Transgender Name and Gender Changes in New York

Some people undergo life changes that result in their needing to officially change their name and gender identification. While this may seem like a small issue, consider the sheer number of things in one’s daily life that require us to list our full names and gender identification. This information can be found on our drivers licenses, passports, social security cards, work identification cards, insurance and bank accounts, and more. Many paper and online forms have not been revised and still only offer “male” and “female” as gender options. Changing a name on one or all of these will require a legal name to match before the change is allowed. This article will discuss how this process works in New York, and how an attorney can help streamline the process.

Basics of the Process: Legal Name Change

When looking to change a legal name in New York, a petition must be submitted to the court. The applicant is also required to give notice within a designated newspaper within 60 days of the court-issued name change order. People with prior criminal convictions are subject to additional rules and notice requirements. A court may approve the publication requirement to be waived on a case-by-case basis. Once the petition is filed, the court will issue feedback to the applicant on whether the petition was accepted or needs more information added. If the petition is approved, the court will send a signed order to the applicant. This needs to be published. Then, an “affidavit of publication” must be sent to the clerk of the court, thereby finalizing the legal name change process. Several certified copies of the name change will need to be requested because the applicant will need them to update their legal name with other agencies.

Name Changes For Minors

For minors in New York looking to legally change their names, a parent, guardian, or “next friend” of the minor must file a petition on their behalf requesting the name change. A next friend is someone who represents a minor in a court process due to a minor being considered not competent to represent themselves. This can come in the form of a parent, a family friend, or a court appointed guardian to ensure the best interest of the minor is not violated due to their innocence. Some of the other requirements remain similar to the general rule under N.Y. Civil Rights Laws, where there needs to be a publication in a local newspaper, unless the publication requirement is waived by the court for personal safety reasons, which can be requested within the petition. Any parent who is not a signer of the petition must receive notice about the name change.

The petition for name change should be filed with a county court where the minor resides or the Supreme Court. Minors who reside in New York City may file their petition in any of the five boroughs. A minor’s petition for legal name change does not require parental consent from both parents. The petition may be filed by a next friend, guardian, or either of the minor’s parents. Any parent who has not signed the petition will have the opportunity, after receiving notice, to appear and object to the name change, but a judge may still grant the name change without parental consent.

Although name changes for minors may include the extra step of consent and a next friend or guardian to represent the minor, the court will be considering the best interest of the child throughout the proceeding. If the judge finds that there is no reasonable objection to the name change, the petition will be granted.

Some factors a judge will typically consider when deciding the legal name change of a minor are:

  • Child’s personal preference
  • Age
  • Experience
  • Length of time original name was used
  • Harassment from former or proposed name
  • Difficulties of former or proposed name
  • Motives of child and parents

Being proactive by preparing to address these factors and interests of the child with evidence can help streamline the approval process. Some pieces of evidence that could be useful to submit with a petition would be letters from family, friends, teachers, and letters from medical professionals mentioning the child’s gender identity and/or preferred name and how it will impact their life.

Publication Requirement

Usually within 60 days after being granted the signed order of the court for a legal name change, an applicant is required to publish a notice in a local newspaper within their county. Section 63 of the N.Y. Civil Rights Laws provides the following format for the publication notice of legal name change:

Notice is hereby given that an order entered by the ……………….. court, …………….. county, on the ……… day of ……….., bearing Index Number ……………….., a copy of which may be examined at the office of the clerk, located at ………………………………., in room number …………., grants me the right to assume the name of …………………………………… The city and state of my present address are …………………………….; the month and year of my birth are …………………….; the place of my birth is ……………………; my present name is …………………………………

The publication requirement can be waived if there is concern for the personal safety or well-being of the applicant, once all of the circumstances are evaluated. Under N.Y. Civil Rights Law Section 64-a., the court cannot deny a waiver request solely on the reason that the applicant does not have the history to support a threat of personal safety. Upon the approval of the publication requirement waiver, the court will order the records to be sealed and only accessible by another court order or a request by the applicant.

New York Drivers License: Updating Legal Name/Gender

After a legal name change petition is approved and ordered by the court, along with subsequent requirements being completed, an applicant may proceed to updating their driver’s license to show the new name. The first step in the process is to fill out and submit a new application for a driver’s license with the court order for the name change attached to the application. This form can be found at the Department of Motor Vehicles website under forms, and is formally called the “Application for Permit, Driver License or Non-Driver ID Card.

For a gender change on a driver’s license, an applicant must be sure to attach a letter from a physician, psychologist, psychiatrist, counselor, social worker, or other professional who is aware of the situation and can certify the gender identity change.

New York Birth Certificate: Updating Legal Gender

It should be noted that New York City and New York State issue birth certificates separately. In the State of New York, there are two different forms for individuals age 17 or older (DOH 5305), and individuals age 16 or younger (DOH 5306). In addition to this, an applicant must fill out an affidavit form confirming that individual’s gender identity, which also has two separate forms, one for applicants who are age 17 or older (DOH 5303), and one for those who are age 16 or younger (DOH 5304). If a name change is also requested, a certified copy of the applicant’s current birth certificate, then the original or certified copy of the court order for the name change, and the required payment will be needed as well.

New York City handles this process separately from the rest of the state. It offers a gender change update to and from male, female, and X, only requiring that the applicant make the request for the change. No medical documentation is required. Applicants are required to submit the following documentation:

  • Birth certificate correction application
  • Adult attestation of gender identity
    • Minors: parent/guardian attestation of gender identity form
  • Original or signed copy of current photo ID
  • If also applying for name change: original court order for name change
  • Applicable payment for application

Why an Applicant Should Hire an Attorney for a Transgender Name Change

Making these changes is not as easy as it sounds. It requires the navigation of a variety of legal documents, which can be challenging for those who do not have expertise with the law and legal procedures. Birth certificates and driver’s licenses are issued by states, and therefore the law and procedures that cover them fall under state law.

During these procedures, an applicant will be dealing directly with a court of law for name and gender changes, and/or the proper agency for the form of identification that needs updating. To be adequately prepared, an applicant will need to have all of their paperwork properly filled out and prepared to submit for review. If the applicant is unable to have the proper materials prepared, the process can become very complicated.

Related Facts and Statistics

  • The Gender Recognition Act (GRA), allowing New Yorkers to select “Male,” “Female,” or “X” for gender on New York State-issued driver’s licenses, state ID’s, and birth certificates, was signed into law on June 24, 2021.
  • The GRA was effective beginning on May 27th, 2022.
  • 73.6% of transgender students in New York State schools reported verbal harassment due to gender expression in a 2015 NYCLU Study.
    • One in three transgender students reported physical harassment and
    • 16.2% reported physical assault in school due to their gender expression.
    • 75% of transgender youth did not feel safe in school.
    • 63.4% of transgender minors felt unsafe in school bathrooms.
    • 52.1% of transgender minors felt unsafe in school locker rooms.
  • Rates for work place discrimination reported through surveys:
    • 74% reported experiencing harassment or mistreatment on the job.
    • 20% lost their job due to gender identity and/or expression.
    • 20% were denied a promotion due to gender identity or expression.
    • 37% were not hired due to gender identity or expression.
  • For an extensive review of issues impacting transgender and gender non conforming New-Yorkers, click here.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I really need an attorney just to fill out forms for a gender or name change? That doesn’t seem too challenging.

If the paperwork is not filled out properly, and the proper measures are not taken afterwards, a name or gender change request to the court could be denied. In these applications, you must be able to convince a judge that the name or gender change is true and a genuine need or desire of yours. As to some of the later requirements, such as publishing your name change after a court order, they must be done within a strict timeline. If for some reason you qualify for the waiver from the publication of your name change in a newspaper, you need to have the waiver form and required proof properly prepared in order to be exempt from it. Hiring an expert attorney with experience in the area of transgender name and/or gender changes will help streamline the process by ensuring all required materials are sufficiently prepared and you get the legal changes you are entitled to.

How do I find out where to file a petition for a name and gender change?

You will need to file your petition with the county level court for where you reside or the State Supreme Court. For New York City, you may file your petition in any of the five boroughs. You can ensure you are filing with the proper court, and that the procedure goes smoothly by consulting an attorney.

What if I change my name and/or gender and then later want to go back to my original name and/or gender?

You can change your name and/or gender back to your original ones if you later regret your decision. The process will be essentially the same, with the only difference being that your explanation will need to be updated accordingly.

Why can’t I change my driver’s license gender identification to the specific one that I identify with?

Unfortunately, this is one issue that cannot be addressed. The likely reason that any gender, other than male or female, is categorized under “X” is to include everyone who does not identify as one of the traditional two.

Who Should You Contact for Help?

Now that you have a basic understanding of how to legally change your name and gender in New York and updating forms of identification, you surely also understand the benefit of having an attorney by your side during the process. If you are someone who likes to be in the loop about your legal casework, treated like family, and be represented by the best of the best, reach out to us at Rosenblum Law. For decades, we have successfully represented clients in a wide variety of legal areas. We welcome you to e-mail or call 888-815-3649 for a free, no-obligation consultation.

Other Resources

New York State Consolidated Laws: Civil Rights

NCLU: Changing Your Name or Gender Marker Under the Gender Recognition Act

New York State Department of Motor Vehicles

New York State Department of Health Birth Certificate Information

New York City Department of Health Birth Certificate Information

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