Squiggles finds his name
What’s in a name? If we’re talking about the ones we give ourselves – or the ones given to us by our parents – a lot. Harriet Doyle continues the story of life with her adopted trans child.
Most of the time our own names carry a lot of pride, heritage and fond memories. But sometimes they are, as the Barenaked Ladies once conveyed in the song What a Good Boy, 'weighted hair shirts which hang around our necks, heavy with hatred and personal trauma.'
Angelica, our boisterous and often misunderstood daughter, had come out to us as transgender shortly after coming to live with us. Slowly, inexorably, she had thrown off any semblance of a female identity, for a while living as gender-neutral Squiggles, and later choosing a male name for herself around home and asking to go to school as a boy. After weeks of asking ourselves if it was just a phase; weeks of convincing ourselves Angelica would just be a Tom-Boy; my wife and I agreed.
In my last article, I talked about Adam’s first visit to the Tavistock Gender Identity clinic for children in London. Funded by the NHS, the clinic is a life-line to gender-variant children and their families, and has proved just that to us. After our first visit, it was suggested we officially changed Adam’s name prior to him entering high school a few months later.
So we did.
Changing a name for a child is just the same as it is for an adult, just with parental consent. Opting for a Statutory Declaration rather than a more expensive Deed Poll, we prepared the documents with Adam, and made an appointment at a local solicitors.
The solicitor eyed my wife and I with suspicion. He eyed Adam even more. He’d agreed in principal on the telephone to witness the Statutory Declaration and we’d been very open that it was for a child. But when he saw our confident son standing before him, grinning from ear to ear, he did a double take.
“I don’t understand this,” he said, “why is he changing his name?” The boy standing in front of him didn’t seem to match the female official names on the paperwork. “He’s been diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder,” I said, “he’s transgender. He was born physically female but feels he is a boy. Changing his legal name like this is part of the process he has to go through, and it has been recommended by specialists in London.”
He paused. He voiced his concern about the legality of what we were doing. Yet having read the paperwork over a few times, and with a letter from the Tavistock clinic in hand, he agreed to be official witness.
He looked Adam in the eye, and recited the official statutory declaration. Adam repeated it back to him to make his name-change official.
Angelica was gone. Adam took her place.
After signing the paperwork we headed back home to give Adam a proper celebration, naturally laced with ice cream and enough sugar to kill a small furry animal.
(Transgender or not, Adam enjoys junk food just as much as any kid I know.)
Name change official, there was just one thing left: high school.
Other installments of this story appear in issues 2, 3, 4, 5, 7 & 8.
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This article was printed in We Are Family magazine issue 6, Summer 2014. Details and legalities may have changed - please do not rely on this information solely when making decisions - do your own research, make your own checks and get legal or health advice as appropriate.