"This is your life we're talking about. Try to show a little interest! I'm not asking you what you want for lunch. I'm asking you how you want to appear on legal records. I hope that you at least understand that you can't switch back and forth between girl and boy every semester."
"We have to face facts," Mom told me. "It's going to be pretty hard for you to go back to being Mark."
"I guess," I said. My mother and I have been having this exact, same, identical conversation a lot lately. It finally occurred to me that maybe she was trying to get used to the idea.
"So...," she began, a little nervously.
I looked at her expectantly. Were we going to go over the same ground yet again, or was she going to talk about something new?
"So..., your father and I want to know something: how would you feel about legally changing your name to Marcie?"
I shrugged. "Okay."
She bristled a bit. "Don't be so nonchalant!" she scolded. "This is your life we're talking about. Try to show a little interest! I'm not asking you what you want for lunch. I'm asking you how you want to appear on legal records. I hope that you at least understand that you can't switch back and forth between girl and boy every semester. Do you have any idea how much work it would take for you to go back to being a boy?"
I felt a little uncomfortable. "I haven't really thought about it."
"Well, think about it!" she said. "What would you have to do?"
"Okay," I said, "Um, I'd have to get a haircut. And no more earrings or nail polish? And, uh, I'd probably need all new clothes." My mother crossed her arms and tapped her foot. I know she was biting her tongue, so I tried to speed things up a bit. "I guess I would have to have an operation to... uh, to..." I gestured at my chest.
She nodded. "You'd have to have those removed."
"Yeah," I said sadly.
"Anything else?" she asked.
I looked at myself. "I'd have to let my body hair grow."
"Even before that, there's something."
"I'd have to take toss– tosstes– tosstester– testosterone." I looked at the floor.
"Right," she said, but not unkindly.
"I think that's everything," I said.
"Mmm," Mom said. "And that's more than enough." She took a breath, then said, "So, back to my question: do you want to legally change your name to Marcie?"
"Okay," I repeated.
"No." Mom replied testily. "Not okay. On Monday, you have a day off from school. It's a Teachers' Day. We can go and get your name changed, and that's what we're going to do, unless you tell me, right here and now, that you want to go back to being Mark next semester."
"Okay," I said.
"No!" she said angrily. I could tell she was at the limit of her patience, but I didn't know what she wanted. So she finally spelled it out. "I don't want you to agree with me. I want you to tell me what you want to do. I want to hear you say I want to be Mark or I want to be Marcie. And so help me God, if you say 'Okay' one more time, I'm going to slap you!"
I almost said it, just as a reflex, but stopped myself in time. "I want to be Marcie," I told her.
"Are you sure?" she asked.
"Yes," I said.
She put her hands on her forehead and walked away.
I waited a little bit, then followed her into the kitchen.
"Mom," I said, "honestly, I'm not trying to make this hard for you. I know I act like it's all just happening to me, but I really like it. I love being Marcie, and I don't ever want to be Mark again."
"Okay," she said in a tired voice.
I wasn't sure whether it was the right thing to do, but — what the heck, I gave it a shot. I walked over to my mother and gave her a hug. She put her head on my shoulder, and put her arms around me, too. Then she hung on. I rubbed her back a little. She kept holding on. I scratched my eyebrow and gave her another squeeze. "Mom?" I said. She didn't reply. "Oh, Mom," I called. "Can you let me go now?"
She sighed and let go. "I have to admit," she said, "You're better at being a girl than you were at being a boy."
"How come you want me to change my name?"
She considered a moment before telling me. "The lawyer that your father talked to said we could be liable — that means someone could potentially sue us — if they found out you were a boy going to school as a girl. He said that we have to establish the pretext of your being transsexual, and then we might have a viable defense."
"What's that mean?" I asked.
"If we can show that you are seriously trying to change gender, we could say that we hid the fact so you'd avoid prejudice."
"I think I get it," I said.
"To tell the truth, we didn't want to go with it, because he said we could lose anyway. But with all the things that have happened lately... it would be hard for anyone to doubt that you want to be a girl."
She swallowed hard and looked at the floor. I kept my mouth shut and didn't move. After a few moments my mother smiled and looked at me.
"So..." she said, "I guess you like the name 'Marcie' and want to stick with it."
"Yeah," I smiled.
"Marcella," she said.
"Yes." I was still watching myself, guarding myself, trying to not say okay.
"Good. Don't make any plans for Monday. We're going to do this in Sacramento, so nobody around here accidentally hears about it."
It was a long drive to Sacramento. We did a lot of talking.
"What was that phone call with Eden about last night?" she asked. "Can I ask?"
"Yeah," I sighed. "She was upset because I got dropped from the dancing chorus."
"Why were you dropped? I thought you danced just fine."
"I missed too many practices. Plus the woman in charge is like a drill sergeant. I don't think she likes me."
"Does it bother you, being dropped?"
"No," I admitted. "I didn't really want to do it. I just went along because of Eden. But she's not in the dancing chorus anyway."
"So... no Bye Bye Birdie for you?"
"No, I can still be in it, kinda. Jerry said I can be on stage crew."
"Oh, that might be fun," she said in a weird tone. I remembered that she wasn't very happy about my having a boyfriend.
"Don't worry, ma," I said.
She laughed. "Oh, hon, I have to worry about you a lot more now than I ever did before."
I sighed and looked out the window at the unglamorous scenery. "Why in the world did people ever come to Sacramento?"
"It was the gold rush that brought people here," Mom replied. "Then there was the transcontinental railroad."
Once we got into the city itself, Mom somehow managed to negotiate all the wacky one-way streets and find a parking garage.
"Will I get a new birth certificate?" I asked.
"No, not yet," Mom replied. "There isn't really much point until you can change the gender on it, right?"
"I guess so," I replied.
Before we went up to the court, Mom and I had a little snack in a coffee shop.
She finished eating first, and after clearing her place, she pulled out some papers and went through them.
"Are those for my name change?" I asked. She nodded. While she went through them, I saw the name MARCELLA ANTOINETTE DONNER.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa!" I called. "Is that supposed to be me? Is that supposed to be my name? Antoinette?"
"Yes," Mom replied with a satisfied smile. "You're going to be Marcella Antoinette Donner. Antoinette was my mother's name."
"I thought her name was Toni."
"That was her nickname."
"No offense, but I think it's a weird name. I don't want it. It would make my initials MAD, like mad."
"Your friends could call you Maddie, then. You'll have another nickname handy if you need or want it."
"Mom! No! This isn't fair!"
"Oh, no?" she asked, her voice rising a bit. "Not fair? It's not fair? Is that what you think? Well, think about this:
"Parents usually name their children, but you went and took the name 'Marcie' all on your own. If you were born a girl, I was going to name you Antoinette. And for a boy's name, I wanted Antoine."
"Whoo-yuck!" I commented, and actually shuddered.
She looked at me in silence a moment. "I liked it. I still like it. But your father hated it."
"Yay, Dad!" I cheered.
"I don't think so," she cautioned. "He wanted to name you Rusty."
"Rusty!? Like a dog?"
"That's what I said. We couldn't agree, so the name 'Mark' was a compromise. And — no offense — but I always thought it was a very plain name."
"Yeah, I guess," I conceded.
"So, now that I have another chance, and since neither you nor your father thought about your middle name, I am finally going to get my wish!"
It was too late to redo the documents, and I could see that it made her happy...
Maybe it was her way to find something nice for herself in all the changes that were happening in me.
So I waited a bit, and pretended I was thinking. Then I told her that I liked the name, and that I was happy she named me after Grandma Toni. She smiled and then she teared up.
It was so corny, I could feel my eyeballs start to roll, so I grabbed her in a hug. That way, she wouldn't see the expression on my face.
She squeezed me tight and said, "Oh, Marcie! I'm so glad!"
The legal part of it was no big deal. We waited in a tiny courtroom (I didn't know that courtrooms could be that small!) for about forty minutes, until a judge called my name. After my mother and I were sworn in, the judge asked us a couple of questions. We just kept saying "yes" until he declared that my name was now Marcella Antoinette Donner.
The judge, a bald man with a nice voice, took off his glasses and studied me for one long moment. Then he said, "Best of luck, Miss Donner," and gave me a friendly smile. "I don't usually have two such lovely ladies in my courtroom, or such easy cases to decide. You've really made my day!"
"Oh, thanks," I said, a little embarrassed. I saw that Mom got a little red as well, and I had to try to not giggle. We awkwardly made our way out of the little wooden gate that closed off the witness box.
"Oh, uh, your honor!" I added in too loud a voice, as a very late afterthought.
He laughed and waved his hand, as if shooing us out. "Go have fun, ladies. Enjoy the nice weather!"
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