transgender name change

Transgender Name Change – A Checklist

If you’re one of the many individuals going through a transition, you’re already aware of the hurdles you must take in order to change your name and gender. Because each state’s requirements are different, it’s not always clear what steps you may need to take. You may have some questions on how to go through the process for a transgender name change, so we’ve put together some resources and answers to some frequently asked questions to hopefully assist you in this part of your journey. 

While some states will allow you to change your gender marker as well, a legal name change can happen regardless of your ability to change your gender marker in most states. For transgender, non-binary, or intersexed individuals, being able to change their name on legal forms of identity and changing their gender markers on their birth certificate is one way to help improve their quality of life and ensure their safety. Having matching identification that shows their current appearance and the name they prefer to be identified by is important for a variety of life’s major events. Landing and processing at a new job, ordering adult beverages, showing ID when writing a check, and so many other scenarios will require individuals going through a transition to have an ID that matches how they wish to look. 

Transgender Name Change – a Checklist

Because each state is different, it’s important to first start by learning about the laws associated with name changes and gender marker changes in the state that your birth certificate was issued. While you can legally change your name in the state in which you reside, in order to change your birth certificate, trans individuals will need to look into the laws in the state where they were born. There are many states that still don’t allow for gender marker changes on birth certificates. 

legally changing your name
One of the easier steps to take in order to complete your transition is by legally changing your name.

Changing your name is the first step in the long legal process of becoming the person you’re meant to be. In many states, you can start making the change socially before you begin the legal steps. To do this, you simply start using your assumed name on things like school IDs. In some states, you can use a preferred name on your driver’s license and state issued ID, but you’ll need to check with your local DMV to learn if it is available in your state. To begin the name change process legally, you’ll need to take a few additional steps. 

  1. Learn what the process is in your state – To begin the process and make it official, transgender individuals should go through the legal name change process. You can begin by calling your local county court office. They can help direct you to the forms you’ll need to print and submit. You can also look on TransEquality.org for a detailed list state by state. 
  2. Fill out your petition for name change – In most states, the form to submit to the courts for a legal name change is called a Petition for Legal Name Change. Regardless of the name of the form, you’ll need to fill out and submit this document to the courts near where you reside. 
  3. Check on fees – While some states have a minimal fee of just a few dollars, other states may require several hundred dollars to legally change your name. 
  4. Publishing a notice in local papers – Some states still require individuals to post an announcement in local newspapers for a set period of time. This is not a common requirement, so again, it’s important to research your state’s requirements before starting this process. This simply means you’ll be required to take out a personal ad in the local publication and allow it to run for anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. This step will need to be completed before your court date. You may need to bring in a copy of the ad, and a receipt showing you ran it. 
  5. Ensure you don’t need the help of legal counsel – It is illegal to change your name for nefarious purposes. This means if you owe back taxes, are a felon, have a civil judgement against you, or have defaulted on credit or filed bankruptcy, the process may be a bit lengthier. This doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t be able to change your name at all, but speaking to an attorney can help you clarify the process. If you are avoiding paying debts or are attempting to commit fraud.
  6. Get an affidavit – In some states, you need to provide a written and notarized statement from someone who knows you and your dead[LB1] [ASM2]  name.
  7. Decide if you’re changing your gender marker at the same time – For most trans individuals, changing their name and their gender marker is the end goal. If the plan is to eventually change your gender marker, some states will allow you to do this in conjunction with changing your name. It’s sometimes easier to file for both of these legal changes at the same time. It’s important to note that in many states, you do not need to have your gender marker changed on your birth certificate in order to update your gender on your driver’s license. You also do not need to have an updated gender marker on your birth certificate to apply for a gender marker change on your passport.
  8. Head to the courthouse – When you head into the county courthouse, bring your completed forms, money to pay your fees, and any forms of ID your state requires. Most county courthouses will only accept cash or certified checks, call in advance if you’re unsure what they require. In addition to a certified copy of your birth certificate, you will need at least one government issued ID – again. Check with your county clerk to ensure you come prepared.
  9. Setting a court date – You have a bit of say when it comes to deciding what day and time you’d like your court date to be. Go for early in the day on whichever day you choose. This way you can complete any other steps right at the courthouse when your name change has been granted.
  10. Head to your court hearing  – Once you’ve completed the above steps and your court hearing date is set, it’s time to get prepared for the actual hearing. When it’s time for your court date, ensure you bring any legal name change fees, your petition, identification, affidavits, and proof of your publication if required. If you’re seeing a medical professional, it may be beneficial to bring a letter from your doctor stating that you’re transitioning. You may be able to speak to the judge about medically transitioning and changing your gender marker at this time, too.
  11. Get certified copies of your judgement – Once the judge has ruled in your favor, you’ll need to head to the chancery to obtain certified copies of the judgement. You’ll need these to change your name on government issued IDs, some financial institutions, and other government agencies and they will usually not accept photocopies of this document.

We hope once you’ve reached this point in your transition, that this process goes smoothly. Transgender name changes can be very affirming for those transitioning, and this step can be a huge boost to confidence, and those individuals going forth as the person they want to be. Good luck to those taking this exciting next step! 

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