Today I finally got my car re-plated with a CA license plate. It was a horrific experience no trans person should ever have to endure.
A little bit of background. I moved to California December 30th, 2013 from Texas. I had just re-registered my car in Texas before I moved. My Texas plates did not expire until December 2014. The CA DMV gives you 20 days to have your car re-registered in CA after moving to the state. I knew this. What I also knew is that every time I’ve registered a car, about a month later I’m hit with a flood of advertisements in the mail, phone calls from telemarketers, and “your car warranty is about to expire” scammers.
A few days after arriving in CA I filed to have my name legally changed. I filed the paperwork with the court on Jan 3rd, 2014. My court date was not until March 28th, 2014…. way after the 20 day mark.
I decided that I’d just suck it up and pay whatever fines I might be hit with from registering my car late because the _LAST_ thing in the world I wanted was for the flood of mail, telemarketers and scammers to come at me using a name I was trying desperately to get rid of. It was gonna cost me, but I just didn’t want to have to deal with the agony of mailbox full of junk to my old name. (And mind you, I had just paid the car tax in Texas. My car was still legal for a whole year.)
Fast forward to today. My name’s been legally changed, I’ve updated all of my accounts everywhere, and even my drivers’ license is now correct. I made an appointment about a month ago for today with the DMV.
I got all prepared. This morning before I showed up I went to the DMV’s website and downloaded all of the forms I’d need, filled them out completely on my computer (I even had to call the Credit Union where my loan is to get some information), triple checked it all, and the printed out the forms and shoved them into a folder. In that folder I also had the car’s bill of sale, a certified copy of my name change court order, and my Texas birth certificate. Everything needed to prove that I’m me.
I got to my appointment a bit early and waited for them to do the vehicle verification and all that. No big deal. When it was time for my appointment my number was called. (They called me at exactly the time my appointment was, which was cool.) I had no idea what was about to happen next; I thought this was going to be a really quick five minute thing.
Immediately there was a problem. The name on my car’s registration isn’t my legal name. (It’s my old name, of course.) I handed the clerk my certified copy of my court-orders name name and my birth certificate. She went and make photocopies of them (with my permission) and to talk to her supervisor about what to do.
I’m told that they have to process the registration with my old name and I’d need to sign for it that way. I refused since 1.) I don’t like that name, and most importantly 2.) I’d be committing fraud if I did since that’s not my name anymore. At no point did she explain why this was the case, only that that’s just how it was. (I only figured out what the issue was hours later after I’d calmed down and thought about it.)
After I refused to do that she went to talk with her supervisor again. She came back wanting me to sign this “Statement of Facts” saying something like “I, ______, am legally changing my name to ______.” I also refused to sign this because it’s also incorrect. I’m not in the process of changing my name, I’ve already done so. Finally I had to sign another “Statement of Facts” that said “I _______ and ________ are the same person,” which I did sign, because at least _THAT_ one was true.
I was humiliated. I had to sign a document basically outing myself right there in the DMV. I had already handed then a certified copy of my court order – THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN ENOUGH. In this country a court order from a Judge is about the highest “Statement of Facts” there is, right?
But, it gets worse. This is where the dehumanizing part comes in.
Back to the fees for registering late. From looking at the DMV’s website, I thought it was going to be about $30-100. Wrong, it was closer to $250.
I was really upset at this point. I’d just had a bombshell dropped on me that not only is my car’s registration going to be in a name that’d left in the past, I owed them more money than I had in my checking account at the time.
Completely upset and emotional, I tossed my credit card onto the clerk’s computer keyboard when she wasn’t looking at me, rather than hand it to her. She got really, really mad at me for “throwing things at her,” and proceeded to lecture me on how she’s “being respectful” and that she expects the same from me. I got overridden with guilt and started saying “I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I shouldn’t have done that” over and over again. I felt like I was 6″ tall. I was just really upset and not trying to hurt anyone.
I showed a tiny bit of emotion and got yelled at for it. Well gosh lady, I’m sorry, but I was really upset right then. I just was not allowed to show any emotion at all. 😦 😦
So after my scolding she hands me the credit card back and tells me they don’t take credit cards. If she’d give me a few minutes I’d transfer some money into my checking account and we could use my debit card. She said okay. So I grabbed my phone out of my purse and moved $300 from savings to checking and paid my bill.
At this point I did what I normally do when overwhelmed with emotions… I started to tear up and just recessed deep into my shell. I quit talking completely and refused to make eye contact with anyone. 😦
I don’t know what happened after that, really, because I was just so upset at this point. I know I now have CA plates and all that, so I’m guessing it all worked out okay, but the name on the registration I have is my old name. 😦
Before I left the parking lot I texted a friend and just said “call me please.” She did like 20 seconds later.
I broke down while talking with her (using the handsfree thingy built into my car radio). I got into a full-on cry and was yelling things. The phone call didn’t last long because I was so choked up I just couldn’t speak.
I was so upset and emotional that I wanted to pull off into a parking lot so I could cry my eyes out without risking hurting anyone. I drove for quite a bit looking for a parking lot, but this is the Bay Area and free parking lots are no where to be found… and I sure as heck was not going to pay $5 to sit in my car and cry.
Since there was no place to park I just drove home in that state. I have no idea how I got home, but I did. (Because, hey, THAT’S safe, right?)
Here’s how this should have played out.
The moment the clerk noticed the problem, she should have said something like this:
I’m sorry ma’am, but you’re not the owner of your car right now, your Credit Union is. I can’t issue you a new registration with your name changed because you don’t own the car, they do. They’re the ones that need to get the title changed first.
…and then presented me with a couple of options. Things like, maybe if I pay the fees I’ve racked up, she’d give me a 60 day temp plate so I could work things out with the Credit Union and then try again. Or maybe offer to contact the Credit Union.
But what shouldn’t have happened is the ask me to break the law by forging a document. And something that should have never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever happened was making me sign that “Statement of Facts” outing myself. I handed them a court order signed by a Judge… what more could they possibly want? The DMV is not above the law.
To me, as a transexual female, my identity is very important. I’ve worked very hard to get where I am. Its cost me a lot of time, money and heartache to get here. The DMV needs to train their employees just how vital this is to us and learn how to be “respectful” to us, as well.
So what did my desire to not get flooded with junk mail and scammers calling me my old name get me? $250 in fines, total humiliation, and a wasted day. It’s past my bedtime right now and I’m still extremely broken up over this. It didn’t work, either, since my car is still registered in my old name. (How exactly they were able to issue a car registration to someone that doesn’t legally exist I have no idea. I guess the DMV has magical powers.)
I’ll work out the title name issue with the Credit Union. And the fines suck, but I know they apply those to everyone and I wasn’t being singled out.
But the humiliation of being forced to sign a “Statement of Facts” admitting I’m trans? Or getting scolded for showing emotion? Those two things should never happen to anyone. Ever.