(Crossposted, group-locked, to ftm. Some specific details omitted for privacy reasons.)
I've been using my new name, Pax, socially since last August. I had originally planned to file for a name and gender change immediately after I began hormone therapy in early January. Then I found that if I waited until July, I would not have to publish the notice in a newspaper. I was more interested in saving money than in privacy concerns, for myself. I would still need to have a court hearing in any case; the recent change to the state law removed that requirement for birth certificates only, and I was not born in California.
I decided to file earlier for personal and practical reasons. I was getting increasingly irritated having to use my birth name for official purposes, having to pay with a credit card that showed that name, and having to show it on my drivers license. I wanted to be Pax full-time. Then boyziggy and I planned a tenth-wedding-anniversary trip for September, so I was motivated to see if I could get all my paperwork changed over before booking the flight, to avoid hassles with the TSA.
I e-mailed my doctor in early April asking her to provide a declaration that I had undergone "appropriate clinical treatment" for the transition. She knew this request was coming and had been relatively quick to answer my e-mails in the past, so I began to get worried when I didn't hear from her for a week. Then she finally replied and agreed to provide the information and asked me which specific forms were needed, as different agencies (DMV, passport office, etc.) required different forms. I thanked her and sent the CA court forms I had downloaded and filled out with the help of the Transgender Law Center web site; they recommend getting a court order as the first step in the process. She replied that she would have to get an MD to review my chart in order to provide the declaration, and this would take about a week but she would try to get it to me sooner if possible.
I thanked her again, then waited two weeks with no word. I e-mailed a polite inquiry, and got a reply from an assistant in the office saying that the document was attached (it wasn't) and would be sent in snail-mail as well. I replied that I didn't get the attachment; the assistant apologized and re-sent it. It was just the declaration without the form I sent. I waited for the snail-mail to see if the doctor included the form there; he didn't. Reviewing the form and instructions, I decided it was sufficient to write "Please see attached" and did so.
I reviewed and printed the rest of the forms and headed to the courthouse on Monday. The clerk at one of the windows for new civil filings said that I was missing two forms. I thought I had followed the directions thoroughly, but didn't realize that I needed to include the forms for the Order to Show Cause - including the name of the newspaper chosen for publication - and for the judgement itself, at this stage. I went and got the forms, paying fifty cents each, and briefly considered going home to fill them out on the computer as I had the other forms, instead of hand-writing them under mild duress. I decided that I was already there so I might as well just fill them out, writing as neatly as possible.
But I wasn't sure of the name of the paper I wanted to publish in; I knew I wanted to use the same LGBT paper where I had listed my business name a few years prior. I looked it up on my phone, and put down what I thought was the correct newspaper. Then I paid another seven dollars to have two copies made of all of the documents (as the first clerk had instructed me to do), and returned to the window for civil filings.
I was glad I went in the middle of the afternoon as there was no one in line, but it took awhile to get the attention of the clerks, who looked busy. Eventually one noticed me and beckoned me over. I handed over my paperwork. She said it appeared to be in order except that I had my middle initial listed in some places and my full middle name in others. She asked if I had my full middle name on my ID. I said it wasn't on my driver's license but I believed it was on my Social Security card; I just didn't carry that around with me. I said that I would bring that and any other supporting documentation necessary to the hearing. She asked if I'd gotten help filling out the forms as that was freely available elsewhere in the courthouse. I said that I hadn't. She rolled her eyes a bit, but finished processing and filing the forms, and gave me the copies for myself and for filing with the newspaper.
I put the $480 (!!) fee on my credit card. Though I have no income of my own at the moment, boyziggy's income is too high for us to qualify for a fee waiver. As the clerk who gave me the forms commiserated, the middle class always gets screwed over.
I went home and immediately called the newspaper that I'd planned to publish in, leaving them a detailed message. I grew impatient waiting for them to call me back, because I wanted to walk the paperwork over to the newspaper office the next day, and had other activities planned for that afternoon that I needed to schedule around. When I still hadn't heard from them the next morning, I located and left a message at another number, then became puzzled as neither the address listed on their web site nor on their Yelp entry seemed to match my memory of where I went to file my business name listing. I located that listing, and realized with horror that that was a different newspaper. I also found that the newspaper who had yet to return my phone calls was a bi-weekly, so wouldn't be able to fulfill the four-consecutive-weeks filing requirement anyway.
I pause here to acknowledge how awesome it is to live in a city that has more than one regularly-published LGBT-focused newspaper.
I called up the other newspaper, who answered right away but after I explained what I needed, they transferred me to a person whose voicemail picked up. I left another detailed message, asking if I could publish my notice in that paper. They phoned me back in few hours assuring me that I could. In the meantime the first newspaper had finally called back and confirmed that they couldn't do it since it was a bi-weekly. I thanked the second paper and told them I needed to straighten out the paperwork at the courthouse first, since I'd put the name of the other paper down. They probably wouldn't be able to get the legal notice in time for this week anyway, but that was fine as my court hearing was not for another two months.
I went back to the courthouse today. After waiting several minutes for one of the clerks to notice me while her customer who she was obviously finished helping was yammering on about some random crap, I went to the window and explained the mixup with the newspaper. She said I had to fill out a new form and then file an amended claim at another window. I did so (paying another dollar for the form and copying). Fortunately the clerk at the "subsequent filings" window was very friendly and understanding, and didn't lecture me or roll her eyes at me for my screw-up, though she needed help from another clerk to file the amendment correctly. I thanked her and sincerely wished her a good afternoon.
Upon returning home I immediately scanned my Order to Show Cause and e-mailed it to the address the (correct) newspaper provided, then phoned to give my credit card number. They charged a (quite reasonable, I think) $59 for the four-week run. They said they would file the proof of publication with the court and e-mail a copy to me.
And now, the waiting...
* As I've said very frequently, I consider male and female to be sexes, not genders. But I've put my nonbinary gender activism on the back burner in the interest of getting my correct physical sex legally and socially recognized.