February 9, 2008

New License, New Bank Card, Amex?

Posted in Identification, transgender at 5:49 pm by Michael

Couple of identity milestones today. I finally got to the DOL to get my new license with the “F” on it. It was amazingly uneventful. After waiting in the line for 20 minutes, my number was called, I went up to the counter, showed the woman my letter, gave her my old license and $10 (the fee), and 10 minutes later, I had my temporary license with an “F” on it. The new permanent one should come within a week or so.

I also had to get a new bank card for two reasons. First, my card got turned off Wednesday because the bank found a card reader on one of its ATMs, and I had used that ATM during the suspect time. Blammo – no ATM card. We had 12 hours notice.

Secondly, I hadn’t changed my name with the bank yet.

I just went into the branch, gave them the old bank card, my new license and my old license, and in ten minutes, I walked out with a new ATM card with my name on it, and whaddaya know, it worked!

Good times.

However, Amex has been super painful. In December, I asked them about the name change procedure, and they said I needed to change it first with the SSA. They sent me the name change form, and at that time told me that after I changed it with the SSA, then to send in the form, and about a week later I’d get a card. No problemo.

January 2nd, after changing my name with the SSA, I filled out the form and sent it in. Note, all the form asked for was my card number, mailing address, old name, new name, and signatures (old and new – which are the same for me – I scribble anyway!).

Three weeks later, I get a lovely letter from Amex saying that my name change request has been rejected due to lack of documentation, such as a copy of my new SSA card or license with my new name on it.

I called customer service last Friday and asked what they actually needed, as this documentation requirement isn’t on any of the forms, their website, or what any of their agents tell you when you call to talk to them about this.

The person I talked to said that they require documents when their “database” (more on this later) of SS numbers and names doesn’t yet have your new name. As a result, they needed the documentation. However, I could just fax it in, and I got the number to use.

I sent in all the required stuff last Friday (license, legal name change order, their letter, and a cover letter).

I was expecting to come home this week from my business trip to find a new Amex card in the mail.

Denied!

I called today to find out what the problem was this time. I called the “Name Change Department” at Amex, and asked what the deal was. The rep said, and this was mind boggling (or Bottling):

“We changed your name on the account, but we didn’t send you out a new card because you need to ask for that separately.”

“Wha? Why on earth would I ask you to change my name if I didn’t want a card issued with that new name?”

It didn’t help with my attitude with this dude that he kept “sir’ing” me even after I corrected him four times. I just said “It’s not Sir or Ma’am just Megan, ok?”

He said that he would send out a new card via overnight so I’d get it by Tuesday. I was still kind of pissed because this was literally the fourth time I’ve talked to them about this, and gotten four different answers. I asked to talk to a supervisor.

I told the supervisor the whole story, including the dumbass “We didn’t give you a new card because you didn’t ask for one” line, and he was more apologetic, and at least recognized that their process is fundamentally broken.

He told me something very interesting about the whole “database” issue though. It turns out that its just a credit inquiry. Since I’ve not yet applied for credit with my new name under my SS number, no one has it. This was the root cause of all the crazy doc requests.

I said to him: “Why would that method ever work? Wouldn’t anyone changing their name have this exact problem – that when they ask to change their name, that they probably have no other credit yet under that new name?”

“Yeah, that doesn’t make sense does it?”

I haven’t gotten this frustrated with a company in a while. At this point, I felt like he needed to understand why I was so insistent about this.

“Look, I’m a transgendered person. I don’t look like Michael anymore, I look like Megan. Every time I pull out my Amex card, I out myself. I’m not really happy about that. Can you please help me, and make sure that this gets taken care of this time?”

Anh and I are going on vacation later this week (Friday), and we like to use our Amex card to pay for stuff. Its a win-win for us and Amex. I’m a big fan of float.

“Later this week, we are going out of the country. I’m really looking forward to using my new Amex card to pay for everything, right?”

“Yes Ms. Wallent, I want to make that possible too.”

We’ll see…

February 8, 2008

Gay Marriage

Posted in transgender at 11:06 pm by Michael

Over the past few weeks this has started to be in the news again.

I’ve really tried so far to avoid “controversial” issues in this space, other than the clear fact that I’m a transgendered person who lives a very “out” life. I thought that would be enough, but I need to speak up.

Let me start with a few premises:
– The United States Constitution clearly dictates that a clear separation of church and state is not just a good idea, not just the law, it’s a constitutional issue. It’s bedrock. What this means to me is that we don’t/shouldn’t have laws based on what any religion might find proper or not.
– The essence of marriage is that two people have decided to be together, and be dependent on each other. This is pro-society. Society benefits when groups of people can depend on each other, support each other, and be there for each other through thick and thin.
– Being gay or being transgendered is not a choice. Its biology.

I completely support the freedom of religion (or from religion). What this means to me at least is that people should be free to chose to practice any religion that they see fit. What this also means is that people should be as free as possible from rules imposed based not on core moral issues, but based on religious ideology.

For example, there are some religions that call for the death of a woman who commits adultery or pre-marital sex (but those same religions don’t call for the death of men who do the same things). I do not think that this should be allowed. Clearly, the Constitution guarantees the freedom of “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”.

From my POV, personal behavior that doesn’t impact others isn’t in the domain of issues that should be regulated. I’m a libertarian.

For example, does anyone care if I have an F or an M on my license? Who is impacted by this? Anyone but me? I don’t think so.

Any two people can live together. In fact, any number of people can live together.

If those people then say to each other “I am with you forever”, is that then all of a sudden wrong?

Why?

Who does that effect, except for the people in that relationship?

Note that Anh and I are still legally married. Is this a gay marriage? Is this a “regular” marriage? Who cares?

I love Anh. She loves me. We’ve got Samwich, and we love him dearly. He’s an amazing kid. Anh is an awesome stepmom to Peri and John. They are awesome.

My favorite bumper sticker recently says the following:

“If you aren’t in favor of Gay Marriage, don’t have one!”

The Name Thing

Posted in Identification, transgender at 11:05 pm by Michael

Ok, it’s starting to bug me. I haven’t accidentally referred to myself as Michael in about a month. I love my new name. It used to feel a little odd – but now when I answer the phone or sign me email, it comes out naturally. When somebody calls ‘Megan?”, I immediately turn around – its my name.

When people call me Mike or Michael, and aren’t making a mistake, but they just aren’t there yet, it’s beginning to bug me. I am starting to get a little more tenacious about correcting people when they call me “He” or “Sir”.

I don’t want to be crazy about it, or make people feel uncomfortable, but Hi, I’m Megan, and I really prefer to be referred to as “She” or “Her” or Megan – since that’s my name.

I was talking to one of my friends about this, and she sent me the following quote from Dr. Seuss… I loved it, and it really touched me as I think about how people move from thinking about how I transition from Michael to Megan:

They’re afraid to stay THERE.  They’re afraid to stay HERE.
They think THERE is too Far.  They think HERE is too NEAR.

Just as an aside, I am getting “Sir’ed” far less often, but interestingly, I don’t get “Ma’am’ed”. I have talked to a few women about this and they say “Yeah, that’s true – I don’t really get Ma’am’ed either!” It would be fascinating to do a study in a hotel lobby to see what the men/sir to women/ma’am ratio is. I’m willing to bet that the women/ma’am ratio is far lower.

Shoes

Posted in transgender at 11:03 pm by Michael

I was in the security line tonight at Logan tonight and this woman behind me said:

“Excuse me, I noticed your shoes, and I love them! What is the brand? I’m going to Italy next month, and I’m looking for some nice walking shoes and those look comfy and really cool!”.

I was wearing these green Privo shoes by Clark’s that are super comfy, and I do love them.

As we were talking about her trip (we had been in August, and I was telling her about the super cool butcher in Panzano in Chianti) I was wondering if it would go “odd”, and if she was going to “read” me. Lets face it, my voice is pretty masculine.

Absolutely not! We kept talking as we went through security and we parted ways, I told her to have a great trip, and she said the same. Zero Weirdness. It was a nice moment.

January 29, 2008

Two Months Since FFS

Posted in transgender at 9:20 pm by Michael

November 19, 2007 November 30, 2007 December 26, 2007 January 29, 2008

Ten Days Before

One Day After

One Month After

Two Months After

I’m back to my pre-FFS activity and energy level. I can exercise and run (6 miles pushing Samwich last Saturday!) and eat anything (even crunchy!).

I still can’t wear glasses or do electrolysis – one more month for that.

The bottom of my nose (underneath, near the nostrils) is still numb, as are the top of my ears (right worse than left). The top of my noggin – still numb, but getting better (its starting to itch -a good sign!).

It’s all good.

January 28, 2008

The DOL Says I Can Have an “F’ on My License!

Posted in Identification, transgender at 9:35 pm by Michael

Washington State DOL 

I got my letter from the DOL on Saturday (January 26), 22 days after I sent in the paperwork.

Here’s what it said:

Dear Ms. Wallent:

I have received your request to change the gender shown on your Washington driver license and the supporting documentation verifying your transition.

Your request to change the gender on your driver license to female has been approved. Our decision was based on your letter of intent, letter from your physician and surgeon, and copy of your current driver license. We strongly encourage you to coordinate with the Department of Health and the Social Security Administration to update their information as well to ensure your records are consistent.

Please present this letter to the office supervisor in the driver licensing office of your choice to receive your new license. You will be required to pay all necessary fees when applying for your new driver license. To locate a driver licensing office, visit our website at www.dol.wa.gov/officelocations.html or check the government pages in your local phone book.

Should you or the office supervisor have any questions, please contact my Executive Assistant, [Name] at [Phone Number].

Sincerely,
[signed]
Mykel D. Gable
Assistant Director
Driver Services Division

MG:mp

Ok, I’m glad that they did this, and that there is a procedure that can be followed. There are a couple of things on this that I think are interesting.

1. There is no published procedure from the DOL to do this. You need to call the right people to figure this out. While they give you a web address to find locations for offices, a web location for the current process would be very helpful.
2. It is positive that they list the factors that they used to approve my request. That’s very helpful.
3. The encouragement to “coordinate” with the Department of Health and the SSA – again interesting. From a Department of Health perspective, this is a non-event. I wasn’t born here – my birth certificate is from Massachusetts. From a SSA pov, I’m still male (and from a State Department perspective too – my passport has an “M” on it).
4. The “Old-School” MG:mp thing at the bottom, means that Mykel D. Gable’s admin typed this up

I feel fortunate to live in a state where it’s this easy, and I realize that many other trans-people don’t have any where near as easy as a path. So, for that, I’m thankful.

January 23, 2008

Transitioning at Work, The Continuing Saga (Or Non-Saga)

Posted in coworkers, transgender, work at 9:39 pm by Michael

Today at work I was at an all-day training with the managers from all across my manager’s organization. There were about seventy-five people in the room.

This is a relatively common occurrence at work (training, lots of people), and I’ve done this a number of times before.

I was fascinated to see if this was going to be “different” for me, or not.

Totally, 100%, not.

No difference about how I was treated, no “extra” looks, same level of engagement, no issues.

During one of the breaks, I was having a discussion with one of the HR folks who I work with and she said:

“You know, we [HR] all thought this [me transitioning] might be more of an issue. Yes, other people have done this, but you are the first GM to do it. You know what though, it’s just not an issue.”

That’s been my experience too, and I wasn’t sure if maybe I just wasn’t seeing it, but I’m coming around to the fact that its now just back to normal….

Side Notes: I wore heels (well, just two inches) for the first time at work today as well. I had just worn flats of various types before. I like ’em!

Why “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle is like Having FFS

Posted in transgender at 9:08 pm by Michael

 the Very Hungry Caterpillar

Tonight I read “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle to Samwich as his bedtime story.

Story summary:
– Sunday. Egg is on a leaf.
– Monday, caterpillar is born. He’s very hungry.
– Tuesday through Friday: He eats an ever-escalating shitload of stuff, gets a tummy ache.
– Friday Night: Builds a cocoon
– Two Weeks Later: Butterfly comes out

Now, I’m not saying I’m a butterfly. More like a moth. However, I was encouraged to eat everything in site before FFS, given that I would loose a ton of weight from being on the crazy no-food diet for an extended period of time. In addition, the name of the place you go to recover after FFS (with Dr. O) is “The Cocoon House”

And, it takes about two weeks to recover there before you can go home….

Coincidence? I think not! 🙂

What Was Up with Your Crazy Outfit on the Last Video?

Posted in transgender at 8:59 pm by Michael

Ok, lots of people asked about what I was wearing, and gave feedback on how I kind of looked like crap (my words, not theirs) in the video on Sunday night.

Here’s the deal… those were my running clothes. I hadn’t taken a shower (hair issues), and I hadn’t changed. I was also wearing my running watch.

I did mention that I was somewhat disappointed that I didn’t *pass* more often. I wasn’t referring to *that video*.

This whole “Passing” thing is not only hard, but it’s a series of pretty significant tradeoffs. For me, obviously, I’m certainly not trying to hide my past, and in fact, I’m trying to embrace it.

As a result, I’ve intentionally decided that there are at least three things from my past that I’m not willing to change on this adventure. Call me crazy, FFS is okey dokey, but the following things, not okey dokey.

Wedding Ring: My wedding ring is very special to me. As I’ve said, Anh is my partner till we are dust. I very fondly remember our wedding day. It was an amazing day, and a great party. My wedding ring is made out of titanium, symbolizing both strength and persistence, but also because I’m a pilot, and planes are made of titanium. After my first surgery, Anh got me an additional diamond band that I wear outside/stacked with my wedding ring. I love it. A lot. Getting a new wedding ring would seem not right. I love that day, love the ring, and most of all love Anh.

Watch: I mostly wear a watch that my parents gave me as a college graduation present. Its not huge, but its not feminine either. I got another watch from Anh as a wedding present that’s bigger and more masculine that I haven’t really worn yet, but I do plan to wear it when I fly (it’s a pilot watch). When I run or hike, I wear an inexpensive digital plastic watch. I don’t plan on getting a new watch….

Voice: Some TG folks either do voice training or even some attempt surgery on their vocal cords to change the pitch of their voices. I *could* do this, but I choose not to. I like my voice… I’m not interested in changing it.

Fundamentally, I realize that I’m in neither camp right now… I’m not in a checky box… I’m in the whitespace between them.

Ok.

It is what it is…

January 21, 2008

How Did You Know?

Posted in transgender, Video at 12:17 am by Michael

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