22 November 2012

Sixteen Months And $18,000 Later

In New York City, it costs $160.  In Oklahoma, it costs $18,000.

You read that right.  Oh, but it gets even better.  The thing I'm talking about takes about one month in New York versus 16 in Oklahoma.  

Plus, in the Sooner State, you have to fight for it in ways that no one in the Empire State has had to fight, at least for the past two decades or so.

So what is this thing I'm hinting at?  If you've been reading this blog, you might have figured it out:  a transgender's name change.

The $160 figure I've quoted included the filing fee, the cost of having my court order published in the Legal Notices section of The Village Voice and the certified copies of the order the court clerk made.  And one month (actually, a couple of days short of that) is the amount of time that elapsed from the time I filed until the day the court received notice that its order had been published.

Then again, the Civil Court in downtown Manhattan, where I filed, doesn't have a great master of jurisprudence like the eminent Bill Graves.  In a country that supposedly still recognizes a separation between church and state, and faith and the law, the Honorable Mister Graves has used the Bible as his basis for denying trans people the right to change their names.  

Then again, who am I to criticize a judge for using The Good Book in making his decisions?  After all, he learned everything he knows about genetics from it.  I'll be the first to admit that he knows far more about it than I do, and probably ever will.  "If you're born male, you say male, according to the study I've done on DNA," he advised someone who petitioned to change her name.  "And if you're born female, you stay female."

Christie Ann Harvey had the chutzpah courage to challenge the learned judge. She filed an appeal after the judge, as he did in the case of Angela Renee Ingram, cited the Bible and his trove of knowledge about the human genome to deny her request to change her name from Steven.  Ms. Harvey's efforts resulted in an order from the Civil Court of Appeals that reversed Judge Graves' decision.  The Court also said that Graves abused his discretion in citing the Bible instead of Oklahoma law in making his decision.

One of the most bizarre aspects of this story is that, not long after Judge Graves denied Ms. Harvey's petition, she was allowed to change her gender, but not her name, on her driver's license.  It's one of the reasons why, she says, she was "living in limbo."  Not surprisingly, she's "happy" that she can now take one more step to living a normal life in the gender of her mind and spirit.  

If anyone is living in limbo, I'd say it's the Honorable Judge Graves.

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