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A surprisingly positive experience

There are many of us who have learned, through a variety of difficult experiences, that interaction with the police is generally something to be avoided if at all possible. That’s typically been my approach to our local law enforcement, especially now that I’m transitioning. It’s no surprise that officers, as a microcosm of larger society, sometimes tend to have problems with respecting minority groups. 22% of trans people have reported experiencing anti-trans harassment by police, and the rate is even higher for trans people of color. Police in major cities routinely arrest trans women for carrying condoms under the assumption that they must be sex workers – because clearly this is the only reason why we would have condoms. It’s a bleak and challenging situation.

"Mr."So I wasn’t exactly looking forward to walking into our local sheriff’s office, as “Mr.” Lastname, to be fingerprinted and receive a background check as the first steps toward getting a legal name change.

My expectations, fortunately, were wrong. Everyone was unfailingly polite throughout the entire process. Only Heather, my cis girlfriend who had come with me, was “sirred” by the receptionist, before she immediately corrected herself. And even after she saw my still-male ID and current legal name, there were no pronoun slip-ups at all. She seemed to understand what was going on. The records staff were equally friendly as they ran my identification to check how many times I had been arrested (none, actually), and then sent me for fingerprinting.

Taking fingerprints is a surprisingly lengthy process here, even though they’ve digitized it all and it no longer requires ink. The elderly woman who took my prints marked me as female in the system, even after taking down my name, and I had to remind her – despite how deeply I’d appreciate seeing that F next to my name on state documents – that I was still considered legally male. She even offered to mark it as “X – Unknown Gender”, which was surprisingly one of the options.

Stereotypical as it is, we chatted about nail polish and lip stain; she mentioned a brand that lasts all day – “like cement” – and can only be taken off with a special cream. As she did the individual prints, she asked what I would be changing my name to. And she thought it was a pretty name. Before I had to go back to the records room, she asked if my family was supportive – they are, all of them – and wished me good luck.

I can honestly say that I’ve never had such a peaceful, uneventful, trouble-free encounter with the police. I was really impressed with their professionalism throughout the entire day. I don’t usually expect that the average person will know very much about trans people, but I definitely wasn’t expecting that much understanding and sensitivity at a Florida police station.

I’m just hoping that the rest of the process will be as easy as this was. The next step is filing the official papers, which costs several hundred dollars here, and then eventually going before a judge to finalize it. I really appreciate the support that everyone has provided throughout all this, and I’ll keep you updated on how it goes.


Comments

  1. Kristin says

    I too did this about a month ago in Tampa. They were really nice to me as well. It is great to give credit like this where and when it happens. Thanks for this post.

    • says

      And while I know it shouldn’t be notable just to be treated like a normal human being, sadly, this kind of thing is a rare gem of decency. I look forward to the day when we no longer have to dread dealing with the authorities and other everyday people.

  2. says

    Glad to hear that you had a positive experience. I grew up around law enforcement and people often say I lived in the exception being around people who were polite. It makes me feel good to know that I’m not the only who who gets to see this side of them. :)

  3. says

    Your experience was better than mine. My drivers license picture is a portrait of a shooting rampage waiting to happen. My state doesn’t require fingerprinting for a name change, fortunately, but it doesn’t seem to employ very nice people to facilitate the process, either.

    Anyway, congrats on a smooth experience.

  4. deja says

    congrats, zinnia …. my old fashioned self thinks maybe a nice letter to the chief of police and maybe a city official or two commending these police station folks for their sensitivity and good manners might be in order. As you note, just as we don’t always get along well with the enforcement folks, it’s probably also true that it’s not very often that police personnell get thanked and complimented for the good things they do.

    deja

  5. Prettychainsaw says

    As a straight cis male, this is something I don’t understand, and quite likely never will. A lot of your experiences are things I will never understand, but that’s ok.

    I don’t have to understand to show basic respect. I don’t have to understand to believe you deserve rights. I don’t have to understand anything at all about you, to treat you like I treat everyone else.

    I don’t have to understand, because how I treat you, when you’ve done nothing to me, isn’t about who you are, and has nothing to do with who you are.

    How I treat people is a reflection of who I am.

    • mushrooms says

      Thank you so much. I’m transsexual and I am sick of people using the “but people don’t understand what you’re going through” excuse when I complain about people being mean to me. People don’t have to understand transsexualism or homosexuality to be nice to LGBT people – just be decent human beings and treat us with the same common courtesy that straight, cis people would expect.

  6. micheltanuki says

    Wow, I had no idea simple name changes were so difficult in some places. Where I am, it was a very easy task, no fingerprinting, background checks, or police involvement of any kind. I’m glad things went well for you, but it’s rather disheartening that places put up so many roadblocks to the process. And here I thought my hundred-something-dollar fee was bad.

  7. JaneLane says

    I for one am extremely happy to hear you had a positive experience, for mine certainly wasn’t as pleasant. I have experienced police brutality on multiple occasions. I’m not sure if I was discriminated against because of my age, gender, or the nature of the event. Multiple times they were called because of suicide attempts, the part that I found most appalling, was how they could treat someone in such a position, who it is their job to help, someone with severe depression and emotional issues among others I wish not to discuss. I was so vulnerable then, and I felt as though the officer dealing with me took advantage of that while he belittled me and abused me verbally. In each of my dealings with the police, three calls for suicide attempts, and one call for supposedly assaulting someone (it was really just a mutual fight, and there were no charges laid afterward, but because it was a domestic dispute they had to at least remove one of the people from the situation, usually by arresting them) So in this case it was me. Now you tell me if this sounds excessive or not… I am a 103lb Female, 5″3, not exactly a brick shit house… I was slammed to the ground by two officers while a third handcuffed me, had my face rubbed into the gravel and dirt before they carried me and slammed my forehead off the back of their car as they put me into the back seat, requiring me to need 6 stitches. Not once did I struggle, and during the course of this happening my partner was screaming and sobbing from the driveway at the police that I wasn’t struggling, so why were they being so violent? I believe that despite my depression and faults in the past that I am a strong person, but everyone has moments of weakness, and in one of my weakest moments ever, the force that was called to help me did anything but. Not only was the officer I dealt with humiliating, belittling and demeaning, but to someone in a situation like that? Where I had lost all hope? Resorting to something like suicide and then the people who are called to help humiliate you for it? I found it disgusting, and I hope that no one else ever has to deal with that in a similar situation, but I am sure that sadly that just isn’t the case. I agree with your earlier comment that it is sad when it’s extraordinary that we are treated like decent human beings, with respect, but that seems to be the unfortunate truth these days. Has anyone else ever experienced anything similar to my situation? The police were called to help, but they hindered instead? Just wondering if I’m not alone out there, sadly I’m sure I’m not.

    On a brighter note though, Zinnia, you have been such an inspiration to me in some of my darkest times. Times when I thought I couldn’t go on any longer, hearing you helped me keep my head up high and be proud of who I am and true to myself. Please never stop doing what you do, being an amazing, powerful, beautiful woman fighting the fight. You are a true inspiration to me.
    Thank you.

  8. moodycow says

    It’s great to hear the good news stories, and I’m glad you had a great experience.

    I transitioned in a city in Australia that people dismiss as being what you would call redneck. During the entire process of changing my name at Births, Deaths and Marriages (it is a much simpler process here than in the US – fill out a form and pay a fee of a hundred dollars, maybe less), through to going to banks, the driver’s license people, and everyone else, no one so much as raised an eyebrow. My experience was overwhelmingly positive, which I hadn’t expected because of the constant flow of news of other transitioning people having such a wretched experience.

    I have had some bad experiences, including being sacked when one boss found out about my past. In hindsight, I’m relieved to not work for someone who hates me because of what is, essentially, a neurological intersex condition – and, in my case, partly a physical intersex one, too.

    However, I still like to believe that most people are good, and I steer my way toward the better people and away from problems.

    Thank you for posting this story. It’s important to let transitioning people know that they can find a place in the sun, and that life can be good. Who knows, perhaps even the haters might find themselves changing when they see people treating us as fellow human beings

  9. mattdick says

    I’m a straight white male and I’m also glad it was so pleasant. Agreed it will be a nice day when such a thing is always unremarkable. But maybe it will be easy without every being unremarkable… and that’s okay. If I met you and you were obviously pursuing a transition, I’d be super-interested and would likely ask a few polite questions if it seemed appropriate, just because it’s rare.

    But while I don’t know the particulars of your challenges, I don’t like the phrase “but people don’t understand what you’re going through” because while I’ll never go through a trans-change, I will and I have gone through things that made me an outsider, made me feel awkward and the subject of unwanted attention, or ostracized. The feelings are universal, even if the particulars are not. And that’s really important in all this–human beings can understand each other if we try.

    Yay Florida cops!

  10. says

    Well, that is suprisingly pleasant to hear. Good to know that the authorities can end up being nice to us. All I ever hear is negative stories.

  11. internetpal2012 says

    Thank You for sharing this with us all.I thought you already changed your name when you showed the picture of yourself on your new ID Card?I’m guessing you had to get a new state ID with your old name before you could start the process to change your name?I wonder if the donations you received are enough to cover the further legal costs to change your name?If you don’t have enough please don’t be afraid to remind your fans that they can still donate if they haven’t done so already.
    I know when you get your name changed you’ll be looking for a job and when you find one you may not have time anymore for you tube,twitter or reddit?Please don’t give up on your fans,try to stay in touch with a quick video on what it’s like in the workforce and what’s going on in your life,all of your fans care so much about you Z.Thanks for reading this long message if you have.

  12. Yves says

    It is good to here that your name-changing is on it’s way and that you had such a good experience. But I am curious. Did you opt for the ‘X’, the ‘male’ or did they give you female after all?

  13. Tamara says

    While I haven’t yet begun this process, more or less all of my experiences dealing with people in positions of ‘authority’ have been similar so far. Interestingly, I also chatted with the receptionist and assistants at the doctor’s office where I went to get bloodwork done to begin HRT about nail polish, clothing and the like. I’ve been complimented on such things on multiple occasions and in multiple contexts, actually. I get the impression that kind cis women go out of their way to make visibly gender-variant trans girls feel ‘included’ in these stereotypical conversations as a well-meaning if somewhat transparent gesture.

  14. brenda says

    “My expectations, fortunately, were wrong.”

    You expectations were wrong because your conclusion was based on faulty premises.

    This premise: “officers, as a microcosm of larger society, sometimes tend to have problems with respecting minority groups” is false. It is false because (1) police officers simply are not a microcosm of society, they are an elite force selected from a larger population according to higher standards. And (2) the sense people have about the police being horrible evil people is due to confirmation bias. Particularly in the age of the internet the information we have about many social groups, especially law enforcement, is deeply skewed by prejudice and bias.

    I had an acquaintance who was an alcoholic and deeply resentful of the police. That he was now clean and sober and no longer drinking and drugging and acting out did not seem to matter. It was his judgment that some monolithic entity “the police” hated him and were out to get him. It never occurred to him that there is no such thing as “the police” and that all of his past negative interactions with them were because of *his* behavior, not theirs.

    “I was really impressed with their professionalism throughout the entire day.”

    Why would you expect that professionals would be unprofessional? The police are well educated and highly trained people. Internet accounts select for extreme behavior and are hardly representative.

    My friend above hated the police because they arrested him in the park. Why? Because it was past 10pm and it was closed. Why did they treat him less than respectfully? Because he was extremely drunk and combative. Why do people who are intoxicated believe that it is wrong for the police to interfere? Because everyone has a sense of “will to power”. People, especially those who are violating the law, tend to believe they have the right to do whatever they want and that no one, especially the police, have the right to stop them.

    In the past there was no legal path to transitioning so trans folk’s experiences depended on the individual officer they might meet by chance. Now there is a legal structure in most places so chance has less of an influence in determining a negative outcome.

  15. F says

    I’m glad to hear it was a fairly decent experience for you. Too bad that this is a nice surprise rather than the expected norm.

    Weird, though, that you need to be fingerprinted, and that this is done at a police department. Just… weird.

  16. F says

    This premise: “officers, as a microcosm of larger society, sometimes tend to have problems with respecting minority groups” is false. It is false because (1) police officers simply are not a microcosm of society, they are an elite force selected from a larger population according to higher standards.

    This is simply untrue. Mostly, they don’t want anyone too educated to be an officer. Second, overrepresented are the serious “will to power” – over others – crowd. They are routinely jackasses in the most basic encounters. Even the good guys frequently seem a bit thick, and a lot of them don’t last long.

    But really, the police being the best of us, elite, and highly-trained is an unsupported bit of propaganda.

  17. parrotfish says

    Yeah, I’m going to have to navigate this same process here soon. I’m in Florida as well. I keep hearing rumors that I can get my gender marker on my drivers license now that I have started HRT, that they changed the requirements recently. I need to do some research on how to do this, I was more concerned with the HRT and that non-decision that I pretended like I actually had a choice with.

    Before the name change I need to figure out how to come out to my parents… and I can’t lose their health insurance because it covers the hormones and surgeries. That would be a greater potential loss than my becoming homeless.

    Glad to hear that you had a positive experience with this. I don’t know if they will be able to see the couple of times I’ve been Baker acted. So many potential problems if so. But I’m a guy. I tend to be harassed less. Society’s trans-misogyny sucks.

  18. says

    Computers are becoming a part of our everyday life.I have the right to know.It’s going too far.His cake is four times as big as mine.I’ll just play it by ear.It’s very kind of you to help me.It’s very kind of you to help me.See you.Any day will do.He has a nice sum of money put away.

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