Southern Arizona Gender Alliance

Transgender Community Support & Advocacy since 1998

Change of Names and Gender Marker

MAJOR UPDATE 3-26-16

 

If you have questions or run into problems with any of these procedures, contact SAGA at namechange@sagatucson.org or leave a message at 520-477-7096.

 

Having identity documents that match who we are is a critical component of a life of peace and respect for transgender and other gender nonconforming people. Injustice at Every Turn, the report of the largest survey of transgender people in the United States ever undertaken, found that 40% of survey respondents who presented identity documents that did not match their gender identity or expression were harassed, fifteen percent reported being asked to leave, and three percent were physically attacked. Of course, having the correct ID can’t solve all the problems of discrimination, harassment and violence that we face, but it can go a long way to allowing us to live the lives we seek.

Those of us in Arizona are fortunate that the Arizona Motor Vehicle Division has a very liberal policy for changing the gender marker on Arizona driver’s licenses and identification cards. In addition, the Obama administration, with significant prodding from the National Center for Transgender Equality and other organizations, has eased the requirements for changing gender markers on various federal records and documents, in particular, Social Security records and passports. As in most other states, changing the gender marker on Arizona birth certificates, however, still requires proof the person has undergone some type of surgery or, theoretically, a court order.

This page will explain the steps required to change your name and gender marker on your Arizona driver’s license or ID card, your Social Security records and your U.S. passport. (For information on birth certificate changes, contact SAGA.) Links to download the required forms are provided below, along with a PDF file of these instructions that you can download and take with you as you move through this process.

NOTE: The court forms provided here are customized for use in Pima County, Arizona. They can be used in other counties by removing “Pima” everywhere it appears and replacing it with the name of the county where you live. SAGA has received reports that the Pima County Superior Court is rejecting name change petitions filed by residents of Maricopa and other counties. If you live elsewhere, you can try coming here to file your petition, but it’s likely that your petition will be denied, you will be out the filing fee you paid here and will have to re-file and pay a second fee in your home county.

SAGA is interested in reports of problems you encounter with your name change anywhere in the state. A long-term goal is to make name changes as easy to get in the rest of the state as they are here in Pima County.

THE PROCESS

Step One: Doctor’s Letter

The first thing you need to do is find a doctor who will sign a letter, on their office letterhead, saying two things: a) that you are “irrevocably committed” to changing your gender; and b) that you have received “appropriate clinical treatment.” This letter must come from a licensed physician; a letter from a nurse practitioner, physician’s assistant, psychologist, licensed social worker or other therapist will not work and should not be attempted.

If you don’t have a doctor to write your letter, check the resource list on SAGA’s website or ask for recommendations on the SAGA Facebook group.

You can download the needed wording here. Print it out and give it to your doctor to print out on their letterhead, insert the appropriate information in place of the red text, sign and return to you.

Step Two: Obtaining a Change of Name Order

Download and complete the appropriate name change petition by inserting the appropriate information in place of any red text (and change it to black too, of course).

If you are over 18 or an emancipated minor, use the Adult Name Change Petition. If you have a felony conviction in your past, or for any other reason cannot truthfully make the declarations in the petition, contact SAGA for help.

If you are a parent seeking to change your child’s name, use the Name Change for a Minor form. You will also need to download, complete and get the other parent’s signature on the Parent’s Consent to Minor’s Name Change form. If the other parent refuses, or you can’t locate them, contact SAGA for assistance.

Once you’ve completed and signed the necessary form(s), make two copies. (Keep the doctor’s letter for use in the next steps.) Then take the original petition (the one with your actual signature), and both copies of the complete package and head for the Pima County Superior Court at 100 W. Congress in downtown Tucson. Go to the counter in the Clerk’s Office marked “civil,” not “criminal,” and present your forms. The clerk will keep the original petition, and will stamp both copies for you as proof of filing. (Keep these copies in a safe place, since you may need them in the future.)

The current filing fee for a name change petition is $244. You can pay with cash, check or credit card. However, you don’t have to wait until you have the entire filing fee ready. If you can’t pay the filing fee all at once, download and complete the Fee Waiver-Deferral Request & Order form and present it to the filing clerk along with your name change petition. A judge will review the form and decide whether to set up a payment schedule for you (most likely) or waive the filing fee entirely (unlikely).

Unlike what we have heard about other counties, the Pima County Superior Court has developed a very efficient procedure for processing name change requests. If you file your petition by 9:00 a.m., you should be able to leave with a certified copy of your name change order by noon. However, if you request a payment schedule or waiver of the filing fee, it will take a few days for the judge to rule on your request, so you will have to come back another day to get your name change order.

Once you’ve filed your name change petition and arranged to pay the filing fee, wait in the lobby on the first floor until a court employee comes out and calls the names of those requesting name changes that day. The employee will then direct you to the correct courtroom, where each person will be called to the bench, questioned privately by the judge and the order signed. If you are seeking a name change for your child, take the child with you. However, you may have to wait in the hallway with your child until your name is called.

Pima County judges are very familiar with the need for trans people to change our names and with the forms SAGA has developed over the years. So, you needn’t feel afraid or embarrassed about working with the Clerk’s Office or the judge to get what you need. Just be honest and upfront, and you shouldn’t have any problems. If, for whatever reason, the judge indicates that they are going to deny your petition, ask the judge to continue your petition for at least a week and contact SAGA to help you resolve the problem.

Once your order is signed, the judge will direct you to return to the Clerk’s Office on the first floor, where you will be given a certified copy of the court’s order at no cost. You should only need one certified copy to change all of your documents, since it will be photocopied and returned to you by each agency you present it to. If you need another copy, you can get a photocopy from the clerk’s office for 50 cents a page, but a certified copy will cost you $27. (You may have to pay for another certified copy if you wait more than a couple months to change all your documents since the agencies may insist on a more current certification.)

You may notice that the SAGA name change forms no longer include a request for an “order correcting [gender] documents.” We have concluded that the disadvantages of creating a public court record that outs you as trans outweighs the benefits of that order, which had little or no actual legal effect.

Step Three: Changing Your Social Security Records

Once you have a certified copy of your name change order, head immediately to a local Social Security Office. The office closest to downtown is at 88 W. 38 St.; the other office is at 3808 N. 1st Ave. Sign in or use whatever other procedure they have to get in line to be served. You will need a completed copy of Social Security Form SS-5. You may be able to get a copy and complete it while you wait. However, it’s probably best to download it here, and complete it in advance. (Instructions are included with the form.) In the box where it asks for your sex, mark the gender to which you are transitioning.

When you are called to the window, give the clerk the certified copy of your name change order, the original of your doctor’s letter, the completed Form SS-5 and your current driver’s license or ID card. (You have to update your Social Security records before you can get your new driver’s license or ID, so just use your old one for now.) The clerk will photocopy the name change order and doctor’s letter and return them to you and may ask you a few questions. Once your request has been processed, the clerk will give you confirmation (probably, a stamped copy of your SS-5 form). A Social Security card with your new name will be mailed to you in a few days. (Although your gender marker doesn’t appear on your Social Security card, it’s still useful to change it in their records for other reasons.)

NCTE has an excellent summary of the effect of the gender marker on your Social Security records and guidance on other ways you can change it than with a doctor’s letter.

Step Four: Changing your Arizona Driver’s License or ID Card

Wait two or three days after changing your Social Security records, then visit your local Motor Vehicle Division Office. (You can find your nearest office by clicking here. A third party license office may not be able to handle a name change request, so we recommend you go to an actual MVD office.)

Once there, tell the intake clerk you wish to change the name on your license. They will give you a number and a form to complete. Complete the form indicating that you want to change both your name and your gender marker. When your number is called, hand the clerk the completed form, a certified copy of your name change order, the original doctor’s letter and your current driver’s license or ID card. It is likely that the clerk will be unfamiliar with the process for changing your gender marker and will take your documents to a supervisor. Don’t panic. If they come back and say they can’t do that, refer them to their own Policy 3.1.1 on gender marker changes (see the top of page 5). (You can download that policy here. Printing a copy to take with you isn’t a bad idea.)

The fee for a new license with your new name and gender, as well as a new photo, is $12.

Once the clerk has processed your request, the clerk will direct you to another station to get a new picture (Smile!). After a few minutes, you will walk out with a new license affirming the real you. Congratulations.

Step Five: Changing Your Passport

In most circumstances, a passport isn’t required for day to day life. However, for transgender people, having a passport that properly reflects who we are has significant advantages. Now that proof of surgery is no longer required to change the gender marker on your passport, a passport reflecting your true gender can be obtained even if you can’t change the gender marker on your birth certificate. Since passports are generally considered the most reliable form of identification available, you should be able to present your passport instead in any situation where someone wants to see your birth certificate. That could help to eliminate any questions about your “real” gender in a variety of situations.

If you already have a passport and just want to change your name, and you qualify to use Form DS-82, you can apply for a new passport by mail using that form. You can check the requirements for using that form and download it here or complete it online here. If you don’t qualify to use Form DS-82, you must use Form DS-11 and apply in person, just as you must if you are also seeking a gender change.

If you want to change both your name and your gender on your passport, you must use Form-DS-11 and apply at a passport facility in person. (You can find the closest passport facility by searching here.) The requirements for applying for a new or renewed passport using Form DS-11 are explained in the instructions that come with the form, which you can download here. Or you can complete it online here and print it out. To change your gender, you will need to submit the same doctor’s letter that you used to change your Social Security records and your Arizona driver’s license or ID card.

NOTE: If the links to download either of the passport forms don’t work, go here and search for the forms by name or copy the links above and paste them into your browser’s address bar.

NCTE has an excellent summary of the requirements for changing your passport available for download here. You can also download the complete State Department manual on gender marker changes here.

NOTE FOR NON-U.S. CITIZENS: SAGA understands that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service has a similar procedure for changing names and gender markers on immigration documents. If you need help with this process, please contact SAGA and we will do our best to help you locate the proper resources.

FORMS

These Instructions in a PDF file.

Step One: Doctor’s Letter

Doctor’s Gender Change Letter (MS Word/PDF)

Step Two: Obtaining a Change of Name Order

Adult Name Change Petition (MS Word/PDF)

Petition for Change of Name of a Minor (MS Word/PDF)

Parent’s Consent to Minor’s Name Change and Waiver of Notice (MS Word/PDF)

Fee Waiver-Deferral Request & Order (MS Word/PDF)

NOTE: If you need any of these forms in another format, contact SAGA.

Step Three: Changing Your Social Security Records

Social Security Form SS-5

National Center for Transgender Equality Social Security Gender Change Summary

Step Four: Changing your Arizona Driver’s License or ID Card

Arizona Motor Vehicle Division Policy 3.1.1 (see top of page 5 for gender marker changes)

Step Five: Changing Your Passport

U.S. State Department Form DS-82 for certain passport name changes: download or complete and print online.

U.S. State Department Form DS-11 for passport name and gender changes: download or complete and print online.

National Center for Transgender Equality Passport Gender Change Summary

U.S. State Department Manual on Passport Gender Marker Changes