My resume of court appearances is longer than I first recalled. As a pastor, I once went to court to assist a member. I even raised my hand and addressed the judge because an important item on my member’s behalf was being neglected. Before that, I had been summoned for jury duty—it must have been my menacing look that got me excused—and before that I had been called as a witness for the prosecution—ooh, this sounds juicy!—because I had been the cashier to a person passing a bad check.
Yesterday was the first time I had my own court date. I left my checkbook at home.
By the time my 9:30 appointment arrived, the courthouse hallway was filled with folks awaiting the same court time, with the same business: a change of name. The clerk announced, “I will call the first eight to go into court.” She called five, stopped, and departed. “What happened to eight?” I whispered to Julie. In a moment, the woman returned. “Gregory Eilers?” We quickly arose and followed her. No more were summoned.
Entering the courtroom, it was clear why eight were not called. The seats were filled with petitioners, family members, and one lawyer. The judge had not yet entered. As Julie and I took our seats, I said loud enough for all to hear, “If I ever do this again, take me out to the woods and leave me.”
Always the court jester.
Everyone giggled and the group was off and running with ongoing, fun chatter.
At 9:47, we were told to rise, the judge entered, and we were underway. The first petitioner was a young lady wishing to have her last name changed to that of the folks who have been her guardians for several years. Her lawyer asked her a series of questions. The judge covered the essentials. Within ten minutes, the judge announced, “Your petition for name change is granted,” and a happy moment was underway.
One thing you do not want to do is lack any required paperwork. The next woman had to be given a continuance because she did not have her birth certificate. Her new court date? August 1. Ouch.
I was not the only trans person in the group. Soon, Mac was departing with his newly legalized name and a big hug from me.
The next woman wanted her name changed so that, doing her student teaching next year, her students would know her by the name she will take when she and her fiancé marry later in the school year. I found that very thoughtful of her, to make things easier on the children.
Just as I was ready to be called, another group was ushered into the courtroom. Sure enough, a woman from among them was called ahead of me. She had a lawyer. A process similar to the first young lady ensued. But, rats, she also was lacking her birth certificate and will be found returning to court on August 1.
Finally, I was called. I am glad to report that I was neither nervous nor wary. Over the course of the morning, I grew strong in the sense that this was the right thing, at the right time, for me to be doing. I made my way to the petitioner’s table, was sworn in, and we were off and running.
I had my birth certificate and drivers license for the judge, and she had everything else. Her questions for me were few and easy. “Do you have any felony convictions?” “No.” “Are you on any sex offenders lists?” “No, I am not.” “Do you have any debts.” “We have a mortgage.” “Do you intend to inform them right away of your name change?” With a big smile, “Oh, yes, gladly!” I raised a small smile from the judge. My work here was done.
“Your new first name is Gina? G-I-N-A?” “Yes, your honor.” “And your middle name, Joy? J-O-Y?” “Yes.” Soon, she said the words I was awaiting, “Your petition for name change is granted.” She gave me final instructions, handed me my paperwork, and Julie and I were off to have my paperwork sealed by a clerk.
While I did not leave the building experiencing the “floating on air” moment that some of my trans friends have described, I am pleased to report that I was more than simply relieved to have this behind me. As I closed yesterday’s piece, Greg deserved better than this, but Gina needed it. Now, with my name change in hand, I am pleased to continue moving forward. It finally feels good.
In the afternoon, a pleasantly-efficient trip to the Social Security Administration office found my change with them quickly processed. I was surprisingly high-spirited as I walked to my car. I might have even left the pavement for a few steps.
With this accomplished, I can now go to the BMV (in Indiana, it is the Bureau of Motor Vehicles and not the Department) and get my drivers license changed. Then, as I promised the judge, it will be onto the credit union that holds our mortgage.