On Friday, January 31st, 2014, when I came into your courtroom to petition my name change, I was precisely 21 years, 3 months, and 22 days old.
I had been calling myself by my actual name for 3 months and 28 days.
If you are not particularly inclined towards the mathematical, I spent the first 20 years, 11 months, and 25 days of my life as somebody I was not, as an impostor, as the silhouette of a person who ever wished for light, as Benjamin.
The mere mention of that name now causes me to shudder.
Can you imagine, Judge, what it is like to know that your core has already rotted from birth? to believe that the deep dissatisfaction dug into your bones is normal to living? to laugh at jokes you pretend to understand? to hate, to wish, to revise?
I put on my pearls that morning in the mirror and prayed for afternoon to come.
My mom picked me up from my apartment in Evanston and we drove down to the Daley Plaza, where you work.
We arrived to a tidal wave of paperwork and questions, forded only by the friendly faces of the Transformative Justice Law Project.
Explain to me, Judge, in your infinite, bureaucratic wisdom, the Illinois requirements for a legal name change—
the five hundred and eleven dollars that most Chicagoans don't have,
the eight weeks of waiting beneath the aforementioned shuddering,
the necessity to publish the change in a printed publication, as if it were the 1800s once more—
or why, Your Honor, you felt it imperative to change the hour at which the TJLP always approaches your esteemed bench without notifying their friendly faces, other than to imposition the twelve transfolk waiting at your door, some of whom could not afford the extra hours off work, even to ask that their government call them by their actual name?
I spent the afternoon in a Corner Bakery with my mom, aptly reading Transgender History by Susan Stryker and praying for evening to come.
Things I Found Unnecessary From The Session That Followed:
- your God complex
- your loud comment upon entering the court that we were there to merely "get our money" and not to, say, end decades of shame and facades of belonging
- your general comportment
- your uncomfortable remarks upon learning of my schooling that you had not been accepted to Northwestern yourself
I did not realize the undue stress you caused me, Dear Judge, until I left your mahogany throne and stood there in the hallway outside in my mother's arms, holding back tears that I had not expected, but that were surely encouraged by your honorable behavior.
On Friday I return to court. I will finalize your preposterous proceedings and legally be Bea. (The processes, of course, for updating my driver's license, passport, social security card, credit card, and all other accounts under my false name will follow under their own respective procedures, similarly replete with bureaucratic nonsense.)
I hope I do not have the misfortune of seeing you once more. Regardless of the judge I am assigned on 10AM of Friday, April 4th, I have an army of supporters praying and/or sending good vibes behind me.
if you close your eyes
you will almost hear the brass hallelujahs
of their trumpeting wishes
as I march into the Plaza
in three days' time
It is a most beautiful music.
but without an ounce of affection,
(for that is my name)