This morning I took a couple of hours off work to go to my local Minnesota Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) branch office and apply for a new drivers license in my new name and gender. Along with my old drivers license, some cash, and a checkbook I took along my name change court order, and letters from my doctor and therapist attesting to the permanence of my transition and recommending the change to both name and gender marker.
I got to the DMV just a few minutes after they opened, and I was shocked by how amazingly non-crowded the place was. There were actually two counters open with NO wait. I have never seen the place like that before, and wouldn’t count on seeing it again. Anyway I counted my blessings as I filled out the drivers license form and prepared for a longer-than-normal interaction with the DMV clerk.
I got to step up with my paperwork without taking a number because there was no wait (!!!). And then the saga began.
The DMV clerk said she’d only ever handled one gender change before, so she’d need to ask for some help. I said sure, no problem. She left the counter.
About five minutes later she returned apologizing for the wait and going over what she’d been told with me. She looked over the court order and seemed confused. “This covers the name change and the gender change, right?” I sighed and explained that, no. My judge ruled the gender change petition beyond the scope of my filing. He only granted the name change. This clearly messed up the clear instructions she’d been given, so pretty quickly she was on the phone with another office.
I heard her side of the phone conversation saying yes, I had the letter from the doctor. Something about the court order. Then a lot more I couldn’t make sense of. Finally she turned back to me and said she needed to go confer with someone else. She left the counter again.
About ten minutes later she returned with another form – the variance form – to fill out. She had me fill out on the form an explanation of what I was asking for (a gender change) and make sure to include why my court order didn’t cover the gender change.
I was getting a little upset over this, as it became clear that they expected the same court order to cover both, and I had properly petitioned for both just as they expected, but my judge had arbitrarily ruled that I couldn’t do both at once. The rule of men trumps the rule of law. I didn’t get a trans tolerant judge, so now the only legal paperwork I have to help change my documentation is in a state of uncertainty.
The other thing I was miffed about, and something I eventually explained, was that I have had friends go through this before. Some had the judicial order, some didn’t. Regardless of that some were required to submit a variance, and some were not. It’s really frustrating to see the county workers running around as if their actions are meticulously covered by official policy when the experience of trans people in this state shows it to be more of a crap shoot.
Anyway, after a lot more back and forth and phone calling and checking, she ended up having me submit my drivers license change along with the variance. She tried to figure out how it all needed to be paid for, which proved ridiculously difficult. Could I pay with cash? Check? One payment? Two separate payments? One cash and the other check? It took a lot of research to determine that a single check should cover both. Again, it felt like a crap shoot. For all I know it will eventually be rejected because it wasn’t paid for properly.
Eventually they went ahead and took my picture for my new license. I noticed they had marked the “Female” box on my gender for the license. So I had apparently satisfied my particular DMV clerk. The problem was, as she explained, they couldn’t do anything more with the license until the official ruling on the variance. If it’s approved, I will receive my new license in the mail. If it’s not, I will receive notice of the rejection in the mail… and apparently nothing else.
So I left the DMV almost an hour later, feeling like I got the runaround. I didn’t get any bad looks or attitude from any people at the DMV, just a lot of confusion. It’s so disheartening when you try so hard to do everything by the book, only to find that your situation isn’t really part of that book.
When and if I hear back about this whole mess, I’ll post the results here. At the moment it feels like all I’m waiting for is an official rejection that I got the privilege of paying for. But maybe I’ll get lucky.