Monday, June 27, 2011

Making A Difference

I watched as a stranger placed a hand on my partner's shoulder,  looked her in the eye and said "Thank you."

The woman moved from my partner and came to me.  She took my hand and said, very emotionally, "Thank you.  Because of what you do, you make it easier for my daughter and her partner."  She hugged me, kissed my cheek and just as quickly, walked away.

I was stunned.  Aghast.  Floored.  It takes a lot to get me speechless.  But I was.  Tears welled up in my eyes.  The woman walked away before either of us could say a word.

All we had done was dance.  

I just took my wife's hand, and walked to the front of the room where we came together and danced.

I have to admit, I was scared to do it.  I was in a room full of strangers who were also team mates.  Colleagues.  Strangers, none the less.  They all did the same thing we did.  We were all there to train for the same purpose.  This dance, this party, was to have fun after several days of learning and training together.  But they were strangers.   And this wasn't my home turf. 

I worried, walking through the small sea of people, stepping into the middle of them, wrapping my arms around my partner and pulling each other close.  I worried someone might say something.  Worse, I worried someone might do something.

But I did it again.  The next song came along, and we danced together again.  These songs held meaning for us. This was the first time we had ever danced publicly together.   I worried I had made the wrong choice in asking my partner to dance. Even walking into the bathroom, I worried that I was setting myself up to be a newspaper article about the latest gay bashing. This was a large group of the unknown, with very, very few that I knew, and even less that my partner knew.  Was I making a mistake?  Was I pushing something too far?

I did it again.  I was feeling my fear mount.  On the dance floor,  my partner stared into my eyes and ever so strongly, if silently, quieted my fear.  Even for all the fear, I wanted to dance with my wife.  The need, the desire, the longing outweighed that fear. I argued with myself that I have the right to dance with her, just like everyone else in the room could dance with whomever they choose.  

Sitting down after the third dance, I voiced my fear.  The trepidation that I was feeling.  The little part of me that was watching the shadows, watching around corners, afraid that we were in danger.  My partner voiced the same feeling and we held hands, and kissed. 

Moments later, the woman came to us and thanked us.  All of my fear melted away.

After I picked my jaw up off the floor and collected myself, I walked to the bathroom.  To my surprise, she was there.  I met her eyes and thanked HER for saying what she said.  She said she meant it.  What we did will make it that much easier for her daughter and her partner.  Please don't stop.  It makes a difference.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

name change all over again

Some of you may remember my adventure when making a name change after marriage three years ago.... it involved a trip to the Social Security office and some not so fun moments and a 'hope' that the employee would either not care it was two women on the certificate, or simply not pay attention....  and *poof* the name change happened.  

Not that I could have the name on my passport. But that was a whole different story....

Time has gone on, and things have changed.  That marriage ended and I have moved on.  A new domestic partnership later (because, now marriage isn't legal in CA) and I thought ' WOW... home free again!'  because apparently there had been a change in the law..... and if one partner wanted to take the other one's name, they could.  It was right there in black and white.  You filed it with the State!  WooHoo!!!

But it means nothing.  Legally, as per State Law, I can use the new name, but, a small loophole prevents me from actually getting a Driver's License, the basis for all identification, in the new name.  

You see, in California, the DMV matches names given to it to Social Security.  State government actually talks to Federal Government.  And if your name isn't Smith with Social Security, you can have all the domestic partnership paperwork in the world and the CA DMV won't issue you a drivers' license in your new name.  (But they sure as heck will take your $15 while they send an inquiry to Social Security!)

So, how do I go about taking my partner's last name?? Legally?? I go through the court.

Step 1.  I fill out several pages of legal documentation. 
Step 2.  I print out and sign those papers, and then make copies.
Step 3.  I go to the Municipal Courthouse and turn that paper work in.
Step 4.  I write a check for $395.  YEP.  $395.
Step 5.  I wait.  I wait for a judge to decide if I can petition to change my name.  The judge has the power to say no.  It's my choice, my desire, but someone who doesn't know me at all gets to decide if I can petition to change my name.
Step 6. After getting a phone call that the judge signed the paperwork saying it's okay that I petition the court to change my name, I get to go pick up the paperwork. The paperwork that I have waited 10 days for for a signature has a purple stamp with the name of the judge on the signature line. I am assigned a court hearing date for 8 weeks from now.
Step 7.  I take the paper work to the newspaper of my choosing to publish a legal notice, so that if anyone in the public world has an objection to me changing my name, they can, in writing tell the court why I shouldn't change my name.
Step 8.  I write a check for $100.  Yep. $100 to put the legal notice in the paper four successive weeks.

After that, I will get a paper that says I published the notice, and then I wait for my court date.   Assuming the hearing goes well and no one objects, a stranger gets to tell me I can take the name of the woman I love.

And then the process of ACTUALLY changing my name begins.  I get to go to the social security office and then to DMV. And then the bank.  And then the phone calls to the various other agencies and institutions.

So, the process that most people take for granted.... getting married and changing a last name to your spouses, costs me $495.  And takes 9 weeks just to begin the process.

How fair is that?  Once again.  Separate.  But not equal.