The legal process of changing your name and gender marker can be an extremely complicated and time-intensive. Many of these steps are intertwined, making the order of operations important. This article will cover how I would approach this process in my home state of Oregon. This process may vary by location (visit http://www.transequality.org/documents for policies in each US state), but hopefully this will help to show the general outline of the process.
Proof of Change of Name and Gender
Everything starts with a court-issued name change petition. This follows the same procedure as for someone changing their name after getting married. After going to the local courthouse, you can purchase the necessary name change forms (or print them from online copies online at the courthouse’s website), fill them out, and pay a fee. Generally, they will require some sort of identification such as a driver’s license or student ID with your previous name.
My experience included submitting the paperwork and hanging the petition in the courthouse for two weeks. After that, I came in again to post the second stage of the petition for another two weeks. There were no objections in those four weeks, so they gave me a notarized court order authorizing my name change. Always bring the original copy of this when presenting it as proof of name change. This is what will allow you to do every other part of the process.
In certain circumstances and states, you can petition for a legal gender change at the same time as your name change. However, it may require a demonstration that you have received the “necessary treatment” to transition to that gender, such as surgery or hormones. I personally didn’t have this option. However, there is a work-around. In most cases, a licensed physician and/or counselor certifying your gender can sign certain documents as proof of gender change.
At this point, you can go a couple different routes. The rest of the process will go smoother if you next obtain or renew a driver’s license, state ID, or passport.
I personally chose to renew my driver’s license first, which was relatively easy in Oregon. Renewing a license only requires the previous driver’s license, an application for a new driver’s license, proof of legal name change, proof of gender change, and a fee payment for the new card. Here, the proof of gender change is either the court order of gender change from above or an application called the Change of Gender Designation Form signed by a physician.
If you already have a passport, it may be just as easy (or easier) to correct that first. This is especially true if the DMV policies in your state are unfriendly toward gender transition, since passports follow a national policy. To renew a passport, bring a Passport Renewal Application (Form DS-82), your old passport, a color photo of yourself, proof of name change, and fee payment for the new passport card and/or book.
To get a new passport, you will also have to add proof of US citizenship (such as a birth certificate) and proof of identity (such as a driver’s license). You may use documents with your previous name and gender, but if you do, you will also need a physician’s letter confirming gender transition. You can learn more about your rights and find a sample physician’s letter at The National Center for Transgender Equality.
Bring these documents to a Passport Agency, approved Passport Acceptance Facility (like certain post offices and county courthouses), or mail them through certain US Post Offices. First-time applicants will need to complete this process in person at one of the first two options. Find out more about what is necessary at the State Department Website.
The other option is to change your birth certificate first. In Oregon, this requires the court-ordered proofs of name and gender change, a signed statement, a vital records order form, and a payment for the amendment and new certificate. This may vary depending on the state, but in Oregon, it requires the court-ordered gender change form. This can be mailed or handed over in person to the state office.
Once you have a valid form of photo ID, most other doors open. Let’s start with social security. That requires a driver’s license, state ID, or passport; a birth certificate (unless you bring a passport); proof of name change; and proof of gender. The proof of gender includes either a birth certificate with the corrected gender, full-validity 10-year passport with the corrected gender, court order, or physician letter. Bring all of these to a social security office and they will send you a new card in the mail with the updated name (but the same social security number) for free. You can find more information on name changes, gender changes, and your rights at each respective link.
After changing your name and gender on your identification, you can change most other accounts. Updating records often unfolds like a line of dominos. Changing a name may require you to update banking information which may require changes in employment information, housing, or loan payments. Here are a couple more things you may consider updating, courtesy of DMV.org,
- Voter registration
- Insurance companies
- Schools and universities
- Doctors and pharmacists
- Any loans, mortgages, credit cards
- Government assistance and welfare
- Mail/magazine subscriptions
- Tax organizations
- Post office
This process may appear daunting–because it is. There is a lot of work and time involved, with frustrations and bureaucracy along the way. But it is possible. Everyone’s process takes a different order, with unique challenges and breakthroughs. All of them happen one step at a time.