The Ins and Outs of Changing Name and Gender
At some point, most transgender people will find that the name that was assigned them at birth no longer suits them, and they choose a new name that affirms their gender identity.
It is not uncommon for them to be known by this new name for years before they consider making this change legal. It is, after all, a difficult personal decision that impacts family, friends, careers and more.
There are many good reasons for pursuing a legal name change, including personal safety, privacy, avoiding problems with various law enforcement agencies, establishing family, employment issues, and eliminating the distress of living with ’the wrong name.’
Having identity documents that match gender presentation is an important part of transition from birth-assigned gender to experienced gender. With a little courage and perseverance, it is a realistic and attainable goal for most transgender people.
Understanding this process (in Florida) is important for transgender people, as well as their allies in the rest of the LGBT community and beyond.
Just the Facts
The first question usually asked is "How much will it cost?"
This varies from person to person, but in Florida it typically will run about $500 to pay for the court filing fee, background check and updated driver’s license. The $401 court filing fee can be waived if the petitioner (the person filing for the name change) is unable to pay it, but everything else will still need to be paid.
There are many other things that may need to be changed, too, including passport, vehicle title and registration, diplomas, birth certificate, and professional licenses. Changing these may cost as much as another $500.
Unless the petitioner is a minor, adjudicated incompetent, or a convicted felon, it is probably not necessary to have an attorney - though it never hurts.
You can file the paperwork and represent yourself in court.
Changing a legal name does not require changing one’s gender marker. They are two entirely different processes.
And while changing just the name requires a court order, the gender marker change requires a special letter from a physician.
How long this process takes varies.
The court case may take three to six weeks to come up after filing, but will be decided in a few minutes with the judge. Once the final judgment is entered and certified copies purchased, the rest of the work begins.
Some agencies like the Social Security Administration and the Division of Driver Licenses require a visit to their office.
Others may only need a photocopy or certified copy of the court order mailed to them.
It may take a month or more to update all identity documents, licenses, and accounts.
Where to Start
It goes without saying that the beginning of this process starts well before filing for a name change.
There is a journey of self-discovery and acceptance, hopefully - but not typically -supported by family and friends. This journey often involves counselors and medical professionals. With that said, some practical considerations are listed below:
Finances: Is there enough money available to complete the process?
Checklist: Are all forms gathered, all information collected, all requirements anticipated and met, all accounts and contacts listed?
Support system: Is everything in place to succeed?
The Court Process
1. Obtaining forms