Every time I think we are finally on the path forward, smooth sailing, something happens. BAM. Bump in the road. To be honest, it’s become quite routine!
The process to change Heather’s legal name began in April when she turned 18. Despite the fact the State of North Carolina doesn’t allow a person who was born here to update the gender marker on their birth certificate once they have transitioned, and, despite the fact the NC DMV plays games with people who want to update the gender marker on their driver’s license, it is remarkably painless to change your legal name from a male one to a female one. It’s kind of funny, when we moved to NC my primary concern was air quality! Gosh, if only I had known!
We hired an attorney to complete the legal name change process. There were a few hoops to jump through prior to beginning the process, including an FBI background check and fingerprinting; however, start to finish, the name change was completed in less than thirty days and cost approximately $500. You can save money by doing it yourself, but we wanted to ensure the process was completed correctly and in a timely manner. It was important to Heather, and us, that her high school diploma be presented with her new legal name.
The court granting your legal name change is like pushing the first in a series of dominos. We had no instructions on how to play this game. Through trial and error, we have learned the following:
Step 1 : Legal name change
Step 2: Update birth certificate
Step 3: Update with Social Security Administration
Step 4: Update with DMV
Step 5: Update Passport
In between all of that, we were busy updating her name and gender at the high school and college, with her employer, on bank accounts, on college savings and investment accounts, with our health insurance, with the pharmacy, with her doctors, and our vehicle insurer. I still need to investigate our wills and anywhere else we may have her listed as a beneficiary.
I breathed a sigh of relief when her new U.S. Passport arrived last month. This week, a new indignity presented itself. Heather received a letter in the mail, addressed to the deadname, from the Selective Service. According to the letter, she was required to register within 30 days of her 18th birthday. This was not on our radar. We visited the Social Security Administration, the DMV, and the U.S. Passport office and, while she was reminded to update her voter registration at the DMV, registering for the Selective Service was never mentioned at either Federal agency. How can this be? Her legal name and gender have been updated on her birth certificate, at the Social Security office, on her passport and driver’s license. Upon further investigation, we learned that registration for the Selective Service is based on your gender at birth. Meaning, even if you have transitioned and are now female, you must still register with the Selective Service.
One would think the notice was triggered by our visit to the SSA or the U.S. Passport office. However, the letter that accompanied the registration form stated something about completion of the FAFSA form for college. We never intended to complete the form because we knew Heather would not be eligible to receive Federal aid for school. However, the university awarded her a scholarship which could only be claimed if the FAFSA form was completed. So, we completed the FAFSA application, received no Federal aid as expected, and here we are.
I couldn’t bear to discuss any of this with Heather. Since she was now flagged in the Selective Service system, and failure to register can result in a $250,000 fine, I went online and registered her for the Selective Service using the deadname. Then, I completed the form for the legal name change. Unfortunately, her signature was required on that one. I sent it to her so she could sign and then place in the mail. I have since received her card with the deadname that was triggered by the online application. I am anticipating a new card, with the correct legal name, once the legal name change form is processed by the Selective Service.
In the event a draft is reinstituted, which, in my mind, is a real possibility given the current political arena, Heather will need to file a claim for exemption. Because I know her medical history, I know she will be exempted regardless. I’m puzzled as to why the fact that she is still required to register was not brought up by an agent at either of the Federal offices we visited? The form itself indicates the Federal government has, at least, considered the fact the letter may be received by a transgender person. There is a box one can mark at the bottom that says, “AT BIRTH MY SEX WAS FEMALE!”
At the end of the day, it’s just another way the government makes life more difficult for transgender people. I find comfort in knowing Heather’s voter registration is updated, and, most importantly, she has identification that matches her legal name. She has received and submitted her absentee ballot for the November election. I’m proud of her for voting. She understands there is a lot at stake. She also knows how fortunate she is. I pray all newly minted adults vote in November.
I’m breathing a sigh of relief again. Let’s hope this is the last surprise related to her legal name change!