|PS: This is not her new name, in case you've never read a history book.|
Source: Wikipedia Commons
Last week, my daughter got the best piece of mail in the history of ever: her legal name change certificate from the province of Ontario.
Right?! How great is that? She's all officially her new self now, and she couldn't be happier.
I got the news in a text while I was sitting in the clinic waiting for the doctor to check out my sore foot and give me a magical bean or whatever to make it better. He only gave me stretches and a lecture about wearing inserts in my shoes, but I didn't care at that point. All I could think about was getting home to give my kiddo a near-bone-crushing hug and some serious mom props.
We worked hard to make this happen, doing a lot of research, making phone calls, finding a guarantor and signing in front of a lawyer. Then we waited what seemed like an agonizingly long time but was, in fact, only a few weeks. I checked the mail each day like a kid checking under the Christmas tree, getting that fluttery feeling in my stomach as I opened the mailbox, followed a sting of disappointment when I only found bills and stupid coupons to shitty places (made shittier by the fact that they were stupid coupons and not, in fact, my daughter's name change documents.)
And then, one day, there it was: exactly what we had been waiting for. The official certificate with her official new first and middle names - both undeniably female.
Everyone we told was ecstatic for her. This is a big deal, after all. New names don't happen every day unless you're a rapper.
The questions I had been anticipating didn't come up nearly as often as I thought they would, but come up they did. It's ok. I'm used to questions and I'm cool with answering them as long as they're not full of stupid. These aren't. They're probably the same questions I would have thought of if I were watching someone live the life I'm currently living: Why change her name now? Why not wait? Are you sad about it? Are you really that sure she won't change her mind?
Why now? Why not wait? Because Gutsy's original birth name, as much as I loved it and still hold it close to my heart, was causing her a tremendous amount of pain.
Having spoken to a lot of transgender folk and parents of transgender folk, I've realized that gender dysphoria rears its ugly head in many ways. For some, seeing pictures of themselves before transition is really hard. It reminds them of a time when they were living an inauthentic life; a life of sadness and feeling out of place.
For Gutsy, the name we gave her when she was born was the source of many tears and anxious moments. She would wince seeing that name on medication labels and report cards. She was scared of being called in a busy waiting room, because the masculine name on paper no longer matched her feminine presentation. She excitedly awaited her bank card to come in the mail, only to see her old name on it and tearfully throw it in a pile because she couldn't bear to look at it. (That bank account hasn't been used since.)
Coming to terms with the trauma of your past, no matter what it may be, is a process. I explained this to my daughter, and we've worked through some if it. Gutsy eventually learned to look at her old name without getting sad or panicky, but we could still see that flash of pain in her eyes.
Look, I'm a chick. I wouldn't want to be called "Ralph Edward Chesthairington" everywhere I go when I'm clearly a lady person and present like a lady person and feel like a lady person on the inside. People would be all "Ralph Edward Chesthairington?" in the clinic waiting room and I would hobble over with my damaged lady foot and they would look confused by my appearance and I would get flustered and I would be reminded that what society legally thinks I am is not who I actually am. That would both blow and suck simultaneously.
I would not want my picture next to the name "Ralph Edward Chesthairington" on my I.D., nor on the medication I need to take every day, nor on the awards and accomplishments I receive in my life, when I don't relate to that name or call myself by it. It would hurt in a way I can sort of imagine but can't fully comprehend. I take for granted that my name is Amanda and I look like an Amanda. My daughter doesn't have the privilege of being born biologically female, immediately identified as such, and named appropriately.
We can't take away all her pain and all the uphill battles she's going to have to face. But we can change her damn name so she smiles when she sees it, and connects with it, and proudly owns it. That, we can do. And so that's what we did.
Are you sad about the name change?
Not really. I mean I'll always have a connection with the name I chose for her in the womb. And I say "I" because it I was the one who stole it from my little sister, who said it was her favourite boy name. So I did what any good sister does and insisted we call our baby that the minute we found out she had a peen (the baby, not my sister). My husband protested a little and I ignored him and kept calling my unborn child by that name. And then it became the name. And my sister was a little ticked off at me, but it's ok because she hasn't had kids yet and she can totally have it back now. We've returned it for a new one.
Incidentally, the name Gutsy picked for herself was my sister's top girl name. True and somewhat unfortunate story. Oops.
I went through my grieving time for my son. I was a sad Maven for a little while because I had visions of who he was going to be and what he was going to look like and what kind of life he would have. But I'm now super excited about this girl business. I have a girl child now! And for some reason, the official name change made me even more excited about that fact. It brings home the femininity that is emerging more and more every day inside her. I'm excited to see what she's going to be and what she's going to look like and what kind of life she's going to have.
Given how much happier she is, I think it's going to be a much more positive experience than what was awaiting my son.
I admittedly cried happy tears when the name change came. The goodbye tears were shed a while back. It's all good.
Are you sure she won't change her mind?
I will be an annoying bitch and answer that question with other questions: Do we get married thinking of the possibility of divorce down the road, or do we celebrate the love we have today? Do we buy a house thinking we might lose it in a fire or flood, or do we sign the papers while excitedly discussing the new wall colours and flooring?
We're never sure of anything. Nothing is 100%. Ever. But statistically speaking, my long-term loving marriage is far more likely to crumble than Gutsy is to stop identifying as female. Research strongly supports this.
But more importantly, many conversations with my child have led me to believe that she is very sure of who she is, even at eleven years of age.
And, even more importantly, she steals my fucking shoes right out of my closet. Right out of my closet. What more proof does anyone need?
Our job is to support her where she is today and help her move in the direction she's aiming for, not to impose fear or doubt on her. If that means giving her a new name, that's what we do. Worst-case scenario? We change her name again. And my sister gets two recycled baby names. And Gutsy gives all my fucking shoes back. I don't think any of those things is likely to happen, though.
The name change is done. Next up: gender marker. We might be waiting a little longer for that one.
We've reached another milestone in our journey.
And now that I've brought it up, I'm a little pissed about my missing footwear.
And grateful that my name isn't Ralph Edward Chesthairington. Like seriously. Wow.
Off to go poke around in the kid's closet while she's sleeping. I'm pretty sure I'm going to finally find my sandals - in October.
Daughters, man. Someone should have warned me.
P.S.: As always, every bit of this was written with permission from one amazing kiddo, who really wants the world to understand what it's like to be a transgender child. She is super awesome beyond measure. And needs to grow out of my shoe size.