People change their names for a variety of reasons, but one situation that’s getting a lot more attention is that of transgender people changing their names to one that’s more appropriate to their new gender or the one to which they identify. For many transgender people, it’s been a long, painful journey and a new name is the outward manifestation of their new identity. It can be an important step toward validation, creating happier, more peaceful lives.
Transgender name change efforts resulted in discrimination and other difficulties
In 2011, a National Transgender Discrimination Survey showed that 44% of transgender people reported having been denied service, harassed or assaulted when presenting identity documents that did not match their gender presentation. Each year, California’s Transgender Law Center would receive hundreds of calls from people who had difficulty in legally changing their names and gender, experiencing discrimination and threats of violence due to having identity documents that did not match who they truly were.
California law makes it easier for transgender people to change their names
Now, thanks to the tireless efforts of activists, politicians, Equality California and the Transgender Law Center, a new California Law, AB 1121, took effect on July 1, 2014, that allowed transgender California residents to shortcircuit the Name Change process. The legal Name Change process normally requires publishing the new name in a newspaper or attending a public hearing, but now this step has been eliminated for transgender Californians. AB 1121 makes the Name Change process more private and affordable for transgender people, exempting them from the requirement that they publish a notice of the intended Name Change in the local newspaper for four weeks. It has also eliminated between $40 – $300 in required fees.
Newspaper notice put transgenders at risk
One man who testified in hearings before the Assembly Judiciary Committee, had been trying to legally change his name and gender for several years. He told the committee, “I’m really uncomfortable about the way the newspaper notice is so public, basically announcing to everyone in the world that I’m trans. Whenever I’m outed as trans it’s humiliating, and could actually put me in danger.”
“One step in enabling transgender people to live authentic lives consistent with their gender identity is to ensure that their names and their official documents are consistent with who they are,” said Assemblymember Toni Atkins. “I am very pleased that the Governor signed my bill to move us forward toward equality and dignity for transgender Californians.”
For more information, download the Transgender Law Center’s guide, that explains the process for updating California and federal identity documents to reflect accurate gender markers.
California Document Preparers helps individuals or entire families with the Name Change process—filling out the appropriate forms, filing them with the court and applying for the circulation of a newspaper ad indicating your intent to change your name. Call one of our three Bay Area offices today to make an appointment.