This blog has previously published articles regarding estate planning for same-sex couples – married and unmarried. In honor of Pride Month, we would like to spend some time focusing on transgender (trans) and gender nonconforming members of our community. Being known by the correct name and pronouns and having your true identity reflected in your paperwork is key to the goal of living your most authentic life. As the Texas legislature moves towards banning gender-affirming care, it is crucial to connect trans and gender nonconforming community members, both minors and adults, to the support and resources they need. This blog provides a brief overview of the steps to legally change your name and gender marker on identification documents.
Changing Your Name
The great news for Texas citizens is anyone can legally change their name for almost any reason, regardless of gender identity. This good news comes with one caveat, Texans with a felony criminal history can only change their name with the intention to update their ID. Meaning, this change is done to reflect the proper name or fix a document inaccuracy. However, as long as you’re not trying to hide from the law, filing for a name change is accessible to everyone.
The first step is to obtain and complete the forms required by the state of Texas, such as an application, a petition for name change, and other documents. If you decide to hire an attorney, they can help obtain all necessary requirements. Adults who are petitioning for name change will have to provide their:
- Current legal name
- Date of birth
- Full name requested
- The reason for the change
- Criminal background history
- Complete set of fingerprints
Adults are not the only people who can seek a legal name change, minors may do so as well. A parent or guardian must petition the court on their behalf. Minors will be required to submit the below proof:
- Current legal name
- Date of birth
- Full name requested
- Whether the minor is under the continuing jurisdiction of the court (due to a custody or support agreement)
- Whether the minor has a criminal record that might require ongoing registration
- If the minor is 10 years or older, they must give their written consent to the name change
To submit your petition to the court, you will have to pay a filing fee. As of right now, the filing fee in Texas is roughly $350, however this is subject to change. You may or may not be asked to attend a hearing, depending on the county where you live. It can take upwards of 6 to 10 weeks after submitting your petition for it to be approved by a judge.
Changing Your Pronouns
Unfortunately, applying to change gender markers (i.e., pronouns and M/F notations on identifying documents) is not as straightforward as changing your name. Currently there is no Texas law that designates what proof is required to make this change. This means that each individual judge will decide what proof they want to see before granting a gender marker change. Some judges may not grant them at all.
You will be required to submit the same information as you would for a name change, including your legal name, criminal history, and other identifying information. You will likely need to present at least one doctor’s letter saying you are receiving clinically appropriate treatment. Some judges may require multiple letters and proof of treatment, such as gender-affirming hormone therapy and surgery. This discriminates against trans and gender nonconforming who do not have access to treatment or choose not to medically transition.
After acquiring a letter from your doctor, you will have to file a Petition to Change the Sex/Gender Identifier of an adult. You can find these forms from the Travis County Law Library on their website. Minors can also access these forms, but will need the consent of a parent or guardian before submitting a petition. Unfortunately for those minors worried their parent or guardian will not approve, they will need to wait until they are 18 to petition to the court to change name and gender marker.
Changing all Your Documents
Once the court has approved the petition to change your name or gender marker, you will be able to obtain a certified copy of your decree from the court clerk! A certified copy is stamped by the clerk to indicate that it is a true copy of the original. Updating your identification documents will require multiple copies of this court order, so be sure to get multiples.
Please note, the court order granting the name or gender marker change is just the first step. Your records do not automatically become updated after the court has ordered the change, so you will have to contact the various agencies that have issued your IDs, including your driver’s license, your social security card, your passport, and your birth certificate.
In addition to updating identification documents, it is best to update any other documents which may have your dead name or old gender maker. This includes any bank accounts, retirement assets, life insurance policies, and estate plan documents which may have your old information.
However, it’s not just trans and gender nonconforming individuals who should update their legal documents. Families with members who are working to change their names and gender markers should also update their documents, so their own plans reflect the authentic identity of their family members.
Wrapping It All Up
If you are interested in changing your name and/or gender marker, you can always reach out to an attorney or clinic for assistance. Patients of the Texas Legal Services Center partner organizations (such as Kind Clinic and People’s Community Clinic) can ask their provider for a referral. Pro Bono clinics such as The University of Texas School of Law Gender Affirmation Project also help with preparing court documents for free.
We know that it is a scary time to be trans in Texas. For those looking for resources and information for trans and gender nonconforming adults and minors in Texas, we suggest exploring the Resources for Transgender Youth in Texas and Transgender Education Network of Texas websites. If you are in need of support during a crisis, please contact the Trans Lifeline at (877) 565-8860 or the LGBT National Youth Hotline at (800) 246-7743. Nielsen Law PLLC provides inclusive family-focused estate planning to individuals and families in Austin, Round Rock, Cedar Park, and the Central Texas area. For more information and to learn about our firm, please contact us.