I liked the name Angela because growing up, I would always draw pictures of angels for my mom; they were the one feminine memory about my pre-transition self. I was originally named after my grandfather, but I couldn’t carry on my male name too well.  So I chose Virginia—my grandmom’s name—as my middle name, to carry on something of that family line.

I hated writing my old name. I feel like sometimes people want to do that to you, to try to get you to accept their reality: your so-called real name. My name, Angela, exists in the world. That makes it real.

Any time you want to pay with a credit card is emotional as well. For a while, I said, “I’m going to get money from the ATM and stop using my card, because I don’t want to deal with this thing in my purse all the time.” I’ve had friends who have opened up accounts in a different name—who said my trans identity is a joint identity.

Now that I have my name change, my identity documents are a little protective shield, wherever I go and whatever I do. It’s a big stepping stone to get me to the next stage of everything—even to the point where I can fly to some other state, and no one’s going to obsess over my birth genetics.

When trans people are first getting their name changed, the hormones may not yet have done a lot, if they’re getting them at all.  Who knows how all their cisgender friends and family are treating them. They’re in a very fragile state at that point; it’s not always easy for them to have that proper get-up-and-go attitude. It means so much to have someone to escort you through one step in these early stages, when you’re this fragile and sensitive and you just need to get rid of all the oppressive barriers. It’s sort of like getting a book published: you can do it on your own, but it might be more advantageous to get an agent to advise you—which is why I recommend FreeState Legal.

I want trans people to know an analogy that I was once told. The eagle is a grand bird of prey, and very revered in most cultures. But there comes a point in its life that the eagle is going to die unless it rips out every single one of its talons, and every single one of its feathers. That eagle can make the choice to say, “Okay, I guess this is it; I’m just going to sit here and die,” or it can say, “You know what? I can’t accept death, especially not like this. I’m going to get through this pain.” And then they’re reborn.  They get onto their perch one more time.