Transgender Name Change: How to Legally Change Your Name in the US

Members of the LGBTQ+ community, and transgender, non-binary, and intersex individuals in particular, have long fought to be able to legally change their name and gender marker more easily. For many, this is not only a matter of identity but also personal safety and improved quality of life.

Name change and transgender birth certificate laws vary by state. In this article, you will get an overview of the steps you need to take to see your name and gender identity reflected on official documents.

Here is a step-by-step guide to have your name change recognized by law:

  1. Check the laws that apply to you. This means finding out what is needed in your specific situation. Factors that affect the process are, for example, your state of legal residence, your age, and your nationality.
  2. Get the form(s) you need and fill them out. Depending on your location, you may get them online or in-person at the county office.
  3. Request a court date. The first available date may be in weeks.
  4. Collect the material you need for your court date, such as proof of legal notice publication, notarized affidavits, current photo IDs, medical certificates, and more. The specific required documents will vary depending on local laws.
  5. Attend your court appointment at the agreed date and time. Wait for the judge to call your case and answer their questions truthfully. Make sure to have all the documents you need with you.
  6. Obtain multiple certified copies of the court-ordered name change, as you may need these on several occasions in the future.

If you are concerned about your safety and/or privacy, you can ask for the court case to be sealed.

What to do if the judge rejects your name change petition

If the judge rejects your application, you can ask them the reason for their decision. This will make it easier for you to appeal or have your case re-heard in the future.

Make sure that you seek legal advice and speak with a lawyer before deciding on your next steps.

What to Do After You Have Changed Your Name Legally

Now that you have your court order, you need to update your documents so that they reflect the name change.

Remember: to change your name on documents is not the same as to change gender identity and, therefore, update your gender marker. Each document has its own process to change the gender marker or choose a gender-neutral X marker (where possible.) The specific requirements not only depend on the type of document but also on the state/institution issuing it.

Here is a list of documents that need to be updated once you have your court order:

  • Social Security Card, at your nearest Social Security office
  • State ID and driver’s license, at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) of your state of residence
  • Your US passport, in-person or via email through the relevant office of the Department of State
  • Your bank accounts, credit cards, and other financial records at your financial institution(s)
  • Your health, car and home insurance plans at your insurance company
  • School and workplace documents (contact the school/employer for detailed instructions)
  • Your birth certificate at the Vital Records office of the state where you were born

There are several other documents you will need to update and entities you may want to inform of your name change, depending on your specific circumstances. Examples include immigration records, voter registration, and Selective Services.

How to update your birth certificate to reflect your gender

To change your name on your birth certificate, you will need to submit a request with the Vital Records office of the state where your birth was registered. You will need to provide a certified copy of the court order, as well as other IDs and an application form, as part of your petition.

Not all states allow to request a non-binary birth certificate, and laws on changing a birth certificate’s gender marker vary greatly. Requirements can go from a court order to proof of reassignment surgery.

Once amended, your birth certificate will be sent to you by mail.