This Sunday, Christmas Day, one Mountain Green resident will be attending church alongside many of her neighbors who invited her to join them. Following a judicial ruling in a Morgan courthouse last week, she will now legally be known as Angie Rice instead of Arthur Rice. Angie is looking forward to being part of such community and friendly gatherings bearing a name that more accurately describes who she is.
“I know how hard it has got to be for some people in our community. I can’t force anyone to understand me,” Angie said. “I know it is complicated for people. I just ask people to be kind and respectful.”
The name change petition came before 2nd District Court Judge Noel Hyde Dec. 14 and marks a milestone for Angie.
But she still has mixed emotions, as Hyde declined to also grant Angie’s request to change the gender marker on her birth certificate from male to female. She was born in England to her mom and a third-generation U.S. military member serving in that country at the time.
“Of course I am happy about the name change,” Angie said.
While the name change was made official last week, Angie has already become known as Utah’s first openly transgender public education teacher, attracting national media attention. Following a 2015 law passed by the state legislature protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from discrimination in the workplace, Angie’s story has attracted national attention. Her story has been told by The Wall Street Journal in 2015, and again this year by the Associated Press and People Magazine.
“I had become an expert at hiding my feelings,” Angie told the judge during her testimony last week. She got very good at hiding those feelings while attending the Air Force Academy, working as an Air Force pilot for 20 years and being employed as a public school teacher in the Weber School District.
“I was hiding in a prison I created myself, and society holds the key,” she told the judge. “You get bigger and bigger in that prison box, but the box doesn’t. It was an unsurvivable situation.”
After 50 years, she eventually got tired of wearing “man clothes,” finding it necessary at first to grocery shop in Salt Lake instead of Morgan. “I didn’t want to be discovered. Cabellas pocket cargo pants were my disguise,” she told the judge. “If you asked me to put a pair on now, I couldn’t.”
She and her wife of 27 years raised three children together before Angie was diagnosed in 2011 with gender dysphoria. She sought psychological and medical support.
But this recent name change “fixes it for me,” Angie told the judge.
Now, she won’t be afraid that the name on her identification, credit cards and bills don’t match her appearance. She won’t have her “dignity compromised” by TSA officials at airports or be humiliated at security checkpoints in federal buildings.
“I would play it off in humor,” Angie said of past misunderstandings over her appearance and identification. “But I would go home and cry.”
“People know me as Angie,” she said. “Now, my documentation will match who I am.”
Angie is now faced with a choice of where to take her desire to change her gender identification. She can do nothing, take her request to an appeals court, or search out a sympathetic legislator.
Judge Hyde suggested the latter. He said that the only statutory requirement for the sex change as defined by the legislature is that the party be born in the state of Utah. Since that requirement was not met in Angie’s case, “this may be the appropriate case” to take to the legislature, he said.
“I commend you for your commitment to your country, family and career,” Hyde told Angie. “But this court does not have the authority to make that decision. It is legislative. I decline to invade the prerogative of the legislature. But that is not to detract from who you are or can be. Your courage I do not detract from.”
Judge Hyde’s decision has Angie’s lawyer, Chris Wharton, scratching his head a bit. Other Utah judges and even other 2nd District Court judges have granted gender identification changes in the recent past, Wharton said.
“Name and gender change petitions have been granted all around Utah,” said Wharton, whose office is based in Salt Lake City. “The vast majority of judges I have appeared in front of have granted them. This relief has been granted many times before in Carbon, Uintah, Utah and Salt Lake counties.”
Wharton said he doesn’t see a need to take it to a legislator. “I think it is a solution looking for a problem,” he said.
But Angie has hope going forward, more than she has had in a long time.
Angie said she is a religious person, being baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the age of 14 and sealed to her wife, Sandi, in the Denver LDS Temple three years ago while presenting as a man.
“I have a relationship with my Heavenly Father,” Angie said. “Sometimes I have to keep it more private; but it has always been there.”