In what order do I change my name and gender on ID documents?
November 7, 2018 2:15 PM   Subscribe

What's the best order to change my identity documents and gender marker? (Difficulty level: I live in Oregon where changing legal name/gender and state ID is super easy, but my birth certificate is from a state where I need to have gender affirmation surgery first. Details inside.)

Disclaimer: I know you are not a (or my) lawyer.

My deal: I'm an AFAB dude born in Michigan, currently living in Oregon, just started transitioning with testosterone in September. While I'm out at work and I've got everyone calling me by my chosen name1, all my ID documentation, hr stuff, credit cards, etc., has my birth name on it and I'd like to get that sorted ASAP.

I live in a state (Oregon) that will update my driver's license without so much as a doctor's permission slip, but Michigan, my birth state, demands medical affidavit of gender affirmation surgery before they'll update a birth certificate. (Top surgery is definitely in my future, but I'd like to get as much name stuff changed as I can before that.)

I have several specific questions, which I would love some anecdotes about or to be pointed toward an agency I can throw money at to take care of this for me.

1) I do not have a passport and want to apply for one ASAP to travel to the UK within the next year. Am I better off applying for an F passport (with my current legal name) now and worry about getting the name and gender marker changed later? The photo I'd be using is from December and my face has changed very little since then.

2) Should I just go ahead and change my Oregon stuff now and deal with Michigan after top surgery? I recognize this could make replacing my ID more complicated if anything happens to it.

3) I'd like to take advantage of the X (nonbinary) gender choice on my Oregon ID, but how much flak can I expect if my passport and various other less-enlightened databases says M?

1If maybe not my pronouns. Sigh. But that's an AskMe for another day.
posted by The demon that lives in the air to Law & Government (5 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I went through this in Washington State (Seattle) over the course of 2015. I started with a Minnesota driver's license. I had previously had a passport (from like, 2006) but I had lost it the previous year. The steps I took:

1. My primary care doctor filled out a form affirming my gender, which I took to the DMV in Seattle. The DMV gave me a temporary license with my old name and new gender marker (yay!)
2. Next month, I went to a court hearing to get my name changed (I had to go to the court in person to get a second court date a few weeks later to actually do the name change hearing). I think I had to get a copy of my old birth certificate sent to me for this.
3. I went back to the DMV to get a new, for -real drivers license with my new legal name and correct gender (yay!)
4. A month or two later, I went to the social security office to get my name on my social security card changed. I expected this would be very difficult for some reason, but it was actually quite easy with my name change forms and copies of other things.

This was all I had changed for a while. Then, like many others, I decided in the stretch of time between Tr*mp's election and inaguration to get an update passport. More wrangling of paperwork. I actually went through this process in Michigan in January 2017.

I've had gender affirming surgery but have yet to update my original birth certificate in any fashion, which is from Illinois (a state that requires notice of surgery). I've found that the passport + SSN combo has allowed me to do everything I need to do, though I should probably make that change too before I accidentally lose any documentation.

Things I'd suggest:
* Make as many notarized copies of your name change court order as you can! I made like four, and had to have another four made when I was going through the passport change and some other things. You'll need it to change financial records as well.
* On that note, financial stuff can get kind of screwy because of how shadowy credit agencies are. I didn't have any big issues here, other than random credit card companies have been the only source of deadnaming for me in official documentation in the past few years (it finally slowed down with my most recent move).
* I am very pro get as many things done in one big exhausting effort. It becomes harder looking back to reassemble the pieces. I'm glad I did so much legwork between June and September 2015, and it's been hard to motivate myself to do the very very final things (birth certificate, one old savings account and one hardly-accumulated retirement fund). But it's exhausting, so feel free to pace yourself if you need it too.

Good luck! Legal transition can feel very thankless and fuck having the government involved in gender in any sense, BUT I'm also very glad that this process has given me a total buffer from all of that nagging institutional deadnaming/misgendering and I can put that aspect of transition behind me. Occasional junk mail aside.
posted by elephantsvanish at 2:36 PM on November 7, 2018 [4 favorites]

oof I didn’t really cater this too directly to your questions, sorry about that! Hopefully this gives you some anecdata for q1 and 2
posted by elephantsvanish at 2:46 PM on November 7, 2018

It honestly makes no difference whether you change a passport or apply for a new one having changed your name--the documents are the same. (You do use a different form if you're changing the name/gender within a year of the passport being issued and the fee is waived in that case.) The concern is doing it twice requires twice the processing time. The current passport gender marker policy is nearly a decade old and State has always been picky about the letter--use their template, get your doctor to sign in blue ink (it needs to be a doctor, not an NP--if you see an NP, they have a supervising doctor), preferably ballpoint (State has bounced letters claiming they're copies and blue ballpoint is the easiest way to convey something is an original).

Given that you intend to get a passport with your current name and an M, your birth certificate is largely not a concern. Any situation where you would have previously used your birth certificate, you use your passport. (Remember that some folks never change their birth certificates, either by choice, because they were born in Ohio (where it is nigh on impossible) or they were born in a state that makes it unreasonably difficult.) If something comes up where you actually need your birth certificate, you also supply a copy of your name change court order.

You need to check whether Oregon requires you go to Social Security before changing your name on your driver's license. (California does. I think it might be a REAL ID thing.) SSA requires the same letter as passports. (Or you can use your passport to change Social Security.) I changed my name as a grad student and the university insisted on an updated Social Security card before they'd change anything.

I haven't heard of people having problems with an X license, but, I'll be honest, I wouldn't have the nerve. That said, remember that it's only recently (like the last five years) that it became the norm for trans people to change their documents rapidly--a lot of us spent years walking around with mismatched ID (our privilege on other axes being a big factor, of course, in how that played out).

Side note: elephantsvanish, IL has dropped the surgery requirement (I believe effective January 2018). Having had surgery, you care because this means you don't have to go back to your surgeon to get them to complete the IL affidavit.
posted by hoyland at 5:59 PM on November 7, 2018 [3 favorites]

3) I'd like to take advantage of the X (nonbinary) gender choice on my Oregon ID, but how much flak can I expect if my passport and various other less-enlightened databases says M?

Anecdotal, and not involving an X, but I spent a long time with a passport and driver's license whose letters didn't match and it was never an issue. I'd be more worried about people giving you a hard time for the X itself than giving you a hard time because it didn't match the M on your passport.
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:54 AM on November 8, 2018

My experience in Massachusetts is that some courts around here take a week or so to process a legal name change and other courts take 6+ months. Ask your local email lists/Slacks/whatever how good your courts are, and file as soon as you're certain. It's cheaper in time and money to replace documents only once than to do it once for gender and then once for name.

IIRC, Social Security gender must match your passport gender, and your name on drivers license and passport must be your current legal name, but past that nobody really cares. I haven't updated my birth certificate and don't plan to.
posted by bagel at 12:07 PM on November 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

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