Five Days That Profoundly Changed My Life (Part 1)

A gender transition is fraught with many remarkable moments — both small and big — that are self-defining, life-affirming, (perhaps) death-defying and completely confounding at times for anyone taking this journey. Recently, mine has played out a little differently than I would have expected.  BY TAWNI SOFIA

The blooming of a flower representing five days of Tawni's gender transition

Perspective affords us wisdom as we move forward, step-by-step in a form and fashion that is unique to our lives and our individual transitions. Some of those moments in time can be things such as presenting (a new gender identity) in public for the first time, going to a transgender specific event (conference, seminar, Transpride, pride etc), seeking therapy as required, starting HRT for the first time, electrolysis, voice lessons, coming out to family and friends, coming out at work, etc. This maze of stuff and the plethora of issues that can sometimes accompany them become almost a “This Is My Life” type of experience or “This is My New Normal,” yet with them the gift of personal growth as well. Hopefully we can view our own development, not only in terms of our transition, but also as a human being. The process that is a gender transition requires one to meet some of the biggest challenges any one person can meet in one’s life. I hope we all can appreciate ourselves for navigating this profound landscape.

With this in mind, I made a very personal decision to push my transition forward. Due to a variety of simultaneous things that have been playing out in my life and the world we all live in, I decided to take what for me, was one of the largest leaps forward. One of the factors was related to the recent post-election political circumstances — yes, at the time it was the incoming Trump administration. Through the Obama administration, many LBGT rights were advanced, yet most of this was accomplished by executive orders. My feeling then, only to be reconfirmed at this present time, was that most of these rights would be rolled back by the new administration. So, like many transgender folk, I decided to kick start my legal name change and gender marker change.

I attended a free seminar at the Los Angeles LBGT center on how to prepare all the legal paper work, and after that, I submitted that paperwork to my local court in Torrance California (a touch more conservative area than many others in L.A.). I was given a court date three months later, March 3rd. As this date slowly approached, I could feel the stress building — doubts and a variety of thoughts crept in. At some point, I even considered retracting my court order, only to realize that it would be a complete folly to start and restart. Perfect or imperfect, I decided I should simply stay with my resolution and march forward.

SIDENOTE: Refer to the Transgender Law Center which has published an excellent guide with checklists and sample forms for how to do this in the state of California: Even though I had help with filling out my court order, I constantly found myself referring to this guide many times.

Well, as my court date approached, one of my closest friends offered to take the day off from work and accompany me (thank you!). I scheduled my therapy session to take place the day before so I could ready my mind and heart for that day. I had intense worries (and unfounded ones) that an unpaid parking ticket might block this name change. This irrational thought made for a very restless night of sleep.



Tawni Sofia

I arrived at the court to find one of my closest friends waiting for me. She got in my car and offered calming thoughts and words to this slightly stressed out nervous gal. Outside the courtroom door, I saw my “guy name” on the docket (last on the list of course) and we waited for what seemed to be an eternity for the staff to open it up. Somehow, once I got into the courtroom, I calmed down and began to feel everything was going to be just fine.

Finally, the judge started business for the day and thankfully chose to do the name changes first. Two people were before me (non-TG name changes) and the judge was very inquisitive as to the nature of their change and the relevant details. I thought to myself, “Wow would I have to defend my gender change in front of this judge in my good old home town?” Finally, my guy name (now old name) was called. I took to the defendant’s table and the judge simply stated: “I have examined all your paperwork and background and everything is in proper order. But, just to be certain is this how you spell your new name (as he read it off correctly)?” Full of glee and other energies, I replied “Yes, your honor.” Bang went the gavel, and the judge barked authoritatively “Please see the clerk.” As I wandered somewhat awkwardly off to the clerk, my good friend and another person who changed their name started to loudly clap for me. Later, I ordered up several copies of my court order (I knew I would need them). My friend and I celebrated at a very pleasant crepe restaurant near the beach and then proceeded to walk off the food and wine on the nearby beach sidewalk. It was a simply beautiful day out and a wonderful step forward. Both elation and exhaustion overcame me.

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Stay tuned for Part 2 next week!