Kara Babcock

I read, write, code, and knit.

What's in a name?

About a month after coming out, I wrote a post about why I chose the name Kara. Today I am excited and happy to announce that, courtesy of the Government of Ontario, my name is now legally Kara Doreen Rose Babcock.

My middle names, Doreen and Rose, are the names of my maternal and paternal grandmothers, respectively. Choosing middle names was much more difficult than choosing my first name! I briefly considered no middle name. Ultimately I decided to honour my female forebears on either side of my family. My grandma Doreen is no longer with us, so she never learned of my journey. My grandma Rose is still going strong and is extremely supportive of her “new” granddaughter. So I’m proud to carry both of these names into this next stage of my life.

Why I Changed My Name

I knew pretty much from the moment I decided to be Kara that I would be changing my name legally. Not every trans person does, of course. Some trans people keep their birth names; some just go by a nickname but don’t mind having a different legal name. Nevertheless, in my life, my legal name comes up a heck of a lot. From PayPal and banking to payroll to government IDs … I just knew things would be smoother if I legally became Kara.

From a transition point of view, I believe this is an step important for me. As I reflected in my earlier blog post, I like my dead name. I am not eager to leave it behind; I’m not seeking to erase it, just to … retire it. As long as my dead name remained my legal name, though, it was going to cling to my consciousness. Now that I am legally Kara, I can move on from Ben in a way that is healthy and respectful and acknowledges all the amazing and good things that happened to me with that name. In the coming month, one of my best friends and I will have a fire, burn my cast from last year (yeah, I kept that), and mark this occasion.

Navigating the Process

For the second half of this post, I want to describe how I navigated the actual bureaucracy of changing my name in Ontario. I hope this is helpful for anyone else who might be considering this.

The Government of Ontario website has a page about changing your name, so that should be your first stop. It contains links to the change of name form as well as a form you’ll need if you need a police records check. Note: As you’ll discover when you read the change of name application, you only need a police records check if you are disclosing past convictions. If, like me, you have no such record, you simply get to attest that you’re clean and they … like … trust you.

The change of name application looks intimidating, but that’s because it’s organized into various parts that may or may not apply to you. For example, I am not and have never been married, so the section where I have to notify my spouse that I’m changing my name is not applicable (I assume this exists so people can’t dodge child support payments). As mentioned above, no records check for me. There’s also a section where you list any previous names you’ve had—if, like me, this your first name change then that’s yet another page to leave blank.

What you will definitely need:

  • Someone who can attest that you have lived in Ontario for at least a year. This is your guarantor and they should fall into one of certain categories listed in the application.
  • Someone who can act as a commissioner to witness you signing the application. This is probably (but not always) going to be a lawyer.
  • A way of paying $137 (the fee at the time of writing). I gave them my credit card information.

Now, when you change your name in Ontario, you receive a free birth certificate with your updated name. However, I also wanted to change the sex designation on my birth certificate from M to F. This is a separate application, and whereas your name change requires nothing more than some witnesses, this application requires a letter of support from a physician or psychologist. I am very fortunate in that I could obtain such a letter (this was in fact the delaying factor in submitting my applications). This is a significant barrier to some people still, and I hope that one day it is removed. Nevertheless, I want to acknowledge that it used to be much harder to have the province recognize your correct gender identity, so things are improving!

The fee for changing your sex designation on your birth certificate is waived until April 2021.

So, I mailed my letter, my old birth certificate, and the two application packages to the Office of the Registrar General. Conveniently for me, this office is located in Thunder Bay, so my package arrived the next day. This is probably the one and only time that living in Thunder Bay has been bureaucratically expedient!

About one week later, my package was returned to me. They assured me that my change of name application was fine, but they were holding off on processing it until my other application was sorted. Specifically, I needed to send them an original signed letter from my physician.

I did send them an original, of course; this is not my first government rodeo. Yet I understand why they mistook it for a copy: it was typed, printed, then signed in black ink. (I related this story to my doctor at my last appointment and she groused, “I guess I’ll sign them in blue ink from now on,” lol.) I was perturbed but not overly concerned; this seemed solvable. I called Service Ontario and the representative I spoke to simply told me to send back the application and tell them that the letter is original. I did this by typing a very formal business letter (hello, English teacher here) in which I “attest that this letter is an original.”

This seemed to do the trick, because last Thursday my credit card was charged the $137 fee for my name change. I noticed this last Saturday and … well, I kind of freaked out. So of course, this entire week I eagerly raced to my mailbox the moment the postal worker dropped off mail. And, of course, it didn’t arrive until today, Friday! (But hey, it might have taken longer. I’m not complaining.) In two separate envelopes, there they were: my official change of name certificate, and my new birth certificate that names me Kara Doreen Rose Babcock—sex: F.

Ontario birth certificates these days are fancy! I love the new security features. It’s quite attractive.

Not the End But the Beginning

This is, of course, a huge milestone in my gender journey. Yet in many ways it is just another beginning! Now that I have these two crucial documents, there are so many more documents and places to update my legal name! Don’t worry, folx: I have a spreadsheet to track this. And I’ve got some time off in the next few weeks to phone, email, or mail as required. I’m actually looking forward to this part—it’s going to be cathartic, and it’s going to give me time to process this significant change in my life.