Legally me!

On October 7th, I went to a courtroom of the Superior Court, County of Los Angeles, to collect some exceedingly important (to me) paperwork: the official court decree establishing my legal name as Dana Renee Munson… and my legal gender as “female.” I had filed the necessary “petition” and associated paperwork 6 weeks prior. And there I was, in court, after what seemed to have been the longest 6 weeks of my life. (OK, the last 6 weeks of my time in the Army probably dragged just a teeny bit more.)

I didn’t have to go to court at all. California law does not require an actual appearance before a judge by a “name & gender change” petitioner unless there is an error or inconsistency in the filed paperwork, or unless the court’s criminal background check comes back with red flags, or unless someone has filed a legally valid objection to your petition. In my case, “none of the above.” So, in normal course, the judge would simply have signed and filed the Decree today and the clerk would have mailed me a certified copy.

But of course, I was not about to wait another few days to hold that paper! So, in my phone call a few days ago to the court clerk, to confirm that I did not need to appear, I asked if I could appear anyway and physically collect my signed Decree. She replied, “Oh, of course!” Like, no big deal, girl!

En Femme Style

Having been full-time as Dana for several months, there was no question that it was Dana who would go in. I have some skirts and dresses but am usually in jeans or shorts. Not today! I went in, strutting my girl-itude: skirt, heels (2″), and hose. (I took the accompanying photo later in the day after becoming a bit more casual.) The court staff were very nice and professional. I had to wait while the judge processed some other “law and motion” matters on his calendar that morning (he was working by video from his chambers that day, for some reason, and only showed up in the courtroom on a large video monitor). Eventually, I heard the judge intone my “dead name” (the name I “petitioned” under) over the intercom and mumble “Petition for Name Change… OK, that’s granted.” And there it was… “Dana” was legally “born” at that moment! I was happy, numb, nervous, excited and a thousand other things, all at once… but I had the presence of mind not to disrupt the court with a scream. Then the judge passed on to other matters.

I had a little while yet to wait as the clerk went through and prepared various things for the judge’s signature-my Decree included. He disappeared, then returned in a few minutes. He shuffled some stuff around at his desk… and then he walked over to where I was sitting in the courtroom gallery, smiled, handed me a certified copy of the signed, file-stamped Decree, and said “Congratulations!”

And so, I walked out of that courtroom legally “Dana” and legally female. Since obtaining the name change order, I have, to date, managed to apply for a replacement birth certificate, get Social Security and Medicare updated to my new name and gender, and apply for a new driver’s license with new name and gender reflected.

For a really informative work-up on how to go about getting your name and gender marker legally changed, look up the website of the Transgender Law Center. If you’re lucky enough to be a California girl, their information for our state is extremely detailed and thorough, including links to all the forms you’ll need to file.

(FYI: before retiring 2 years ago, I had been a litigation paralegal for 40 years. I had worked any number of trials. The courtroom vibe was kind of nice to experience again, if only for a short while.)

Cheers, ladies!!

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    1. ' class='avatar avatar-100 photo' height='100' width='100' />

      Thanks for sharing this Dana. I’ve been dealing with the name change in Cali for a year now, and about the file for the second time. I had outstanding marks on my record that I had to resolve but I hope to have mine very soon as well!

    2. ' class='avatar avatar-100 photo' height='100' width='100' />
      Barb 1 month ago

      Congratulations, Dana! And, Happy Birthday!

      Barb 🙂

    3. ' class='avatar avatar-100 photo' height='100' width='100' />
      JAKe Hatmacher 1 month ago

      Good for you, but I have a question. I’ve been wondering if all the document changes need to happen or is it just an individual desire. I’m in the midst of my physical transition, my mind already there, but what should or could prevent me from holding my documents as they already exist, and that would be with all carrying the designation for male gender.

      • ' class='avatar avatar-100 photo' height='100' width='100' /> Author
        Dana Munson 4 weeks ago

        JAKe (interesting spelling!), the short answer is that the name change and various record changes don’t HAVE to happen. However, depending upon where you live, you may find yourself encountering some, shall we say, “inconveniences” in your daily living if all your identification, credit cards, medical insurance cards, etc., are for a putative MAN . . . whilst YOU resemble something entirely different. Want to fly somewhere? You’re in for an interesting time with airport security when you don’t resemble the person whose identification (and whose ticket!) you’re carrying. Maybe you imagine you can plan your public outings without ever needing to use a public restroom, but I am skeptical. Not every state is as lenient as my state of California. Depending on the state you live in, you could be looking at jail time if you get “read” in a public ladies’ room and then get nabbed by police/security. Having clear documentation of your new chosen gender (whatever documentation might be required in your state) may be your only life line. I could multiply examples. But I conclude with this simple question: have you really, truly transitioned when you look like, and live like, a “her,” but all of your documents, accounts, tax returns, etc., still say “him”? Just my 2 cents – others’ mileage may vary, as they say. Best of luck to you, whichever way you go!

      • ' class='avatar avatar-100 photo' height='100' width='100' /> Author
        Dana Munson 4 weeks ago

        Oh, and in my previous response, I didn’t mention being pulled over by a cop for whatever reason. I imagine there are a few “county mounties” out there who would relish the opportunity to harass a “Jill” carrying “John’s” ID.

        • ' class='avatar avatar-100 photo' height='100' width='100' />
          JAKe Hatmacher 3 weeks ago

          Maybe I question my need to change all the documents because I’ve not been challenged anywhere. I know I will eventually have a new picture taken for my driver’s license/picture ID, but I don’t think I’ll change the M to an F on it. I mean, is there really a point to it all? I know I can fully transition without changing the papers. I know I really can’t change my DNA. I’m more concerned with allowing the female part of me live with and despite the DNA I’ve been endowed with than with. Letters on documents don’t change my spirit. I could change the letters to M or F, dog or cat, or whatever. My spirit will still be what it is.
          You can look at what I’m trying to say this way. The number represented by the symbol 1 will always be the same amount even if you change the symbol.

    4. ' class='avatar avatar-100 photo' height='100' width='100' />
      Lauren Mugnaia 1 month ago

      Hi Dana,
      Congratulations! I did the same thing in August, I filled out the information and made the necessary changes on my ID, got new photos of Lauren, and I am now legally a female.
      How do you feel? Everybody asked me that and I was at a loss to find words that actually matched how I felt. I was walking on air, a life long childhood dream finally came true!

      Enjoy being your true self, there’s really nothing like it!

      Big hugs,

      Ms. Lauren M

      • ' class='avatar avatar-100 photo' height='100' width='100' /> Author
        Dana Munson 1 month ago

        Hi Lauren! Hey, I accepted your “Friend” request, btw.

        How do I feel? Hard to say. I was already “Dana” to myself, so getting that order in my hand was a thrill . . . for that day, anyway. I suppose I was most happy about the fact that that one legal paper enabled me to start the ball rolling on so many other necessary record changes. Got my driver’s license (temp) now, sporting my new name and an “F” for gender (whee!!). Have also re-registered to vote. Credit cards, bank accounts . . . still lots to change. But it feels like I am over the crest and gliding down a smooth slope. It is a buzz to stop every once in a while and think, “Oh geez . . .I’ve done it! I’m actually a woman now!”

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