that day.

And it worked for the most part. By the time I left for court at around 8AM, the negative emotions had been replaced with a different  melange: excitement, panic, eagerness, happiness, and a complete inability to focus. I forgot to eat breakfast, and I brewed a cup of coffee without putting any coffee in the maker. I was scattered.

Clothing was bothersome. What outfit says “Please judge, don’t reject my petition?” I must have changed outfits a dozen times before settling on a fairly conservative presentation: A brown blazer over black top, a knee-length faux suede brown skirt, brown flats (I cannot do heels — I am already 6’4″). I wore my favorite necklace and a pair of Halloween earnings my mother had gifted to me just a few days prior. As it was cold and wet and windy outside, anything I did with my hair was a losing battle. I would just have to hope it didn’t look too terrible.

After all the worrying, the actual “hearing” part was almost anticlimactic. I was accompanied to court by Erica, best friend extraordinaire, and Kathy, my former mother in law. I was glad to have them both along, as going by myself would have been depressing. We made our way into the courtroom and soon after court was called to session, I was called before the judge. She asked me maybe half a dozen questions, all perfunctory, before granting me the name change. It took less than a minute.

In the lobby of the county courthouse, court order in hand.

I can’t underestimate the change in my heart, though.  Forty seconds in front of a judge was all it took to turn panic, anxiety, and melancholy into a feeling of freedom. No matter how authentic I am, no matter how many people knew me as Ali and addressed me as Ali, there was still a sense of illegitimacy without that legal recognition in my purse. No more.

The best was I can express the change is this: I feel like I’m not pretending anymore. When the ID in my wallet says I’m a person I’m not, there’s always a little bit of pretending. Every time I have been required to show my ID in the last several months I have felt like explaining myself. “Well, see, I don’t look like that picture because … “It’s caused me to avoid certain situations because I knew I would be carded. That fear is practically gone. It’s like a greater manifestation of how I felt when I got my school ID in September: I have legitimacy now.

Yes, no government can tell me who I truly am, but that legal recognition has real world consequences on my quality of life. Things aren’t perfect, but I have never felt so much myself as I have these past few days. So now I go about changing my name on everything (and there are SO MANY THINGS that need changing) and making sure that, at some point in the near future, I can go through a whole day without seeing or hearing His name again.

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