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Name Change

I've changed my name.

This was no small decision.  I gave the idea long and careful consideration.  There are no traditions to guide same-sex couples in name changes, which makes it both easier and harder.  It's easier in that you can do whatever you like without breaking precedent.  (Marrying another man breaks enough precedents as it is, apparently.)  It's harder in that you have no rules to follow and have to decide everything for yourself--and you have to make bureaucrats understand what you're doing.  This last part is the hardest.

After a great deal of thought, I decided to drop my middle name, which I don't like much and never use anyway, and replace it with two others: Harper and McClary.  No hyphenation.  This would make my full name:

Steven Harper McClary Piziks.

This, I decided, would make my life simpler after the change.  I rarely use my middle name, so for almost everything, I wouldn't have to do much.

The first step to effecting this change in Michigan is to sign the marriage license with the new name and get a certified copy for brandishing at various officials.  This I did.  Official document in hand, I set out one morning to deal with the Social Security office and the Secretary of State.

The Social Security office is a 30-minute drive away.  I finally arrived and, armed with the knowledge of many previous visits over Aran and Sasha's SSI struggles, went straight to the check-in kiosk.  I entered my soc number and was given a ticket that promised there were only 6 people ahead of me in the "Deal with a New Card" line.

I thought a moment.  Aran had been denied SSI benefits because we made the mistake of depositing the money he'd gotten from various graduation gifts into his account, and the Social Security office decided he was rich and denied him SSI benefits.  He had expenses, however, and the money level dropped below their "you're too wealthy" threshold fairly quickly, but here it was November 2, and he hadn't gotten an SSI check.  As his payee, I decided to check Aran in as well and talk to someone about this problem while I was here.  The ticket I got for Aran's case promised there were only 12 people in line ahead of me.

I sat in the waiting area and graded papers.  This is something teachers always do when they're waiting anywhere.

At last, I was called up to the name change lady.  She accepted my new name without a blink and entered it into the computer.  She asked if my last name was McClary-Piziks now, and I said it was not.  "Two middle names," I said.  "My last name stays the same."

She entered this, gave me a printout with my new name on it, and said my new card would arrive shortly.  Just to be sure, I asked her if a case worker would speak to me about Aran.  Even though I'm his payee, he wasn't actually here, and they sometimes get sticky.  She asked what the problem was, and I explained.

She clicked around on her computer and said that he was still on the denial list.  Grinding my teeth, I explained that I'd talked on the phone last month to an SSI rep who said Aran's case would be re-evaluated for November and that he would receive benefits.  The lady said that I would indeed have to talk to a different rep about that and I had been wise to create a place in line for it.

I sat down again and graded papers.

After quite some time, I was called up--to the same lady.  She blinked at me, and then gave a deprecating smile.  "You need to talk to a supervisor."  She tapped around on her computer.  "They'll call you up by name instead of by ticket number."

I sat down again, this time with no idea where I was in line.  I was getting hungry, and it was hard to grade papers this way, but I kept at it.

After about 45 minutes, I was called up by name.  The new rep went over the case and said Aran's case hadn't been reviewed as the phone guy had promised.  I wasn't surprised--the phone guy had made several statements to me that I knew were wrong, and I had little confidence in him.  They would now need Aran's newest statements.

"Will the benefits be reinstated retroactively?" I asked.

"Yes," he said.  "Once we get the new statements."

Sighing, I left and trotted across the street to the Secretary of State's office.

Michigan has a Department of Motor Vehicles, but it doesn't handle motor vehicles or drivers licenses.  Those are done, for reasons known only to bureaucrats, through the Secretary of State.  It doesn't make the lines any shorter.

When I arrived at this particular office, I found that they have a system that alerts you by text.  Once you check in with your cell number, a computer texts you to say where you are in line, time-wise.  After I checked it, the text said I had 95 minutes to wait.

I left the office and found a deli that sold me a delicious turkey sandwich.  I sat in the booth and graded more and more papers.  I did this until the text program said I had 20 minutes left,  When I returned to the office, I had ten minutes and at last was called up.  An interesting system.

When I got up to the counter, however, the clerk seemed befuddled.  Not that it was a man changing his name, but that I wanted two middle names.  She couldn't seem to get her head around this.  "Where did Harper come from?" she asked.

I explained that it was my professional name for going on 25 years.  She insisted on having a "life document" with the name Harper on it.  I pointed to the letter from the Social Security office.

"We can't accept that," she said.

Now =I= blinked.  "Of course you can.  It's an official government document.  When my son got his driver's license, it was the ONLY document your office would accept from him.  I went through hell to get a replacement card for him, in fact."

"Anyone could get a new social security card with a new name on it," she said.  "You could put any name on there."

I was dumbfounded.  "No, you can't.  You have to show a certified marriage license.  If you want to defraud someone with a new name on your license, you'd have to get married to do it."

"But this isn't a life document," she said.  "I need a birth certficate, or a school record, or a--"

"This is a NAME CHANGE," I said.  "There ARE no other documents with this name on it.  That's how name changes work."

"I have to have a life document."

We went round on this for considerable time.  And then I went round on it with her supervisor.  "The federal government, which overrides the state government, is stating with this letter that my name is Steven Harper McClary Piziks," I said.  "You need to change your records to reflect that."

"I need a life document," the supervisor repeated like a robot.  "And I have to tell you--when you come in to renew your license and your name over there" she pointed at the Social Security building "doesn't match your name here, you won't be able to renew, and you'll have to go over there to correct it."

"So you're telling me," I said, "that the Michigan Secretary of State thinks it has authority to override the federal government?"

"I need a life document," she repeated.

I get angry just typing this.  I made her change my middle name to McClary.

Later, when my new social security card arrives, I'm going to go to a different SoS office, one that's ultra-busy all the time and the one that required Aran to have a social security card to get his driver's license, and arrive just before is closes.  I'll walk in with my new social security card and my new driver's license and tell them my license has a mistake on it--please fix it, here's my life document, thank you very much.



( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 4th, 2015 02:34 pm (UTC)
I would suggest that you are being a pathfinder and policy maker for those who come after you in that office, but I think I know better. Once again, bureaucracy trumps common sense and the law.

Best of luck with your new identity. I don't know what your middle name was previously, but I think the new suits you. I've always thought of you as "Steven Harper Piziks".

And good luck with Aran's SSI re-eval.
Nov. 5th, 2015 12:24 am (UTC)
Thank you!
Nov. 6th, 2015 08:25 am (UTC)
the worst hurdle when I got married was when the bank wouldn't accept my Driver License as proof of name change. Only the marriage certificate would do. Bureaucracy. FEH.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
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