Yes, she's strange and different...but not THAT different.

15 December 2011

Going for a record

Since it was Valentine's Day when I last posted here, I wonder if I could go for a new non-posting record. Like maybe a year or something.

What? Oh, shit. OK, then ... starting NOW!

14 February 2011

Sharing is caring

This past weekend, Fireball and I were watching the movie "9". It's a very good movie and she was engrossed. She was also being gross - absorbed in the movie, she was putting her finger in her nose and then slowly moving it to her mouth.

So I gently prompted her to break this pattern by saying, "Do you know that you're unconsciously picking your nose and eating the boogers?"

Startled, she replied, "OH! I AM sorry! That is so impolite of me! I should have offered you some. Would you like one?"

"No. Thank you", I said. "I have some Raisenets."

"Where do you think those come from?"

Keep me in your prayers, please. She's nine years old and I'm afraid for what the future holds at our house.

31 January 2011

The Good Old Days

Want an instant trip back to the carefree innocence of childhood? Try opening a big box of crayons and breathing deep a couple of times. For me – and everyone I’ve talked to – the smell of crayons conjures up memories of times long past spent indulging in the largely solitary pleasure of coloring. My kids, now 9 and 15, still have two huge cigar boxes full of crayons, and I admit to occasionally joining them in coloring just to fleetingly re-experience a time when I didn’t have to worry about bills or the house or the cars or the kids’ health or any of the other myriad problems that occupy a good portion of my life today. Ah, the good old days.

But in hindsight I see that those days were good largely out of ignorance. I didn’t know about war and poverty then. I didn’t know about segregation or discrimination then or the fact that I would experience them first hand simply for being myself. A part of growing up is learning that the world is not automatically a good place … and not automatically a bad place, either. The good old days are really just what we want to remember from our history but if we’re honest we’ll admit that there were some bad old days, too.

OK, so what? Things have been bad and things have been good for us all, but I think things were more bad than good for most of us who identify ourselves as transgendered. Some folks never really make it past the bad parts, but a bunch of us do. Those of us who find the courage to admit to ourselves who we are and then to realize that we are not inherently bad people because of that are the survivors. We have no way of knowing how many don’t make it this far, but there are more than a few of us who have survived. Thankfully, I think that circumstances are actually improving for transgendered people today. Nowadays, most of the population has a general idea of what being transgendered means. Also, it’s a lot easier to find resources and groups of others like us. The subject of transgendered people and their lives is openly discussed today. We’ve come a long way but we still have a long way to go, and I think that the next generation will have it a lot easier.

Even at the age of three, my daughter had a beginning grasp of the concept of gender versus sex, or probably more appropriately, behavior versus appearance. She denoted someone’s sex by calling people “boys” or “girls” based on their obvious appearance. But she also used two other words to describe people: “boy-head” and “girl-head”, and those words weren’t related to appearance but more to behavior. I’m not sure what specific criteria she personally used to determine which category someone belongs in, but she realized (and still realizes today) that appearance is not the only way to categorize people. (I do know that with regard to appearance, she calls ‘em like she sees ‘em. For instance, people are not “black” or “white” to her; they are “brown” or “pink”.) A girl friend at daycare who was pushy and loud was still a girl but was a “boy-head”, while her brother was definitely a boy AND a boy-head. Back then and continuing to today, her mother and I encouraged her and her brother both to realize that everyone is different but that regardless of how different anyone might be, they are still more like them than they are different. And I don’t think we’re alone in teaching our kids that.

The next generation – my children’s generation – will grow up knowing a lot more about a number of things, including being transgendered, than my generation did. Ignorance fosters fear while knowledge fosters acceptance; light dispels darkness. And while I don’t think that everything will ever be all sweetness and light (we’re talking about human beings, after all), I do believe that the really good old days are yet to come.

14 January 2011

Halloween planning

It occurred to me that if you were ever going to do someone in, rub them out, send them off for a dirt nap, etc., you should plan to do it right before Halloween. Then you could do all sorts of things with the body and just call them your Halloween decorations. Maybe just hang it up in a tree in the front yard. Especially if your neighbors already think you're kind of strange.

Planning ahead can pay off. Something to think about.

06 January 2011

Here's lookin' at you, kid

He held her hand as hard as he could, knowing that all his strength
now was but a feeble echo of what it used to be. He realized that his
grip was not to keep himself here but to keep her from going, to make
her stay and listen.

"Promise me," he whispered. "Promise me that you won't stop them from
taking this shell." He stopped speaking to try to pull enough air into
his weakened lungs to finish. "This shell I'm in now," he continued.
"Fucked over by that damned disease and then by the treatments that
were almost as bad. I'm ready to leave it and you don't need it but
maybe it will help them to figure out how to keep some other poor
son-of-a-bitch from going through this."

He felt her tears dropping slowly on his hand, and he paused to savor
the warm wet tracks they left across his wrist on their journey to the
sheet. He knew he only had a very short time left and wanted to get
done speaking before he got done breathing. Gathering the last of his
strength, he feebly went on.

"You know I love you. I've always loved you and I always will. I'll be
with you as long as you remember me. And I know you love me, but now
you have to let me go, to let go of this physical me, anyway. I'm
ready to be done with all this pain and bullshit, and I need you to
tell me that you will be OK with that when I do."

He felt her hand tighten on his as her tears continued to fall and
then he heard her quiet reply. "I promise. I love you, and I know it's
a good thing you're doing. You know I could never stop you from doing
a good deed and this is just one more."

"Good," he rasped. "I'm tired now, so you can go in just a minute
while I get some sleep." He smiled a little and finished in a barely
audible whisper, "Here's lookin' at you, kid."

She smiled a little through her tears and replied with her half of
their exchange, "We'll always have Vegas." His labored breathing faded
as did the remnants of his grip, and she knew that he had finally
left. She squeezed his now lifeless hand one last time as she looked
up at the doctor standing on the other side of the bed and nodded. She
had had months to prepare herself for this moment and although it
seemed vaguely familiar because of that, it was still heart-wrenching.
She stood and slowly turned to leave the room.

"If it's any comfort to you," the doctor said, "despite all he went
through, his corneas are still viable and we have a recipient here
that can use them."

Her smile got bigger and still facing the door she replied, "It's nice
to know that part of him will still be looking at someone." As she
walked out of the room she whispered again, "And we'll always have
Vegas."

27 December 2010

What can go rong?

I recently posted the steps I took to change my identification paperwork here in Texas. It was a fairly straightforward process, but that doesn't mean that it's not without its pitfalls. Here are some of the things that I learned while changing mine.

In general, I was not initially prepared to sit. and wait. and sit some more. and wait. and wait. There's a lot of nothing to do - court, government offices, etc. - so be ready for it. Use the restroom before starting your wait, just so you don't have to leave. You can't eat or drink in most waiting areas, so don't count on that distraction. And all government buildings are non-smoking facilities. In most courtrooms, you are not allowed to read or do much of anything besides just sit and wait. Cell phones are not allowed to be used at all in court, although you can sometimes sneak it in. However, phones MUST be silent.

COPY EVERYTHING YOU SEND IN OR TURN IN OR THAT'S GIVEN TO YOU! Then bring copies of all your paperwork with you regardless of where you're going or what you're doing. It's not a lot of paper to carry around and you never know when you might need something.

Cash is king! I found it easier to just get the money I needed rather than worry about whether a given facility takes plastic or checks or money orders. Plus, oftentimes the credit card or check you have to use is in the name you're trying to change. Avoid the confusion. Find out in advance how much you'll need for a given transaction and then get that amount, plus a little extra, in cash from the bank. Do I need to tell you to make sure you get a receipt? Didn't think so.

Changing my name was easy. Changing gender, not so much. I had to go to court several times to get my gender changed. Texas law says you have to go to court in the county where you live, although there are ways to get around this. I don't know how to do that because I didn't have to do that. However, because I live in two different counties (Travis during the week, Fort Bend on weekends), I could go to two different courts, and I did - once in Fort Bend and twice in Travis. The judge in Fort Bend County, who had granted me my name change earlier, told me that he didn't think he had the authority to change my gender identifier when I returned to his court, so he refused my petition. After talking with the court clerk in Austin who had volunteered to assist with gender changes (HI SYLVA!), I then refiled an updated petition in Travis County, to the tune of another 250 bucks. The first judge there said that he didn't like some of the wording in my petition, but rather than refuse it, he simply took no action and told me to come back with an amended petition. I found out after my court appearance that the session I was in was that judge's final one in court; he had been voted out of office. But I updated my petition like he wanted and went back to court yet again. The third judge (in Travis county) was very nice, looked over my petition and wished me luck after signing the gender change order. If I could have kissed her, I would have! So, be aware that judges are human and are therefore all different and may not all be ready to immediately grant a gender change petition.

Finally, don't count on getting your actual documentation immediately. The federal government actually came through the fastest with my passport and Social Security card in a couple of weeks. Maybe I was just lucky and got in during a slow spot. The state was fairly quick with my voter registration card but took almost 7 weeks to get my driver's license to me. Your actual mileage may vary.

14 December 2010

Finish the report

SHIT, it's been really cold lately! OK, not here where I am but most other places. OK, not REALLY cold here but tolerable. Because I HATE the cold!

When I first moved to Connecticut while in the Navy long, long ago, one of the problems I had was with the winter weather forecast there. Coming from the Gulf coast of Texas, the Connecticut winter report always sounded to me like it was getting cut off.

Weather reporter: "The high today will be nine." And in my head, I kept thinking "Nine what? NineTY one? NineTY eight? Where's the rest of the damned number?"

I HATE the cold! I sweat a whole lot better than I shiver. And while cold will make your nipples bigger (until they fall off from frostbite) sweat is Nature's lube. Yes, it is. Stay hot, y'all.

10 December 2010

A brief exchange

Redheaded Spouse: "I think I'm going to take advantage of the warm weather and go outside and do some weeding tomorrow."

Pink Guy: "You gonna do some witing and withmetic, too, while you're out there?"

I LOVE my smart-ass kids!

09 December 2010

Documentation Change 101

When changing your gender, sooner or later you will need to change your documentation.  This is how I did it.  The caveats: I did this in Texas, and I have no idea how that translates into getting it done in any other state.  I did not change my birth certificate, but I did change my name, my gender identifier, my passport, my driver’s license and my Social Security card.  I am not an attorney and what follows here is NOT legal advice, only how I went about doing it. I did not use an attorney, but only because I couldn’t afford one.  For those who can afford an attorney, call Phyllis Frye in Houston, Texas.  Her office number is 713-227-1717. She has a set rate for changing all the documentation for transgendered clients, normally in the several thousands of dollars range.  If you have that kind of money, stop reading now and call Phyllis to set up an appointment.  You’ve got enough to deal with without taking on any more hassles. Finally, I’m operating on the assumption that you already have the documentation listed above and wish to change it.  That’s what I did and therefore that’s all I can tell you about.

This is the order that I followed in getting my documentation changed:
1.      Name change 
2.      Passport
3.      Gender identifier change
4.      Driver’s license
5.      Social Security
Here are the reasons I recommend this order: To change your Driver’s license, you now need an official name and gender change. These are both done via court order.  To change your SS card, you need an official name change and either a new passport or official gender change. To get a gender identifier change, it is highly recommended to have a name change and new passport. To get a passport change, you need a name change. And all of these require a doctor’s letter.

The entire process took several months for me but that was only because of my schedule and having to sometimes wait for governmental machinery to slowly grind on.  Depending upon the speed of the U.S. Department of State and the State of Texas, it could conceivably take weeks instead of months.  Regardless, allow yourself time and don’t get frustrated when things seem to drag on forever.  You’ll ultimately get ‘er done.  Or get ‘im done, whichever.

Here are the things you will need to gather to complete this entire process:
1.      Doctor’s letter
2.      Petitions and orders
3.      Fingerprint card
4.      Applications
5.      Money
Details about each of these are below. And for all the paperwork and applications you fill out and/or complete and/or receive, MAKE A COPY for yourself!  There’s no telling when you just might need it later on.



Doctor’s Letter
The most important piece of paper you will need is a letter from the doctor overseeing your transition. Everything else depends on that document; if you don’t have one, you won’t get anywhere.  The doctor needs to be an internist, endocrinologist, gynecologist, urologist or psychiatrist.  The letter needs to be on the physician’s letterhead, which must contain the physician’s full name, address and telephone number.  The letter or letterhead also must contain the doctor’s medical license/certificate number, the issuing state of the license/certificate and the doctor’s DEA registration number.  The following form should be used for the body of the letter, as it contains the information needed to certify that you really are changing your gender.  Substitute the appropriate data for the underlined portions.  Your name in this letter should be the name you want to have post-transition -your new name.  Some doctors may want to write their own letter, but the verbiage here must be in the letter in some manner.  Be advised that the more extra stuff that is in the letter, the more it may distract from the main message, which is that the doctor is verifying that you are actually changing your gender.

            Date

            To whom it may concern:

I, Doctor Harley Areil Dock, M.D., a practicing physician specializing in gynecology, certify that Ms. Wanda B Femm with the DOB xx/xx/19xx and SSN of xxx-xx-xxxx and Texas Driver’s License number xxxxxxxx is transgendered, and is a patient of mine currently under my treatment at my clinic for the neuroendocrinological condition commonly referred to as transsexualism.  She has received the proper clinical and irreversible medical treatment for transition to her new female gender, and I currently continue to serve as her physician overseeing her care and treatment.

I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the United States that the forgoing is true and correct.

Doctor’s Signature, M.D.
Doctor Harley Areil Dock, M.D.

To add a bit of authenticity, have the doctor’s signature notarized if it’s possible, although that’s not a firm requirement.  If the doctor is willing to sign two identical original letters, do it, if only as insurance against loss or damage to the only original.

Petitions and Orders
In order to change your name or your gender identifier, you must file a petition with the court (usually the state district court) clerk’s office in the county where you live. The petition asks the court’s judge to issue an order granting you the change you petitioned for.  This is normally done on the court’s uncontested docket, although you will have to check on what the details are in your county.  You will give the judge your petition and the order you wish to be signed.  The judge can modify the order you submit but normally doesn’t.  Once the judge signs your order, you file it at the county clerk’s (NOT the court clerk's) office and it becomes official.  Which court you will go to will depend on the rules in your county, also, but in most counties it's the state district court.  You’ll probably be in court with a bunch of other folks petitioning for other things.  The most common is divorce followed closely by name changes.  It is entirely possible to ask for more than one thing in a single petition, such as a simultaneous divorce and name change.  It is possible to file for a name and gender identifier change in the same petition, but I found that it worked out better for me to do them separately.  Doing it that way costs more though because you have to pay twice to file two petitions, but it’s less hassle in the long run.

Name changes are very common. You don’t really need any more reason to change your name other than “Because I want to”, but the reason you use in your petition should reference the fact that you will be changing your gender.  Something like: “I am undertaking a new life in the female gender and wish to change my name to match my new gender.” (Use “male” gender if that’s the direction you’re heading.)  Everything else that goes into the name change petition is self-explanatory.  There are a number of websites that take you through the process of changing your name, including filling out and filing the petition, so I’m not going to detail those steps.  You can Google “Name change Texas” and get a number of hits, but one of the sites I recommend is TexasLawHelp.org
The Petition and Order forms for name change are also on the above site but are Adobe PDF files that can’t be changed. You can print them and fill them out by hand, but if you want to type your entries for a more professional appearance, send me an email and I’ll send you the form templates in Word document format.

Changing your gender identifier is the same basic process as changing your name: fill out your petition, submit the petition to the clerk, go to court with your paperwork, get a signed order from the judge, you’re done.  Follow the steps detailed on the website above for that process.  However, the gender change is not nearly as commonplace as the name change, and if you’re reading this, you’re probably well aware of the negativity that can sometimes surround anything you do related to changing your gender.  Judges and court personnel aren’t immune to that negativity, although I will say that 95% of the people I dealt with didn’t show me anything but respect and courtesy, and some were downright enthusiastic and more than willing to help.  All I can tell you is to just do it and hope for the best.  I have the forms in Word document format for the gender change Petition and Order that I’ll be happy to send to you if you email me asking for them.

When you submit your petition for gender change, bring the originals of all your other change paperwork. You will have to show them to the court clerk but they will most likely copy them and return the originals to you.  You will need to submit a copy of your doctor’s letter.  If you have completed your name change, submit a copy of that order.  If you have completed changing your passport, submit a copy of the ID page in your new passport. You may need to submit a copy of your driver’s license.  Even if the court clerk’s representative doesn’t specifically tell you to turn in the above copies, it’s not going to hurt to do so. It’s all just more evidence that you’re serious about all this.  And it’s one of the reasons I recommend getting the name change and new passport before going after the gender identifier change.  Finally, when you get your name change and gender identifier change orders, get at least two certified copies made of each when you file the order at the county clerk’s (not court clerk’s) office. The copies are usually $1 per page.

Fingerprint card
Both a name change and gender identifier change require you to submit a copy of your fingerprints.  Many law enforcement agencies and some passport and security agencies will do this for you for a nominal sum.  I’d recommend Googling “Fingerprint services” for your city/county or calling the sheriff’s department in your county.  If the sheriff’s office doesn’t do it, they can usually tell you who does.  If you submit your name and gender change petitions separately, you will need two fingerprint cards.

Applications / Forms
In addition to the forms for the court Petition and Order, you can also obtain the forms for changing your Social Security card and Passport online. 

To obtain a new passport with your new name and gender, if your current passport is more than a year old, you will need to fill out a Department of State Form DS-11, which is the original application for a new passport, even if you already have a passport.  The form to change your passport, DS-5504, can only be used if your current passport is less than one year old.  The Department of State’s rules on filling out and submitting a passport application are here:
The new rules on transitioning gender change for passports are here:

The DS-11 form, along with instructions on filling it out and submitting it, are here:
Basically, you need to provide the Department of State with the DS-11, two pictures (be sure to read and follow their rules about the pictures), your name change order and your doctor’s letter. Send in the originals of the order and letter. They will be returned with the passport.  It took me about two weeks to get my passport with normal processing.  Your actual mileage may vary.
The DS-5504 form and instructions are here:

The Social Security application form (SS-5) is here:
When you open it you will see that it’s a PDF file but data can be entered into it and it can be printed or saved.  Fill it out, print it and take it to your closest Social Security office along with your new passport and name change and gender identifier change orders.  You can find the office nearest you here:
Be prepared to wait. Bring a book or something else to do to pass the time.

The form to change your driver’s license will be handed to you to fill out at the license office. It will take about a minute to complete it.  At a minimum, you will need to bring the originals of your name and gender change orders. The clerk will copy them and give you back the originals. It wouldn’t hurt to bring your doctor’s letter and new passport, too.  They will be taking your picture for your new license, so look nice when you go.    You can also change your voter registration while changing your driver’s license. Check the box on the form and all your new license data is transferred to your voter registration card. Also, waits at the driver’s license offices can vary from none to a couple of hours.  Come prepared to spend some time. You will get a temporary paper license with a black-and-white copy of your new picture when you leave the office.  Your actual new license with the color photo will take about 6 weeks to arrive in the mail. If you changed your voter registration, it will take about one week to arrive.  If you don’t know where the closest driver’s license office is, you can find it here:

Money
Now for the bad news: only one of the processes above is free. You won’t have to spend any money to get your Social Security card changed, but you will have to invest some time. I waited at the SS office for an hour and a half to get to see someone to process my paperwork.  The actual processing of my paperwork took 5 minutes.

Not including notary fees (because most banks will notarize for their customers for free) or copying or postage or gas or parking expenses, here are the costs:
Filing the petition: approx. $250 (varies by county) per petition.
Copies of orders: approx. $10 for 2 copies of both orders.
Fingerprint card: approx. $15 per card.
Passport pictures: approx. $20
Passport: $135
Driver’s license: $11
If you change your name and your gender identifier separately, your total cost should be under $750.  And you can spread that out over time instead of coming up with it in a big lump sum up front.


So, that’s it.  Hopefully this will help you in getting your documentation to match your new gender.  If you have questions about my experience, I’ll be happy to answer them.  If you have legal questions, I can’t really be of much help.  I can point you to the following website where you will find a current copy of the Texas Constitution and the Texas Statutes.
Name changes are covered in Chapter 45, Subchapter B, Sections 45.101 – 45.106 of the Family Code.

If you need to contact me, my email is JamiWard@weirdness.com. I will be happy to send you the templates for both the name and gender change petitions and court orders.


UPDATE: I have a further post on this topic here.

Good Luck!

07 December 2010

All Done - for now

This morning I shook a presiding judge's hand in court. I only shook her hand because hugging and kissing her would not have been ... judgely.  Why did I want to hug her? Because she signed the order officially changing my gender from male to female.  That was the final piece of paper I needed to complete my documentation transition. Because I did this all myself - without an attorney - it's been kind of an arduous journey to get my name and gender officially changed.  But now my driver's license, passport, Social Security card, ATM card, credit card, etc. - my paper identity - match the identity between my ears.  So, this part of my journey is over.  And the rest of the journey lies ahead.

[For those who are reading this and would like to know what to do to change your name and gender identifier - IN TEXAS - stay tuned. I'll be putting up the instructions on how I did it soon.]