74. Change Your Name

On January 4th, 2005, I stood before a judge and changed my name legally. Myself and five women from the tri-county area each enjoyed this simple but powerful legal transformation on this particular Thursday, extracting ourselves, name first, out from under the thumb of The Man. The Man in my case: The Intransigent Social System Which Conflates Sex with Gender and Will Not Let Me Be Who I Am; The Man in the case of each of these women: their Ex-Husbands. Differentiate as you will.

Now, I am judged and found unworthy of manhood in the checkout line - I don't need to formalize the process! But it had to be done: try as I might, I could not take the femininity out of my given name, "Katie." Just to make things interesting, I decided to do it in Texas.

Yes. Texas.

We assembled, my five ladyfriends and I, before the judge. Emotional exchanges about alimony and paternity had been echoing off the hallowed walls of justice for a good half hour, and continued, whispered over shoulder pads and the backs of chairs, in between decrees. My hands poured sweat as I sat in my dress slacks and tie. For all I knew, they might think I was one of them, a minion of The Man.

"Katie Lauren Kilborn," the judge called. I rose, and made my way to the stand. As he watched me approach, he laughed.

"You need a name change, doncha son."

"Yes sir. It might be a little more complicated than that, though."

"Well let's see it.”

He treated me differently than the women who came before. But I knew this undeserved kinship would soon shatter with his stare.

I presented the judge with two different orders. The first was one to change both name and gender designation; the second, just in case, was a simple name change. The judge took a good long look at the first order, then eyed me, then glanced back at the paper. Then, back to me. Then, back to the paper.

"Unusual case. I don't think I've ever actually seen this before."

He was the kind of man you'd expect a judge to be. I mean, "of course", he was white and male, but he was also silver-haired and broad-shouldered. Perhaps he was once athletic,

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though he seemed too tall for a football player, too thick for baseball. I imagine him playing basketball for Baylor.

He picked up one of the law references on his desk and thumbed through.

"To be honest with you, I don't even know where I might find a precedent. Nope. It's not under sex. Darn it. Can’t find a section about gender."

The court has fallen silent. I could feel ten eyes, magnified with the fury of women scorned, sizing me up from behind, ten ears pricked up in interest.

The judge looked me over, but not in the way most people do when they consider what it means to have a transgender person standing in front of them. I didn’t feel his eyes on my chest or my crotch; he framed my shoulders, looked into my face and eyes. I hoped my tie was straight: suddenly the appearance of the knot was all that stood between me and that M on my driver’s license. If only I had gone for the Windsor Knot instead of the Four in Hand!

"I just don't think I have the authority to do this kind of thing," he concluded. "I can't decree that somebody can be something...else. If I did, you'd have people changing their identities all the time...?" Then, he looked at me, for help.

I replied that I know just a few people who have done it.... That perhaps a change in gender designation is up to the judge's discretion. That he could even write "Petitioner may not marry a person of the female sex" before he signed it, just to be covered in any sticky gay marriage situations.

My judge frowned.

"I want you to know that I know that this isn't just some decision you made lightly. I know that you have to...undergo...many...things...to do this, and I don't have any problem with that, I really don’t. In fact, if I knew that there was some case law somewhere, I'd do it for you. I really would. But as it stands now, I just don't believe I can."

I answered that I could find out for him, that I could come back with case law later that day. "Well, do you want to change your name? I can do that for you, at least,” he replied.

It felt almost like I was a neighbor to whom he, upon finding a would-be borrowed lawnmower out of gas, offered at least a weed-whacker with which to attempt the job. From behind me in the courtroom I heard a divorcée whisper,

“I think I just saw this on Oprah....”
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He swore me in, So help me God. It went on record in the State of Texas that I changed my name as part of my gender transition, and that each of those names reflects my mother’s family history. When I uttered the words "sex change" into the record, my judge blinked reflexively.

Finally, he adjudicated, ordered, and decreed me Scott Turner Schofield, and as I exited past the five silent women, he called out,

"Good luck, son."