Transition: Expensive but Worth It

I thought it couldn’t be done, but it has: I’m a man. All it took was time, money, effort, and a willingness to believe.

It’s been a little over two years since I went on testosterone, and a year since I had chest surgery. Next month, I have a court hearing to process my legal name and gender change. I’ve grown a beard and body hair (and a lot of frankly unnecessary upper arm and shoulder hair); my voice has settled at a low tenor; my hairline has receded to a widow’s peak (and is starting to thin a little, alas); and I’m consistently read as male both in person and on the phone. The only people who still call me “she” are the ones who’ve known me so long they just can’t seem to shake the habit.

On August 1, 2012, I had double incision top surgery with Dr. Brownstein in San Francisco. He retired in December 2012, so I was one of his end-of-career patients. You could tell he was so over being a doctor and ready to be done, but he still did a great job. I had a few minor complications having to do with my asthma, so I stayed in the hospital overnight, but overall it wasn’t bad. The drains were gross, my housemate DK was a champ, and the scars are fine with me.

Doing breathing exercise post-surgery

Doing breathing exercise post-surgery

I got an excellent result, cosmetically. My new endocrinologist said, when he met me, “Wow, you have a great chest. A lot of guys with your BMI have big moobs, but you’re completely flat.” I have no sensation in my nipples, and I think they’re slightly not in the right place, but that’s a small price to pay for having a completely male chest. Actually, my body thinks my nipples are down and to the sides of where they actually are, I suspect because the ends of the nerves that used to connect them are there. (One thing I’m less happy about: my belly really sticks out a lot now. I had no idea I was this fat until my chest was flat.)

It’s great having a flat chest. I can look at myself in the mirror bare-chested and it feels good. I like how shirts fit. I’m done with binders forever. I even stand up straighter. In many ways, I take it for granted now. I do miss the money, though. Between doctor and hospital fees, it ended up costing me around $15,000: something insurance wouldn’t cover.

(For  a friend who will be having his top surgery later this year, things are much brighter economically. California passed a law this year that makes it illegal for medical insurance to exclude coverage based on gender identity or expression. That means his surgery will be covered, giving him an out of pocket of about $250. Sweet, right? Alas, even if I’d waited, I wouldn’t have been covered, though: since I get my health insurance through Medicare (being disabled), the law wouldn’t apply to me. Still, it’s a tremendous win for Trans* rights. And it means people who don’t have a lot of savings but do have decent insurance, can get gender reassignment surgery! At least in California.)

So speaking of economics and hassle: now the name and gender change.

I’ve had to fly a few times over the last year, and rent cars in Texas and Louisiana. And a few bars have carded me. Let me tell you, handing over an ID (both passport and drivers license) with a very female name, showing a photo of a long-haired person, with the F box ticked for sex, and claiming it’s your bearded, short-haired, clearly male self, is a little nerve wracking. Although actually, I got fairly little flak for it, all things considered.. The Texas rental car person was the most suspicious. Most people either just looked at the ID, looked at me, and then accepted it, or accepted it when I said, “I’m transgender.” I think they decided that no one would be audacious enough to hand over an ID that seemed that unlike them unless they were, in fact, the person they claimed to be.

Texas challenged me for more details, but she backed down when I offered to go with her to a back room and show her proof of my birth sex. I would have, too, but I’m glad she didn’t call my bluff.

Anyway, soon that will all be in the past. I’ve filed the petition with the San Mateo Superior Court for a change of name and gender, and I have a court date: September 17 at 9:00 AM! On that day, I will become, legally, a man named Zachary Andrew. Then I just have to do a thousand and one things to get the name change reflected everywhere, including (ulp) talking to my ex-husband and finalizing some stuff on formerly shared retirement accounts.

Here’s what it takes to change your name and gender:

To Get a Court Order for Name and Gender Change in California

  1. Fill out a bunch of forms
  2. Provide a letter from a doctor stating that you have had appropriate medical treatment to change your sex
  3. File a court petition, pay $465, and get a hearing date
  4. Publish the order to show cause in a local newspaper for four weeks. (Because my mortgage holder and credit card issuers are totally reading the Pacifica Tribune to find out who might be changing their names to evade their debts.)
  5. Go to your court hearing
  6. Get certified copies of the Order of Name and Gender Change ($25.50 each)

Then, in this order:

  1. Change Social Security name and gender (Certified Order of Name Change, Letter from Physician, Application)
  2. Change Driver’s License name and gender (Certified Order of Name Change, Updated Social Security, Letter from Physician, Application, $26)
  3. Update Car registration (Title with new name typed above old name, Form for name change, Certified Order of Name Change)
  4. Get New Passport (Certified Order of Name Change, Letter from Physician, Original Passport, Photograph, Application, $140)
  5. Change name on Bank accounts (Certified Order of Name Change, Updated Social Security, New ID)
  6. Get new checks printed, and order new credit cards
  7. Change name on Stock and Retirement accounts (Certified Order of Name Change, Updated Social Security, New ID)
  8. Update Title on House (still figuring out what to do for that)
  9. Update name on Car and House Insurance
  10. Change name on Mortgage account
  11. Change name on Utility and other bills

And there are probably things I’m forgetting.

Broken down, just the bureaucracy costs are:

Court Filing 465
Newspaper Ad 170
Certified copies x3 76.5
DMV 26
Passport photo 12
Passport 140
New checks 30
Mailing costs 25
Total $944.5

Yikes, right? But in the end, it’s worth it. So, so worth it. I feel comfortable in my own skin at long last. I feel like myself. I really am, at last, that little girl who grew up to be a good man.

Nezu at 4 years old

Nezu at 4 years old

Nezu today

Nezu today

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~ by Nezu on 12 August 2013.

17 Responses to “Transition: Expensive but Worth It”

  1. Terrific! It would be nice to have all that covered–it’s fixing something in the body that was broken, right?

    But glad you are getting over all the hurdles and finally happy with the way the body jibes with the mind. Congratulations!

    • Thanks, Starshadow! It’s a big thing to feel like your self at last.

      • I bet it’s a relief.

        Oddly enough, the nym you use for the blog is almost the same one my older daughter goes by (Nezumi)–I believe she chose hers because of the Sailor Moon manga, several years ago.

        Anyway, I’m a cisgendered lesbian all for transgender rights. So I’m very glad to know you. (Many years ago I had to explain the difference between sexuality and gender to one of the then co-directors of the Lesbian Resource Center in Seattle, which I used to volunteer for when they had a physical space.) I hope the more people *get* this, the less hassle every transgender person has to go through. Hugs.

        • Hah, your daughter has excellent taste. Nezumi is the Japanese word for rat, and -ko is a diminutive suffix. Since I am a keeper of pet rats, am studying Japanese, and am a bit of a Japanophile, Nezumiko or “little rat” seemed like a good online moniker for me.

          Awesome to have you as a trans* ally! Man, if I had a dollar for every time I’ve had to explain the difference between gender and sexual orientation… Well, I probably wouldn’t be rich, but I could certainly go out for a very nice dinner. *grin*

          I’ve been asked several times: So does this mean you’re straight now? I try not to roll my eyes too heavily as I explain that my sexual orientation hadn’t changed (I’m about dead center on the Kinsey scale). It is a little weird, though, to date women and be perceived as straight now. Especially since I’m a little fabulous, and am usually read as gay now that I’m consistently read as male.

          Good to know you, too. Do you mind me asking how you found your way here? Just curious.

          • Actually hers is from the Iron Mouse character–Nezumi means either “rat” or “mouse” so that works.

            I’m about a five on the Kinsey scale. I am lesbian, but there is one male I’d do in a heartbeat–Adrian Paul, the actor. Not that I’d ever have the chance, you understand.

            I also write sf, have my first book at an editor’s, and the second book I’m in the middle of writing. It’s set on an original world and one of the main characters (the main one and narrator of the second book) talks about one of his lovers, who is of what they call “the third sex” who is female to male. On his world, people (not human, but very humanoid) are mostly right in the middle of the Kinsey scale. But this person who prefers to be called male, though he is still in his female body, also prefers other men, so seduces the main character at one point (they don’t have a hangup about sex on that world or sexual orientation.) I wrote the scene and then had one male-to-female transgender friend read it to see if I got it right, and she said I had.

            I think my empathy makes me able to put myself in any place to see the conflicts, like your being perceived as straight when dating women. I like the Kinsey scale–people usually are somewhere on that curve, and I am fine with a person self-identifying as whoever or whatever they like. It’s not up to me to define them.

            I adjust pronouns to whatever the person prefers, regardless of that person’s physical body. Some I know prefer a neutral, like “xe” instead of he or she and I’m fine with that, too. People just need to get over the whole gender thing of trying to stick other people’s gender or sexuality in some box or label. It’s not their business.

            Humans. Can’t live with ’em sometimes and can’t resign from the species. But I can write. I have a t-shirt that reads “Careful or you’ll wind up in my novel.” That’s a real threat. hehehe….

            (BTW, I love rats. Used to have a bunch but my wife says no more pets but the one cat per person we can comfortably take care of. Sweet ratties.)

          • Oh, I forgot–saw the blog on David Gerrold’s feed on Facebook. As you likely know if you know his writing at all, he’s both a gay father and a transgender ally.

  2. Congratulation Zach! Kudos to you on your persistence! Grace and blessings to those who have helped you along the way (even though you did most of it yourself). Your experience and eloquence can help others who stand at the threshold and need help stepping through. Never fear, Zach is here. Blessings to you. Bryce Current.

  3. so so awesome. i’m sorry i am one of those who coukdnt kick the she habit for awhile. this is the you you wanted to see in the mirror. i remember you saying. so glad your dream came true!!

    • No need to apologize, Pat! As long as you keep trying, that’s what counts. Thanks for being one of the awesome people who helped me get where I am now.

  4. and congratulations!!!! (And sorry for taking so long to break the ‘she’ habit; I think I’ve mostly gotten over it at this point.)

    I would suggest getting more copies of the official I’ve-changed-my-name certificate than you think you need; some institutions may surprise you in requesting (for keeps) a copy of the certificate.

    • Aww, no need to be sorry! You’ve known me so long, it’s completely understandable you’d struggle with pronouns. You’ve always been my staunch supporter and ally: I know I can count on you.

      I think three copies will be enough, I certainly hope so. BUt maybe I should get four, just to be certain.

  5. WOOHOO! 😀 Congratulations! You look just ecstatic and fantastic 😀 So glad for you that it was relatively hassle free (just… lots of money. >.< ).

    Congrats!

    I'm very amused at the shoulder hair. 😀

  6. So very happy for you Zach! And I love that photo! =D And dude! You wear your watch on your right wrist too! Or are you left-handed? Sorry, just something I noticed. lol. That’s a lot to go through, but I’m glad that you were able to, and glad that now you’re who you knew you were. *hugs*

  7. Congratulations, Zach!

  8. So good to see you looking so happy. Congratulations and welcome to your wonderful new life

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