This morning I had to renew my driver’s license at the California Department of Motor Vehicles, a problematic task because I haven’t legally changed my name or gender yet.
This is not because I haven’t wanted to change those for months, but I’m going through a divorce. And my lawyer told me to wait while we’re in the middle of dividing up assets and submitting complicated-ass paperwork to the government. Which means next year.
But my freakin’ birthday is this year. And—you guessed it—that’s when my license is expiring.
The renewal notice required a small fee, vision test, thumbprint and… new photo!
My current ID depicts a sad, overweight, middle-aged man from 20 years ago. It’s grim and I hate it.
And here was an opportunity to at least look like the real me even if that picture had to be next to deadname and misgendered. It could be worse.
So, I dolled up this morning and drove to the DMV. Looking pretty much the same way as when I visit the bank or post office. Really, it’s how I look every day now.
The first hurdle was the nice lady outside the door checking appointments. After mutual greetings, she asked for my last name (just the last name!), looked in her database, found it and then… looked at me confused. Since obviously I did not sound or look like the first name listed there.
I handed her my current license and explained that I hadn’t legally changed the two points of her confusion yet.
She was still confused. “I’m transitioning, OK?” Pause. Longer pause. Realization. “Yes, ma’am! Here’s your queue number. Go inside and take a seat.”
Obviously not the first time for her which meant a very pleasant, albeit momentarily awkward, entrance for me.
This was actually going well.
I sat down next to a young man and struck up a conversation. As far as he was concerned, I was just a nice older lady willing to discuss the fun of navigating various DMVs around the country. Both of which things are true.
Then my number was called and I went to the designated window, handing a different nice lady my current license.
And it was double take and confusion time again.
She took some convincing since the voice and appearance clearly did not match. I had to lower my mask, lean in a bit and have her compare my facial features from the old license and assure her that, “It’s me. Really.”
Finally, she accepted that I wasn’t an imposter. And after signing my deadname on a few forms she sent me to another window to get my photo with a pleasant, “Ma’am, it’s over there on the other side of the room.”
It was still going well, really.
Then, of course, confusion again. The third nice lady with the camera must have asked me for my thumbprint at least three times before she also decided I wasn’t an imposter.
The best part was after the first photo, she suggested I take off my glasses for a second shot. “You’ll look even nicer, ma’am.” A very pleasant end to the process.
So, what could have been a visit to dysphoria land turned out to be complete gender affirming experience because of nice people—at the DMV of all places—willing to treat me like the person I am. Which is all I ever really want.
Totally made my day.