© Copyright 2012 The Oklahoman
An Oklahoma County judge is refusing to let men planning sex-change operations switch to feminine names.
District Judge Bill Graves has denied name changes in two such cases so far — last year and again in August. The judge ruled both times the requests were made for a fraudulent purpose.
“I wanted to give up and just die,'' said James Dean Ingram, who asked to legally be known as Angela Renee Ingram but was turned down Aug. 30.
“It's so important because it's who I am. I can't be who I am with a male name,” Ingram said.
The judge's order in the first case is on appeal.
His position also has generated criticism of him at the courthouse.
Five other Oklahoma County judges who handle name change requests told The Oklahoman they routinely grant them in transgender cases.
Graves does not, for scientific reasons. He has concluded a person cannot really change his or her sex because the person's DNA stays the same.
In an unusual move, the judge sought out an expert opinion from a physician.
“A so-called sex-change surgery can make one appear to be the opposite sex, but in fact they are nothing more than an imitation of the opposite sex,” the judge wrote in a seven-page order last year.
“Here, petitioner has not even had the surgery by which his sex purports to be changed. Thus, based on the foregoing and the DNA evidence, a sex change cannot make a man a woman or a woman a man all of which, the Court finds is sufficient in and of itself to deny petitioner's request for a name change,” Graves wrote.
“To grant a name change in this case would be to assist that which is fraudulent,” Graves wrote. “It is notable that Genesis 1:27-28 states: ‘So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth ...' The DNA code shows God meant for them to stay male and female.”
The judge also wrote about not wanting to be “complicit in legitimizing sex changes through changes of names.”
The judge in his 2011 order gave three specific reasons against allowing name changes in transgender cases.
He wrote it could result in someone unwittingly marrying a person “who appeared to be of the opposite sex but was actually of the same sex.”
He wrote it also could hinder crime investigations — causing police officers searching for a male based on DNA evidence to ignore a potential suspect the officers believed was female.
He wrote it also could let someone circumvent the state's prohibitions against same-sex marriage.
In an interview, the judge said he stands by his position.
“You'll give me publicity that maybe I don't want,” Graves told The Oklahoman. “If you're born male, you stay male, according to the study I've done on DNA. If you're born female, you stay female.”
In the first request rejected by the judge, Steven Charles Harvey, 62, was seeking to legally change to Christie Ann Harvey.
In the paperwork, Harvey's attorney told the judge “petitioner is in the process of undergoing sexual/gender change.” The 2011 petition stated Harvey lived in Oklahoma City.
In the appeal, Harvey's attorneys revealed that Harvey, since making the request last year, has “completed the surgical course” of the gender change.
Harvey and the attorneys declined to be interviewed for this story. On Facebook, Harvey wrote about living life now as a female “as my brain was wired at birth ... as I always should have been.”
“What an incredibly rewarding and fulfilling experience. I am truly the happiest I've ever been,” Harvey wrote.
Harvey's attorneys told the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals the judge was wrong to reject the name change because there was no evidence Harvey had a fraudulent purpose. They also argued the judge abused his discretion and violated Harvey's due process, equal protection and First Amendment rights.
The attorneys revealed in the appeal that Harvey “has been married to a woman for many years and she has been fully informed of” Harvey's petition and surgeries. The attorneys also told the appeals court Harvey is a successful businessperson whose gender change has been embraced by those in Harvey's business and social circles.
In the second case, Ingram, 29, of Oklahoma City, stated the reason for the name change request was “transition from male to female.”
In an interview, Ingram told The Oklahoman about dressing in women's clothes full time for six years, about seeing a therapist to help in the transition, and about taking hormones that have produced obvious physical changes already.
Ingram owns a purse, has bras and already is known as Angela to friends. Ingram and boyfriend David Derek Crump said they cannot afford the sex-change surgery yet. They estimated it could cost $15,000 to $20,000. Ingram is currently unemployed.
Ingram recalled that the judge said the name change request was fraudulent because “you can't change what God gave you.”
“I tried to say, ‘I'm not trying to make you change my sex on my birth certificate. I'm trying for a name change.' He didn't really listen to that,” Ingram said Tuesday. “I was angry. I was frustrated.”
In an email Thursday, Ingram told The Oklahoman: “Soon as I was out of the courtroom I collapsed and started to cry ... never before have I wanted more to kill myself.”
Ingram's boyfriend remembered the judge saying he might reconsider if Ingram got the surgery.
Providing the judge with an expert opinion was state Rep. Mike Ritze, R-Broken Arrow. The legislator also is a physician. The judge said Ritze was not paid for the opinion.
Ritze wrote a detailed affidavit for the judge about sex-change procedures.
“The DNA is not altered by any of the above procedures or hormonal treatment,” Ritze wrote. “Based on this scientific fact, it is my opinion that a person cannot change their sex or gender through sex change surgery.”