At the beginning of my transition, I had the nickname Honeycomb, because I always ate the cereal. It followed me everywhere. I was happy going by that name, but one of my friends suggested I get a new one. She said, “You’re a down to earth person. You’re like a Nicole.” I’m also a professional person. I’ve been working at Johns Hopkins hospital for twelve years. I needed to professionalize my identity.

I had started the name change process on my own before, but I hadn’t followed through with it. It was too expensive. The process was overwhelming. So I set it as a goal for 2014. When I inquired about it with my caseworker, she suggested I try FreeState.  I came to FreeState, and it was a piece of cake. They walked me through step by step. Within two months, it was done.

Before the name change, I would never wear my ID at work; I would punch in and throw it in my pocket. Now I’m showing it to everyone. I won Employee of the Month recently, and they put up a big sign that said Nicole. Despite the fact that some people were already calling me that, it made me think, “Wow, I did it. And they acknowledge it.”

If people knew me before I started transitioning and slip up on my name, I go with the flow; but I expect the people I meet and introduce myself as Nicole to acknowledge it. I’m not offended when my grandmother says what she’s been calling me since birth, because I know it’s hard for her.

I’m a role model to a lot of young people. They look up to me, and they ask me questions. I try to encourage them. And while I was doing that before I got the name change, it feels so much better now. It’s another way of conveying that I’m serious about this. I did my body augmentation; I live completely as a woman; I’m represented and respected as a woman.  And that’s what the name change finalized for me. All that I’ve done to change my identity, the state now recognizes.

I used to tell people a name is just a name; it doesn’t make me or break me.  But I have to change that now. After my name change was finally done, it added so much joy to my life.