The Name Change Game


The transgender pride flag represents male, female, and the transtition between the two, as well as those who fall between male and female.

Castor Basa, Editor-In-Chief

Changing my name was the most annoying, overly bureaucratic, frustrating process I have ever gone through. Correction: I’m still going through it, and I’m exhausted. 

I’ve known for a long time that I didn’t intend to keep my old name. I came out as transgender when I was 13, and knew then that I wanted to change it. Though it was gender-neutral, it was awkward to associate with it, and being called it felt like wearing a shirt one size too small. After trying several names, I settled on Castor. 

I tried names from Scott and Dave to Indigo and Sage. I wanted something that felt right, that struck a perfect harmony between masculinity and androgyny, but I often found that names would swing too far in one direction and not the other.

Four people with their arms around each other smiling for the camera. They are all dress in navy blue scrubs and stand in an xray room.
My classmates in the Medical Imaging program and I posing for a picture. In order from left to right: Castor Basa, Jennifer Hayek, Ashley Early, and Grace Lozinski.

Strangely enough, I found the name Castor because of my birthday. I was born in June under the Gemini constellation. Its two brightest stars, Castor and Pollux, are named after the twins of Greco-Roman legend. The name Castor called to me instantly, and I began using it to see if it was right for me.

I’ve used the name Castor for six years, and as of August 22, it is my legal name.

I began the saga of making my name legal in December 2021. I filled out a confusing form with the tiniest font possible and submitted it online. The Circuit Courthouse of Waukegan denied my first attempt. So I did it again. I read more carefully, got my microscope out, and really made sure I was following the fine print. I was denied again. I did this two more times, each time getting more and more desperate, frustrated, and miserable.

How hard could it be to apply for a name change? It was so much harder than applying to the Medical Imaging program here at CLC. It seemed like whoever was in charge at the courthouse did not want Castor to be my legal name.

I gave up in February. Classes were too overwhelming to be ripping my hair out over yet another thing I didn’t understand.

I still intended to make Castor legal, but I was exhausted and put it on the back burner to keep my sanity and pass my classes.

In April, during a telehealth visit, my endocrinologist recommended going to the Transformative Justice Law Project of Illinois. The project is a non-profit organization that offers free gender-affirming legal help to transgender individuals, specifically those of low income and those targeted by what I call the criminal legal system. They also create educational resources and training curricula for community members and allies. The project is a wonderful initiative whose main goal is to help uplift the folks at the very bottom of society’s list of priorities. 

I was connected with Nicki Bazer, a Lake County-based lawyer. Via email and phone calls, Bazer organized my paperwork, soothed my fears of never getting this over with, and filed my petition for a legal name change with the Illinois Circuit Court of Cook County.

Bazer filed the petition in June, and it took two months to get a hearing date on August 22. I was excused from the second day of classes to attend court.

After nearly a year of filling out forms, mailing envelopes and getting denied, I appeared before a judge hoping to make official what I’d been calling myself and how my teachers, employers and friends knew me for more than six years.

A picture of Castor with their parents in formal attire. Them and their father are both in suits. Their mother is in a dark blue dress and has a corsage on her wrist. Castor is between their parents. Everyone is smiling.
My parents, who have always supported me.

The judge took less than 10 minutes. I was finally, officially, legally Castor Basa.

Almost. I had to go to the Waukegan courthouse and pay 40 dollars for copies of the order. And mail my birth certificate to the Illinois Department of Public Health. And apply for a passport renewal at the post office. And present my legal documents to the Social Security Administration in Waukegan. And my bank account. And my car insurance, health insurance, dental, vision, every single doctor’s office, and even at CLC.

I made Castor legal two months ago. So far, all I have to show for it is a temporary Illinois driver’s license and a few stamped papers that cost 40 bucks.

This is the real criminal legal system. Forcing people to spend months of their lives jumping through hoops and pleasing the system. Nobody said being transgender was easy, but did it have to be covered in red tape?