I wish I had this when I changed my name! Check out my comprehensive transgender name change checklist. Legally changing my name (and gender, on some ID’s) was a big administrative challenge. It took a lot of time and money. I think it was worth it. Using my new name for my business, for medical treatment, and for travel has alleviated a lot of my day-to-day gender dysphoria.
You might be excited or dreading the process to legally change your name. Whether you’re wondering how to get started or deep in the weeds, this transgender name change checklist for legally changing your name and gender has many of the steps I took.
This post is all about a transgender name change checklist for legally changing your name. Hope this helps!
I am not a lawyer or legal professional, and this is not legal advice and should not be treated as such!
Hi, I’m Rey, a nonbinary writer! Join my email list for more stories and resources for trans and nonbinary people and allies.
Transgender name change checklist
First, before any of the legal steps, I had to pick my new first and middle names. My first name was harder to choose and required a lot of stressing and looking at lists of names. I used my new first name for about a year, I think, before starting the legal name change process (in the U.S. state of California).
The court order is one of the more expensive steps in the process (at least in California, although there are vouchers for low-income). The court order is a prerequisite for getting any other forms of ID updated.
I didn’t know this, but the receipt they gave me for the court order was not the official document. I had to go back to the courthouse and pay an additional $40 for an official, stamped, fancy piece of paper.
The rules may vary for your state: you may need to show up in person for a court date, and/or publish a notice of your name change in the newspaper. It’s worth checking if there are any exemptions if you are changing your name and gender at the same time. You may not have to publish a notice in the newspaper in this case.
This document is the legal proof of your name change. I took a photo of the court order with my phone and have emailed it to countless businesses along with my request to change my name in their records.
Social Security Card
I updated the name on my Social Security card by bringing the court order to an SSA office. My court order showed my new legal gender as ‘X’, and the person doing my paperwork asked if I wanted an ‘M’ or an ‘F’. I appreciated being asked. I imagine your mileage may vary depending on the agent.
I received my new Social Security card in the mail some time later. Your SS number still remains the same.
Next was my passport. I wanted to get a new passport anyway as mine was expiring soon. I got my passport photos taken at a pharmacy, printed and filled out the form, attached my official court order, and sent everything off in a large envelope with a check. They did eventually return all my documents to me through the mail, although it was a harrowing wait.
Drivers License / State ID
I waited a long time to update my drivers license, maybe two years or more. I did the name change on my drivers license when I applied for a new license in Massachusetts. I brought in my court order in addition to the other identity documents required. I have an ‘X’ on my drivers license and an ‘F’ on my passport.
I haven’t updated the name on my birth certificate. For me personally, I don’t consider it a security or safety risk if someone finds my old name. I haven’t looked at or used my birth certificate in years and years and don’t consider it relevant. I would consider updating the birth certificate if I wanted to emigrate to another country, wanted to apply for jobs without any record of my old name, or if it bothered me more.
If you purchase or receive your own health insurance (as a freelancer, or through Medicaid, for example), you can contact your health insurance provider and ask them to update your legal name. You will likely have to provide a copy of your court order.
If your workplace provides your health insurance, you will likely have to ask the person who administers your plan (perhaps HR or office manager at your company) to contact the health insurance and have your name changed.
Bank Accounts / Credit Cards
Okay, so, there is a trick for credit cards. If you are using a new name but do not have a court order (a common-law name change), you can add your new name as an “additional user” of your existing credit card.
If you do have a court order, you can go into the bank if you have a local branch or contact an online bank through their support system to request the name change. You’ll likely need to show the court order.
School / Work
The policies for name changes vary a lot depending on your school or workplace. There should be some administrator who can help you out with this process. I suggest making your name change request very clear and specify any items you especially want changed (for example, your email address or ID badge).
Gym / Library / Other Businesses
Businesses such as gyms or libraries should generally be able to change your name in their system without seeing any sort of legal document. If their computer system really can’t change your name, they can make you a new account. There is a small chance they will need to see your new ID (some YMCA’s need to see a form of ID). I would ask at the front desk for the staff member or librarian to change your name.
Car Registration & Car Insurance
Your legal name needs to match on your car registration and car insurance. At the time when you register the car and get the insurance, you’re going to need your drivers license to have the same name also. I know this for a fact because I delayed my car getting registered for almost two weeks! I applied for the name change on the drivers license, then was unable to register my car that same day because I needed to wait a week or so for my car insurance to update the name change.
I would still recommend changing your legal name on your drivers license first, then contact the insurance provider, then expect a delay, then change your registration.
The three credit reporting agencies, Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax, don’t automatically pick up on your name change, even after years. Their records are all separate, so if one agency has your new records, the others may not. Anecdotally, TransUnion is fastest in getting people’s new names (go figure).
Expect to get automatically denied for credit cards and similar for a while. You can go into the bank and provide your paperwork in person. If your landlord does a credit check, you may have to provide them with your old name also.
It should be possible to contact support for these agencies and request the record be updated. I have not had much luck with this. Perhaps someone more persistent or better at paperwork could do it.
About three or four years after my court order, my credit checks started to come back alright. I would not recommend changing your name and then immediately buying a house… although, it’s kind of a nightmare to change names on a house deed. Problems all around.
Is it worth it to legally change your name?
For what it’s worth, I don’t know anyone who has regretted legally changing their name. I know a few people who have not changed their name legally but go by their real name everywhere, and it works generally fine for them. Changing your name is an investment of a lot of money and time, for most people. If you are low income, it may be possible to get a court order for free — definitely check your eligibility for that. There are organizations which help trans people with legal name changes.
Personally, I think my legal name change was absolutely worth it for me. As a writer, small-business-person, and content creator, it’s important to work under a name that feels comfortable to me. Being able to access medical care, financial resources, and travel without having to deal with the dysphoria of my old name is a game-changer. Changing my name has changed my life!
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