As part of my social transition, I recently changed my name legally by deed poll. We’re lucky in the UK compared to some countries, because this is a relatively simple process.
Hats off to my dentist, my banks and my kids’ schools for all being very quick to get things updated and start using my correct name and title almost immediately. In fact, I got a text reminder for a dental appointment about half an hour after I’d updated my details over the phone. When I saw it said “Dear Mr <name>” I may have given a very unmanly shriek of excitement and done a little dance. But that’s just between me and my kitchen and a rather surprised cat.
One of the things I hadn’t anticipated, though, is how weird and exposing it feels to be addressed as “Mr <name>” in public, when to the world I still look and sound mostly female. At the dentist recently they called loudly down the stairs “Mr <name>”, and I was very aware of the other people in the waiting room who might have thought that was rather odd if they were paying any attention.
When you’re living happily as the gender you’re assigned at birth, you go through life not really noticing how many times you give your name and title to people, how many forms you fill in, how often you have to give tick a box that says M or F. But as a trans person, the world suddenly becomes a minefield of opportunities for awkwardness and dysphoria—especially when your physical appearance doesn’t match your identity, and your new name and pronouns.
As another example, I had to go to the local chemist today to collect a prescription for one of my kids. The pharmacist asked to see some ID, so I showed him my driving license, which is still in my old name. He didn’t look too closely at the title (which is actually Ms but that’s a battle I won’t have to fight anymore), and as he wrote my name on the prescription he said, “So is that Mrs <name>?”
Cue awkward silence while I wonder whether it’s better to deal with this now than in a few months when my voice breaks and I start getting facial hair.
Decision made, I say, “Um… no. Actually it’s Mr.” I notice a woman standing at the counter looking slightly interested in our conversation. So I chicken out of using the word transgender, and add vaguely with a hand wave. “For complicated reasons.”
The pharmacist, to his credit, obviously gets it immediately and doesn’t bat an eyelid. I scribble the ‘s’ off the end of Mrs, which he’d already written, and sign on the dotted line.
Then he asks, “So, where it says ‘relationship to child’ should I put…?”
Another awkward silence.
“Parent,” I reply. I will always be the person who gave birth to them, but it seems weird to be asking people to call me Mr while still using words like ‘mother’ to describe myself on official forms. So that’s what he used.
The other fun thing about changing my name to a male one while still being pre-testosterone has been dealing with telephone banking. I had to call my bank about a transaction the other day. Just as the call connected, I realised that the person speaking to me would be seeing Mr <name> on their screen. Then I spent the entire call trying to sound like Brian Blessed rather than a boy soprano and nearly broke my throat!
Bring on the testosterone please.