Navigating a name change as a nonbinary person

Currently, I live in Indiana. I got my name changed in 2022. So, what was the process like?

First, I had to decide on a name. I started seriously thinking about this in 2020, came up with the name Merlin after 6 months of thinking. It was not an easy decision for me, but I liked it and I relate somewhat to the wizard’s story. Until early 2022, I was too broke for a name change and for the most part went by my deadname at work, while using Merlin in other contexts. Once I got the money, I started the process of a name change.

Now in Indiana, you have to go to the courts to do this, you cannot do it as an update like you can with mailing addresses for the state. So, first thing I had to do was pay about $175 to file some documents. I self-filed because I know how to read legal documents and the online instructions. Indiana requires you to have a local newspaper publish the fact that you are changing your name once a week for 3 weeks. That costed about $425. Also felt really violating, but since almost no one knew me here, I felt safe to do that. I filed some additional paperwork that stated to seal my records from the public because I am nonbinary and gender non-conforming and faced increased risk from harassment or discrimination as a result. After that, I had originally 2 court dates: One for the end of May to see if my records could be sealed, and one for the end of August to get the name change. I was given a choice of virtual or in-person, but I was encouraged to go in-person and also I had no idea how court over Zoom would would.

I come to the court formally dressed. To my surprise, the only people as formally dressed as myself are the lawyers. Everyone was much more casual, with some wearing clothing you think you would only see at the beach. Most of the people there were fine, but there was a Black dude I was keeping an eye on because he seemed unusually angry. He was upset because court is stressful. So, the judge goes by one and calls people up and people talk about their various cases. The judge initially calls me 3rd to last. Before the judge reads out my case, she notices that I had a privacy concern in my case. She asks if I wanted to go now or last. I stated last. So, another person goes and does their case. The Black dude I mentioned prior is now the only person there besides me and another online person who is here for his case. He was aggravated that he went last and he asked why. Turns out, the case was using paperwork outdated by at least 2 years and so the judge was waiting for his nonexistent lawyer to show up. Judge had to tell both parties to update a metric ton of info because it was all outdated. At the end of that case, judge sets them a date out and they leave. Now it is my turn to go.

Besides not wanting to be around strangers for my case, the day was also unusual in that they were recording all cases except mines so that some law student could analyze how people handled self-filing. After court shuts down and recording stops, I come to the front, extremely nervous. Judge reads my case. I am ready for my gender to be tased. Surprisingly, she only asked if I identified as gender non-conforming and nonbinary like my paperwork stated. No interrogation, which is nice. She makes sure that my paperwork is updated and goes ahead and does the name change at this court date. She told me that she was going to cancel the August one since we did both at once. That was pleasant. Cop makes a comment that he was glad I went last because of the Black guy. Part of me wonders if he was sincere, part of me wonders if he was engaging in racism.

After that, I waited until late June to actually get my SSN (Social Security Number) and driver’s license changed. I couldn’t go earlier because I was working a job that conflicted with the times of the office and I was broke. I got my name changed at both and surprisingly was treated with respect. No transphobia.

I started my job with who I work for currently while doing this. Because my driver’s license was ready, but not my SSN, they could not change my name because they needed both to be under the new name. I went to orientation and then was told that I was skipping. I stated that I told them that I emailed them multiple times that I go by Merlin Star. They asked if I could just go by my deadname for 3 days to make their lives easier. I refused and was furious. At this point, I had to go by 2 different names at my job. I had to correct coworkers of my name because IT is a headache and had me under my deadname and I couldn’t fix that on my end. So, for the last few months, I had to fight IT while being deadnamed and misgendered, but I finally got everything sorted so that I come up as Merlin Star. Finalized that late October! Now I go by just Merlin at work.

Despite having everything legally changed, I still now deal with the 2 name scenario. Stuff I had under my deadname still sometimes shows up as my deadname, while everything important and stuff I did after June shows up as Merlin. I get confused as which name I should sign as. I get confused by which name to go by. I jumble up my own pronouns, stuff I wasn’t having issues with before the legal name change. I never truly felt the weight of how often your name comes up until after the name change. I am aiming by the end of 2023 to have my name changed everywhere to Merlin except my birth certificate. The only reason for that is because I don’t want to have to fight 2 courts over something that I rarely use.

Anyways, that is the story of my legal name change.

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