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Yetta G. Kurland, Attorney at Law, on changing your legal gender...
by Yetta G. Kurland
October 5, 2010
Dear Yetta:

I am transitioning and wonder how to change my identification to reflect my new name and gender. How do I do this? It’s confusing.


I know the process of changing government issue IDs can be overwhelming, transphobia aside. It’s a huge issue, made more problematic these days with broader national efforts such as the Real ID Act, to erode privacy and try to make government issued identification uniform. Interestingly and underscoring the link between our communities, the Real ID Act came out of a xenophobic effort by conservatives to “crack-down” on undocumented workers in the U.S. and stop them from having drivers’ licenses, etc. What it does to the trans community is make it even more challenging to get government entities and agencies to process changes in sex designation in government issued identification.

But let’s distinguish. The process in changing your name is quite easier than the process involved in changing your gender. Assuming there is nothing in your proposed name change that would defraud the public, it’s simply a ministerial filing.  You do not need any documentation from your doctor and the process is a fairly straightforward submission to the Court along with some publication requirements. The Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund offers a free (for qualifying individuals) program. Their number is 646-862-9396. 

Also there is a pro se clinic sponsored by LeGals in conjunction with a number of other organizations which offers trans gender name change support called The West Village Transgender Name Change Project. The number is 212-353-9118.

Sex designation is unfortunately, a different matter. In many situations, you are still required to provide proof, i.e. a letter from your doctor, that you have undergone sex reassignment surgery. Invasive? Unfair? Yes.

Check out the great work activists like Pauline Park of NYAGRA (New York Association for Gender Rights Advocacy) and others are doing. NYAGRA and a number of gender rights advocacy organizations have formed an ad hoc coalition focused on getting the City of New York to allow transgender people to get their birth certificates changed without sex reassignment surgery. Find out how you can get involved at nyagra.com.  n

Email questions to kurland@helloworld.edu or call 212-253-6911

*This column is not a consultation with an attorney and should in no way be construed as such or as a substitute for such consultation. Anyone with legal issues or concerns should seek the advice of her own attorney.

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