It’s often a problem for transgender people that their government documents (e.g., driver’s license, Social Security record, passport) don’t match their name and gender. Having updated documents is important for employment, government benefits, and even safety. An incorrect document can “out” a transgender person at a dangerous moment. Here’s what you need to know about making name and gender marker changes.
To correctly and completely update their government documents, the Transgender Law Center recommends that individuals first obtain court orders for gender and name changes, then contact the Social Security Administration (SSA) to update those records, and finally, obtain a new state ID driver’s license or a U.S. passport. The Center’s publication ID Please! A Guide to Changing California & Federal Identity Documents to Match Your Gender Identity gives detailed information on name and gender marker changes. Here’s a summary view:
- Gender marker change. To get a legal gender change, an individual must petition the superior court (in any county) for a court order. Health & S C §103425(a). The petition must be accompanied by an affidavit from their doctor stating that they have received “clinically appropriate treatment for the purposes of gender transition.” Health & S C §103430(a). This means that no particular surgical or medical treatment is required to “prove” one’s gender transition, and no details of this “appropriate” treatment are required.
- Name change. Under California law, one can obtain a legal name change by court order. CCP §1276. This court order must be obtained before changing the name on government documents.
- Social Security (name change). To change one’s name on SSA records, an individual must take the court order of name change to an SSA office, fill out an Application for a Social Security Card (Form SS-5) and request a new Social Security card with the new name.
- Social Security (gender change). To change gender on SSA records, an individual must submit the court order of gender change or a U.S. passport showing the correct gender, a birth certificate showing the correct gender, or a signed letter from a medical provider confirming that the individual has had appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition.
- Department of Motor Vehicles (name change). To change the name on a California driver’s license or state ID, an individual must submit a certified copy of the court-ordered name change and fill out a Driver License or Identification Card Application (Form DL 44). The form is only available at DMV offices, because each copy has a unique barcode.
- Department of Motor Vehicles (gender change). To change the gender marker on a California driver’s license or state ID, the DMV requires that a physician or psychologist fill out a Medical Certification and Authorization (Gender Change) (Form DL 329). The court-ordered gender change isn’t required for this form, and the standard for Form DL 329 is the doctor’s “professional opinion” on whether the gender identification is “complete.” No information on the transition-related care or services an individual received is required.
- California birth certificate (name and gender change). Once an individual has obtained court orders for name and gender change, he or she can request a new birth certificate from the California Department of Public Health by submitting an Affidavit to Amend a Record (Form VS 24), a sworn statement by a physician, and a certified copy of the court-ordered name change. See the Department’s pamphlet Obtaining a New Birth Certificate After Gender Reassignment.
- Passport. An individual can submit a court order to change the name on a U.S. passport. A doctor’s letter form is sufficient to change the gender marker. No additional information is required on the transition-related services provided. The U.S. Passport Agency will always permit someone to use a photo that represents the way an individual looks regardless of whether the photo matches the gender marker on the passport.
- Non-government records. For banks and credit cards, each company may have different requirements. Consult with the client on keeping the prior name on an account if the individual expects to receive payments made payable to that name. Credit bureaus are likely to keep a client’s old name on file for a period of time, but submit a copy of the court-ordered name change to each credit reporting agency.
For transgender clients who rely on government benefits, such as social security, getting up-to-date government documents is a top priority. This is especially an issue for transgender seniors. For more on the unique issues that face seniors in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community, check out CEB’s new chapter 1A in California Elder Law Resources, Benefits, and Planning: An Advocate’s Guide.
Other CEBblog™ posts you may find interesting:
- How to Protect Rights of Transgender Employees
- Job Interview Questions: Steer Clear of Sex Identity and Sexual Orientation
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