Written By:Adam H. Rosenblum
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Transgender individuals have long faced issues when it comes to being accepted and recognized for their gender identity. From discrimination and social stigmatization to legal hurdles and lack of access to healthcare, the transgender community has been fighting an uphill battle for years. One of the ways that transgender individuals affirm their gender identity is by changing their names.
A name change can profoundly impact an individual’s life, providing a sense of validation and recognition of their true self. While some states in the U.S. are making it relatively easy for those in the LGBTQ community to get a name change, others are imposing additional requirements that make the process more difficult. In this article, we will delve deeper into the importance of name changes for trans people, the challenges they face, and the states working towards creating trans-friendly policies to support the LGBTQ community.
Why Is Name Changing Important to the Transgender Community?
Transgendered people often experience a deep sense of discomfort with the gender assigned at birth. One way transgender individuals can help alleviate this discomfort is by transitioning, which can include changing their name to align with their true gender identity. Some individuals don’t make physical changes but still want a name that is more fitting for their current identity.
The implications of being misgendered or deadnamed can be profound, causing immense emotional distress and feelings of invalidation. Misgendering is the act of referring to someone using the wrong gender pronoun or gendered language, while deadnaming is the use of someone’s birth name instead of their chosen name. These experiences can be especially traumatic for transgender individuals who are often forced to relive the pain and discomfort of gender dysphoria.
Changing one’s name is a crucial aspect of gender transition and an essential step toward affirming one’s gender identity. For many transgender people, their given name is a painful reminder of the gender assigned to them at birth. Changing their name to something that feels more authentic can be an empowering experience, providing a sense of validation and recognition of their true self.
States Legislations that Make Name or Gender Changes Easy
In recent years, many states have taken steps to protect transgender rights and make it easier to obtain a name change. Some of these states have passed laws that prohibit discrimination based on gender identity, while others have implemented policies that simplify the process of getting a name change. Note that even if your state is not listed below, it doesn’t mean you’ll have difficulty with the name change process. Hiring an experienced attorney can help make the process more smooth and help you avoid some of the potential pitfalls.
California is one such state that has passed legislation to protect the trans community. The Gender Recognition Act, signed into law in 2017, allows individuals to change their gender on state-issued identification documents and birth certificates without requiring any medical or judicial intervention. This law makes it much easier for trans citizens in California to obtain a name change and have their gender identity recognized legally.
Oregon is very transgender-friendly. In 2013, the state passed a law that allows trans citizens to change their name and gender on their birth certificates without requiring gender-transition-related surgery. This law has been instrumental in reducing barriers to obtaining a name change for transgender people in Oregon.
Vermont’s commitment to protecting the rights of the transgender community serves as an example for other states to follow in the effort to create a more inclusive society. Just last year, in 2022, Vermont enacted a law that allows individuals to amend their birth certificates to reflect their gender identity, streamlining the process of name and gender change in the state.
A new Washington law makes name change easier and safer for transgender people who reside in the state. Name-change petitions are now private and sealed by the court for trans people, reducing the risk of discrimination and harassment. This new law recognizes the privacy concerns of transgender individuals and makes obtaining a name change safer and more accessible.
The positive impact of these laws and policies cannot be overstated. Transgender people who can legally change their name and gender are more likely to have their identity affirmed and validated, which can improve their mental health and overall well-being. Changing one’s name can be a complex and daunting process, and the support of trans-friendly laws and policies can be immensely helpful in reducing the stress and anxiety associated with it.
States Legislation Restricting Name and Gender Changes
While there are states making significant changes to make name and gender changes easier, there are also states that have complex and restrictive legal processes, making it challenging for individuals to obtain the necessary documentation to proceed with changing their identity.
Some states require trans people to publish their name change in newspapers before they can file a petition in court, such as Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. This requirement can put transgender individuals in the spotlight by “outing” them to friends, family, or coworkers who are unaware of their gender identity. In turn, this can lead to harassment, discrimination, and even violence.
There are also financial burdens associated with publication. In some cases, transgender individuals may not be able to afford the cost of publishing their name change in a newspaper, which can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. This can be a significant barrier for low-income individuals seeking a legal gender change.
In addition to the requirement of publishing a name change, some states have proposed or enacted laws that impact the ability for trangender people to change their name on official documents.
Texas Senate Bill 162 aims to require an individual’s assigned sex at birth to be listed on their birth certificate and would limit minors from changing this information on their birth certificate records.
Bill 0364 is in committee in the state of South Carolina and aims to change the process of how individuals can make changes to their birth certificates. It would only allow for gender selections of male and female.
North Dakota has passed House Bill 1139 to mandate that gender be specified on birth certificates at the time of birth.
In Missouri, Senate Bill 14 prohibits changes to birth certificates unless there is a documented, medically-verifiable disorder of sex development.
How Can an Attorney Help?
Obtaining an attorney’s help for a name change can be beneficial. An attorney can guide you through the legal process, ensuring that you meet all the necessary requirements and follow the correct procedures specific to your jurisdiction. They can help you prepare and file the required documents accurately and efficiently, saving you time and the potential frustration of being denied due to late or improperly completed paperwork.
An attorney can also provide advice on potential legal complications or challenges that may arise during the name change process. Their expertise and experience can help navigate any such legal complexities, ensuring a smooth and successful name change outcome.
At Rosenblum Law, we have years of experience in handling name changes for the transgender community and will provide the support necessary to avoid unnecessary delays and issues that might lead to a request being denied. Contact us today at 888-815-3649 to get started with a no-cost consultation.
The process of applying for a name change can vary depending on your location. You can petition for a name change by filling out the necessary forms and taking them to the court clerk along with your state’s required fees. Some states will require you to publish notice of your name change in a local publication.
No, you do not need to see a doctor or have any medical procedure done before applying for a name change.
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. Hiring an experienced 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.
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How to Cite Rosenblum Law’s Article
Adam H. Rosenblum (Apr 20, 2023). Name Changes for REAL ID in New Jersey. Rosenblum Law Firm, https://rosenblumlaw.com/name-changes-for-real-id-in-new-jersey/
Adam H. Rosenblum "Name Changes for REAL ID in New Jersey". Rosenblum Law Firm, Apr 20, 2023. https://rosenblumlaw.com/name-changes-for-real-id-in-new-jersey/