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Nashville Name Change (My Experience)
I was really nervous about the name change process and since it varies so much by county, I couldn't find much information. Keep in mind that I'm writing this in early 2020, if you're from the future reading this, things may have changed. This is a play-by-play of the whole experience because reading this would have helped calm my nerves. It's really not as scary as you think. I'm not a lawyer or anything so don't take this as legal advice. I'm just sharing my experience from one overly-nervous person to another. I'm writing about the steps as they happen so this is going to sit in my drafts for a bit. I might post about my experience changing all my documents over if I can't find other posts. I know this post only applies to a few people but I'd like to share my experience in case it can help.
I went to the courthouse around 3pm on a Thursday and it wasn't very busy. Traffic was pretty good and there is a parking garage right next to the courthouse. I was in the wrong lane because I put in the courthouse address not the parking garage so I had to turn around but (John Mulaney voice) it's a grid system!
From the parking garage, you go up the stairs (or elevator but I was on the first level so I walked) which leads to the front of the courthouse.
You have to go through a metal detector to get in the building. The security guards were really friendly and asked if I knew where to go. I didn't so they told me. It's not tsa level security, just take things out of your pockets and walk through. They scan your items in the bin and give them back on the other side. They have a wand in case you set off the metal detector but I didn't set it off.
Then I went up to the third floor. The filing room is to the right. I went to the wrong place at first but the woman was really friendly and told me where to go.
I went into the filing room and the woman at the first desk greeted me. She looked over my form quickly and sent me to another woman. That woman took my form and made copies of my documents. I had originals and copies of my birth certificate, social security card, and license. She took the copy of my birth certificate and made her own copies of my license and ss card. My license counted as proof of residency in Davidson county so I didn't need the proof I had brought. If you don't have your license, you can use your passport as ID and a paystub or lease as proof of residency. I signed my form in front of her because you need someone there to be a witness.
The woman copied things, stamped things, and stuff like that. We talked while she did it. She was really nice. We talked about the city (we're both originally from somewhere else) and the traffic and all the people that come in for name changes. Real ID is new so there are apparently a lot of elderly people coming in to change their names because it turns out to be spelled differently on their birth certificate than how they've spelled it on everything else. I think that's pretty funny that they're finding out that they've been spelling their name wrong. But because of that, there are a lot of people filing for name changes so it might be a month or two before my hearing. They only do 10 people at a time.
I want to put this in here because it's something I was worried about. Keep in mind that as of filing, I am 7 months on T and don't really look like a 20-something man. She did not bat an eye at the fact that I'm changing from a very feminine name to a very masculine name. The only thing remotely similar was she said I look so young and then chuckled about how I'll be glad I look young when I'm her age. She was so friendly and never made me uncomfortable or said anything about me being trans. Under "reason for name change" I wrote "gender transition" and she didn't bat an eye. Nashville is a beautiful little blue dot in a red state.
Then she made a copy of my form for me to keep. It has my case number in case I need to call for more information. She said that I would get a call in the next few weeks to schedule my hearing. If I need a different date, I can ask for one when they call.
Then I took my copy of the form and went to another desk to pay. It was $159.50 and I paid in cash. I think they accept cashiers checks but I'm not sure. They don't accept personal checks.
Everyone that I met today was really friendly. The security guards were really helpful. The clerks (is that what they're called?) were nice and explained everything. Parking was $8 for the 45ish minutes I was there. You could probably find street parking if you want but I'm not a city guy so I just park in parking garages whenever I can. As long as my car is there when I come back for it, I really don't care how much parking is. lol
Scheduling my hearing:
They called to schedule my hearing at 9:30 on Friday, a week and a day after I filed. They started by saying who they were and asking for me by my deadname. Then they told me the date and asked if that would work. They told me that the courtroom is on the 4th floor and they would email me with all the details. My hearing is at 9:45 but I need to get there before 9:30 to sign some papers. I don't need to bring anything because they have everything they need from when I filed. My hearing is set for the beginning of March, almost a month after I filed.
A few days later, I got an email with a document attached that had the information about where to go and what time.
A few days after I got the email, I got a copy of the same document in the mail. It came addressed to my deadname and had a return address stating it's from the Chancery Court. If you're not out, you might want to be careful and watch the mail until you get it. Legally, they can't send anything to my actual name because he doesn't exist in the eyes of the court (yet).
I arrived at 9am and sat in the hall for a few minutes so I could calm down. The doors to the courtroom were open so after I saw someone else go in, I went in too. We sat and waited until 9:30 (when the email said to be there) and a woman came in and started checking paperwork.
I showed her my copy of the filed petition and then she had me double-check the spelling of both my old name and my new name. Then I signed with my old name.
A few minutes later, she called me up and we went into the area where the judge's chambers are (basically an office area). Then I sat in that hall for a few minutes and the judge came and got me.
The room looked like a conference room. I sat across from the judge and a third woman. I'm not sure the third woman's title, probably a clerk or something, I'm going to keep calling her the third woman.
The third woman swore me in (raise your right hand, swear to tell the truth, whole truth, nothing but the truth. Like on TV). Then the judge went over what I wrote on the petition. She asked if [dead name] was who I am legally, is that my correct date of birth, I was born in [city], I want to change my name to [new name], I live at [my address]. Then she asked why. I panicked a little. I ended up saying "I'm transgender and [name] fits me better". She said ok and we moved on. We looked at my documents I submitted with the petition. She asked if that was a copy of my social security card, I said yes. She asked if that was a copy of my license, I said yes. She asked if that was a copy of my birth certificate, I said yes.
(Here's where I sound like a moron, brace yourself) Then she asked if I filed the petition "in good faith".
*record scratch* *dumbass mode activated*
I looked at her for a second and thought about it. What could that mean? Well there's the word "good" I filed the petition for good reasons. Then "faith" faith is a good thing. Like belief. So I said yes. (In my defense, my hearing sucks. When I'm nervous it's worse. I often hear words wrong so when I hear uncommon phrases, I assume I heard wrong. It takes a minute to filter through. And I'm a moron so that doesn't help lmao)
Then, I don't know if it's because I hesitated or if that's her next question, she asked if I filed the petition for fraudulent purposes. I said no.
Then she said okay and signed my form. Now my name is changed!
We went into the hall and waited for the first woman. While we waited, we talked. The judge was really nice. Then the first woman came back and the judge wished me good luck.
The first woman and I walked down to the third floor where the filing room is. She gave the paperwork to a woman at a desk and I waited in a chair. Then the woman at the desk called me (by my new name!) and gave me my certified copies. I ended up getting 3. Two copies are included in the price and additional copies are $5.50 each. I got an extra because I figured for $5 I'd rather not need it than have to go back downtown, pay for parking, and get another.
I paid for the extra copy and left.
I ended up paying $12 for parking. I was there for about 2 hours.
I wore a suit. I was the only one dressed up really. One woman was there in jeans. Some of the guys wore polos or other button-downs. But hey, I never got misgendered. I'd rather be overdressed than underdressed. If you're changing your name, just wear something nice. A polo and khakis or something would be fine, you don't have to wear a suit. But it felt good to lol.
It was a little scary but it went well. Don't worry about it too much. It's a few semi-awkward moments to get your name right for the rest of your life.