by Lucy Rose.
A few words before we start…
Firstly, I want to thank you for taking the time to read the latest entry of my series, Transgendered Substantiation. The series has been adapted from blogs I wrote for my website during my transition, based on my thoughts and feelings at the time. They almost represent, then, a time capsule for that period of my life. I have done my best to edit and update them for this publication, but some areas may be out of the date, especially regarding the administrative side, as some parts of the process may have changed since I went through it myself.
My ultimate aim with this series is to help people by shedding a light on the transition process. While everyone’s experiences are different, and this is but one person’s perspective, if this is something you are going through yourself, it is my hope that it helps you know that though it may be a daunting process, it is not insurmountable and there is nothing that cannot overcome. Or, if you are a friend or loved one of someone going through the process, it helps you understand what they may be thinking or feeling or the challenges they are facing.
With everything said, please enjoy this week’s entry.
Transgendered Substantiation Volume 12: Changing Your Name
There are two major topics on which to focus when discussing changing your name. The first is the administrative and the second is the emotional. I’m going to tackle them in that order as the latter is a little trickier to define and my thoughts may not be universal; though they may, I hope, help clarify this part of the process.
Before I begin describing how I changed my name, here is a link to a useful transgender-related page on the UK’s Deed Poll Office website that covers in more detail some of the topics and questions that either I didn’t encounter or that didn’t apply to my situation. I’d recommend looking through the FAQ for anything I don’t cover here.
All in all, it took me several months to traverse the name changing process, mostly due to administrative delays and the speed of the postal service, but for a reason I’ll get into later, in one respect it took a lot longer than that. However, I’ll now describe the process I went through to change my name at work, at my bank, and most other places of importance.
The thing about a name is that it isn’t legally binding. You can change your name at any time, the only condition being that you must alert every necessary institution of the change. As with most transgender people, I had an idea of the name I wanted to use long before I changed it officially. There are several ways you can change this, but the easiest is by far by Free Deed Poll. You can use this link to find the site I used to create mine.
Don’t go anywhere or use any service that charges for a Deed Poll as having it drawn up by a solicitor or ordering it from the Deed Poll Office doesn’t make it any more or less official. This is because a Deed Poll is merely a declaration that you are going to abandon your current name and instead go by your new one. It doesn’t change title, but titles, unless they’re inherited, like Viscount, aren’t controlled by the government or any institution so are yours to change as you wish on a case by case basis. The website I linked above creates a Deed Poll form for you after you input the necessary information (new name, old name, address, witnesses, etc.) From there, I advise printing off a single copy and then meeting with those whom you choose to witness the signing.
Witnesses must be people who are acquainted with you but can’t share the same last name (new or old) or live at the same address. I chose some friends I’d met at university as my witnesses and we gathered one evening to do the signing. One even baked me a cake. I would also practice your new signature a few times before signing as the new name might warrant a change in signature and, without practice, it’s very much a relic of habit. Then, when the Deed Poll’s signed by both you and your witnesses, I’d recommend getting about 20+ photocopies.
Let people know
That moment is when your name is changed, but now you need to let everyone know. This page from the Deed Poll Office shows a recommended list of those whom you should alert. I went down this list and picked off those that applied to me, added any others that needed to be there, such as magazine subscriptions, and made a list. I then wrote a mail merge letter introducing myself, stating my wish for my records to be changed, the reason why, the full name and title change (I labelled clearly my old name and title in the centre of the document and then the new one below). I also included a line saying that I was sending this to all necessary institutions and if they needed more information from me, such as account numbers, etc. they should write back.
I then bought a bunch of letters and stamps and made a package for each institution, included my letter and a copy of the deed poll. I posted these off and over the next couple of weeks most of them were successful. A few needed some more information, but once they found me in their records the changes were made to both name and title. Also, remember that when you’re sending one of these packages to the GIC to include one of their own ‘Change of Details’ forms. You can pick several of these up from the clinic when you go there for your first consultation.
With some places, I could change my name online, through the site’s support channel, selecting a ‘change of name’ option, or speaking to customer support via e-mail. It’s worth checking each site to see if this is possible as it can save you some time.
There were three places, however, where the process is slightly different. First is your bank. This must be done in person. I went to my local branch with a copy of my deed poll and explanation letter (in case they needed to send it away anywhere) and spoke to someone behind the desk that I wanted to change my name. They brought out one of the managers, who has the authority to make such an alteration, and they took me to a station to do so. They were very understanding about the fact that it was for a gender transition and the man who worked with me that day knew a transgender person himself and helped calm my nerves. After it was finished, they gave me a form confirming what had happened and several days later my new bank card arrived.
I’m with two banks, and the second was slightly different. They couldn’t make the change in-branch so asked me to write a declaration of the change to go off with my Deed Poll. I said had already made one and they used that instead. The behind-the-scenes process took a bit longer, but my card arrived just fine and now my details are changed at both my banks. For them, I presented as male when I went into the branch and they accepted it – there is no requirement that you must present as your preferred gender if you’re not at a stage when you’re ready to do so. It’s a stressful enough moment as it is.
The second place where the process is slightly different is the DVLA. They require a secondary, corroborating piece of identification to confirm the change, namely a passport. This is the reason why the process for me took a little longer than I make out. The Passport Office, the third institution, is a bit more careful in their process and not only need the Deed Poll form, but passport valid photographs and a letter from the Gender Identity Clinic confirming that you are going through this change for the long haul. I’d recommend asking for the letter from your consultant at the GIC during your first consultation there.
The reason I didn’t change my passport for a while was because of the photographs. I’m hadn’t yet started hormones at that point, though was on the cusp of doing so, and I knew they were going to change how I looked. I wanted to wait until after the bulk of that was done before I committed myself to the evidence of printer ink. But when I was, I had my photos taken, took them, the passport application form from my local post office, my deed poll, letter of explanation and the letter from the clinic to the passport office in London, after making an online appointment, and got it all changed right then and there. My new passport arrived a week later.
Two things to note is that most websites, such as Amazon/e-bay/other commercials sites, let you change your name at any time, so you can do that whenever you want to get a head-start. And lastly, there is something called a Gender Recognition Certificate, which is a government-issued document, that enables retroactive name and title change for similarly official documents like Birth Certificates. This costs £140 and requires proof of living as your preferred gender for two years. Unless you want to make the change complete both forwards and backwards, I would recommend skipping this document; however, be aware that I’ve encountered a problem where, without an updated passport to reflect the name and gender change, when applying for a new job, they had to input my details on their HR system to link with the HMRC using the gender displayed on my passport. To have the correct gender displayed without an updated passport requires a GRC. This may change as the GRC process is under Government review and reform.
The emotional side
Now that we have the admin process out of the way, I’ll talk briefly about some of the emotions that I felt during this whole period. The most pervading sense was one of anti-climax. I chose the name Lucy after a character I created in one of my earlier books and it always resonated with me, the sense of freedom in that character, the defiance and wish to regain control. For that reason, I used the name from the day I came out. So, when it came time to make it official nearly two years down the line, it wasn’t a moment of change but one of confirmation. I was already sure, and it only took a signature.
Yet I still do find it strange, even today, when I hear my new name used out loud. It takes a lot to overcome nearly 23 years of expectation. But the thing that changing my name got me was a sense of control. I never anticipated this, but the sheer amount of administration it takes almost enforces it. When you must take control of your bank details, your finances, your savings, your accounts for any subscriptions, it becomes yours more now than it ever was before. It goes back to what I said several entries ago about the transition being one of living life. This is one element of that. It’s yours now. You make it yours. In name now as well as in deed.
But changing your name doesn’t only affect you. While your friends, I sincerely hope, will be accepting – they may need some time to get it right, for which you will need patience and love – from my experience the difficulty comes in family. A lot of the grief from my family’s side stems from the use of names. Even now they struggle from time to time and call me by the moniker of ‘L’. It’s a common factor, I’ve found, within as well as without the whole transgender experience, that names hold a certain power, that the personality of their arbiter is wrapped up in the name itself. We grow into our names. This, however, I believe, has some faults. If you were to swap the classification of a rock and table, it wouldn’t change their internal structure; they’d still be used for the same purpose. All that’d change would be their entries in the dictionary.
When I was at school, I shared my name with two other people in my year and they were as far from me as you could get. Where I was a conscientious student, one was a hazer, apathetic to a T, and the other was an out-and-out bully. It was hard to believe we shared the same name. But this is an extension of personification, how we attribute humanity to inhuman things, such as pets, teddy-bears, items and objects; with a name, we imprint upon these labels facets either of ourselves reflected or, especially in pets, ones that are recognisably human. The name then takes on the amorphous property of identity, one seemingly linked to the owner of that name.
This is me
But changing the name doesn’t discredit the time that’s been lived; instead, it gives a chance for self-definition. Personality doesn’t change with the alteration of a label, it evolves naturally over the course of a life, with experience and connections, memories and mistakes. All my old traits are still there, applied now to my new name, but with the freedom granted to me by the control of the transition I can shape myself from here on out – influence and be remembered for what I become, not for what I was made.
This is the reason why I felt my name-change day was anti-climactic. It wasn’t a declaration of anything I didn’t already know. It didn’t change anything. It was only a barrier to entry I was more than ready to meet. For nearly two years I’d used my current name and unveiled the personality that’d always been there, just imprisoned by my old expectations. I wasn’t becoming anyone new or being reborn in any way – I was just confirming that this was me and I was in control. It may be that I wouldn’t be the same person I am at this moment had I not gone through with the transition, but that desire for expression would always have been there. It would just have taken longer to emerge, and I’d be looking back at a lot more than 24 unfulfilled years.
When my family was struggling, centred around the idea of using a new name and how they were losing the person they’d always known, this is the advice that I learned: that they weren’t losing me, I wasn’t changing in any way more drastic than the natural evolution and blooming of people over time. An ‘as well as’ rather than an ‘instead of’. A name doesn’t mean anything. It’s what you do with it. It’s a label to intent. And I intend to live free and revealed.