So it’s done. I’m legally no longer the person I used to be. I have two awesome girl names, no boy names and a piece of paper with four signatures on it. It feels good – but I can’t help feeling guilt, too. Anyway, here’s the process and what to do if you’re trans and want to change your name by Deed Poll.
First of all, think this through – a lot. Changing your name – especially from a male one to a female one (or vice versa) is a big deal. You need to choose your names carefully, you need to realise there’s gonna be a whole lot of paperwork and phone calls involved – and you need to realise that your parents probably spent months choosing your name before you were born, so they might be pretty pissed off with you.
I thought it through and it’s a no-brainer. I want to start my (physical) transition as soon as possible and I want a female name.
My first two names were Andrew Neil. It feels weird writing that in the past tense after using those names all my life – from the register at infant school to the last time I voted in an election a few weeks back. Those were the names on the polling card.
I’ve never really been a big fan of Andrew as a name. I remember being at infant school and thinking that I didn’t like the “sound” of it, compared to other kids’ names. Neil I’ve never really used, apart from when filling in forms. I called myself Andy for many years.
I have no idea how my parents came up with those names – maybe I should ask them. But I felt I owed it to them not to change the names completely – even though they’ve not expressed any objections.
So Andrew became Andie. The consultant at the gender clinic advised on choosing a different feminine name – she said it would be easier for people to get their head round and that they may continue using he/his pronouns if I used Andie and they’d been used to Andy beforehand.
But I told her I wasn’t that fussed about pronouns, and I’d just correct people as and when needed. I’m more bothered about people calling me “sir” or “chap”. I hate that now. But pronouns don’t bother me too much.
Besides, I love the name Andie. I think it’s beautiful and feminine, especially when you see it written down.
And with my second name I just swapped one letter, so Neil became Nell. Again, I think this a really cute name. It always reminds me of the Jodie Foster film of the same name.
My surname I kept the same. I thought long and hard about the new names, and I’m pretty happy that I have two new feminine names that aren’t a million miles away to the ones I was christened with back in 1973.
So, names chosen, the next thing you need to do is sort out the paperwork. There are dozens of websites out there which do this for you. A friend of mine used one of these when she got divorced – she wanted her maiden name back. It cost her about £30.
But don’t get ripped off. There are some websites that will do the paperwork for you for free. The one I chose is called Free UK Deed Poll. I know of two other trans girls who’ve used it themselves.
And it couldn’t be more simple. All you do is enter your old name and your new name, plus your name and address. You can choose whether or not to include a title. I chose not to because I’m not sure which one I’ll use going forward. At the minute, I use Mx, but I’m thinking of changing that to Ms.
You also need to add the date and the names and addresses of two witnesses. Then you click on the “Generate Deed Poll” button and you’re presented with a PDF which you can print out to be signed.
As well as choosing your names carefully, I think it’s important to choose your witnesses just as carefully. This is a massive deal – I’ve never had children before, but I guess this is similar to choosing Godparents.
So I picked two of my bessies, both of whom I’ve mentioned on the blog before. Witness 1 was to be Natalia – she was the first person I ever told I was trans – back in the “I think I’m a transvestite” (hate that word!) days over 20 years ago.
I don’t see Nat as often as I should – she’s married with a little boy now so has to juggle all that with her career – but she’ll always be special to me. She’s the kind of friend you can tell ANYTHING. She’s glamorous, smart and really funny.
Witness 2 had to be Annie. I’ve not known her for anything like as long, but the impact she’s had on my life has been immense in terms of her support and in terms of giving me so much more confidence and happiness lately. She’s super-openminded and sees people for people – not just as male or female. I introduced her to the word pansexual.
So after a few weeks of trying to arrange a date and time we could all meet up, we settled on 9pm on Thursday – after Annie and I had finished at Slimming World. Incidentally, Annie won Slimmer of the Week with a 3.5lb loss despite all the excesses of the hen night, whereas I had a 1.5lb gain after six consecutive losses. She was so smug, I wanted to slap her!
I wanted the grand signing to be an intimate affair with just the three of us, but then Annie’s mum, stepdad-to-be and neighbour turned up, so there were six of us sitting round the table instead of three. It was all very loud and shouty – not how I’d envisioned it at all.
Anyway, while everyone else celebrated their weight loss by drinking their body weight in wine, I chatted with Natalia about my signature. I wasn’t sure whether to keep it as A N Surname or go for Andie Surname or Andie N Surname.
She suggested Andie Surname because “it will make you smile every time you sign it” and I agreed. Plus, adding the N just made it too long.
So signature decided upon, it was time to do the deed. Everyone was still being loud, and I half wished we could postpone it until another time. But the form was printed out on parchment paper – and it was dated – so we just had to get on with it and rise above the din.
I signed with my new signature for the first time – and then my old one for the last time. It felt weird! I was excited, but the ambience I’d hoped for wasn’t there, and I still felt guilty about tweaking the names my mum and dad had given me as a baby.
Then it was Nat’s turn. The black fountain pen ink moved effortlessly across the page as she signed her name in a flash. Her signature’s lot shorter than mine!
And then it was Annie’s – and I think I joked with her to use her best handwriting and that, once she’d finished her signature and lifted the pen from the page, that would be it – no going back – my name from that moment on would be Andie Nell.
Eveidently, I was a lot more nervous about all this than she was, and she signed her name as fast as Nat had. And then that was it. Mixed emotions – I was pleased I’d done it, I was guilty about the parents and I wished the affair had been a little more intimate.
There’s no need to lodge the completed Deed Poll with a court, though you can if you wish. You just need to send a copy to all the banks and other organisations when you ask them to change your name.
I popped it in a hard-backed envelope and then into my bag, and then continued to sup my pint of beer before we all headed home, laughing and joking with some great people.
There were a couple of moments when it really hit home. Once when I nipped to the ladies’ and looked in the mirror and just repeated “I’m Andie!” in my head like something from a children’s film – and then the same two words when walking back to Annie’s.
We kissed goodbye and, after that, the night ended on a bit of a downer, a downer which would continue for the next few days (edit: everything’s great again now!). I may or may not write about that at another time.
But let’s look on the bright side. I’m Andie! Thanks for the memories, Andrew, old chap. Now it’s time to make some even better ones.