For transgender individuals, changing a gender marker and name can be important in living an authentic life. Unfortunately, legally changing your name and gender marker can be intimidating. Understanding the steps you will need to take to change your gender marker and name can help you as you move forward.
What is Considered a Gender Marker?
A gender marker is sometimes called a sex designator or sex marker. Gender markers are designations on identifying legal documents or databases as female (F) or male (M). In some states, there are some other options like nonbinary, X, or undisclosed. Unfortunately, Texas does not offer a nonbinary option. Gender marker designations correlate with the sex designation listed on a person’s birth certificate. Under Texas law, there is no specific statute that addresses how to change the gender marker on your birth certificate. Instead, the first step is to pursue a court order. There is yet to be an official form you can use to petition the court, but when you work with the right attorney, your attorney will be able to draft a petition on your behalf. Most attorneys in Texas are not aware that a gender marker can be changed or how to do it, so selecting a knowledgeable attorney is key to success.
What are the Benefits of Correcting a Name or Gender Marker?
Taking the time and energy to change your name and gender marker can have several benefits. Most of us do not realize how frequently we use our identifying documents, especially bank cards, driver’s licenses, health insurance cards, and even our passports and Social Security cards. Different legal authorities at the federal, state, and local level issue documents that have gender markers. Ensuring each identifying marker corresponds to your gender can help you succeed in job searches, housing, and more. Correct identification can improve a person’s physical and mental well-being.
The Downsides of Changing a Name or Gender Marker
The cost associated with changing one’s name and gender marker can be a significant downside. You may need to pay a filing fee to replace your state driver’s license or other small costs that can add up over time. Additionally, changing your gender marker and name can take time because there are multiple government agencies and businesses you will need to contact. Each process may be slightly different.
How Do I Get a Court Order?
The first step for individuals who would like to change their name or gender marker is to obtain a court order. You will need to file a petition with the court in Travis county to get a court order. To our knowledge, Travis county is the only county in Texas that consistently grants gender marker corrections. For just a name change, you can go to the county in which you live. Once you obtain a court order, you can get a couple certified copies of the order online. You can use your certified copy to correct your birth certificate, driver’s license, social security card, health insurance, and bank account information. You can also get a certificate of name change to give to creditors, landlords, and such businesses, to have them change your name.
Why Travis County?
Texas is a conservative state. Many of the judges throughout our state are conservative. The conservative judiciary often believes that if the legislature intended for the court to have the authority to correct a person’s gender marker, the legislature would pass a law encoding the requirements, much like the provisions in the Family Code for name changes. If you file and land in a court that has a conservative judge, the judge will probably apologetically deny your request. If you have already done this, nonsuit your case and refile in Travis County.
The argument for the court having authority to correct a gender marker is that the district court is a court of general jurisdiction, which means that any type of case not otherwise assigned to a type of court would be appropriate for the district court.
Several years ago, an attorney retired from practicing law as a state employee, then she transitioned. This heroine is Claire Bow. She worked with UT Austin and the Travis County District Clerk to put in place a streamlined system for transgender folks to get their gender marker corrected.
At this time, we simply file the Petition by efiling, with the documents that are required, and with an order. Somewhere between two and six weeks later, we get the signed order by email. Amazingly streamlined!
What Documents Will I Need?
You will need to provide the following documents to your attorney:
- Certified copy of your birth certificate – You can scan and email this to us since we scan and efile, so it does not need to be the original certified copy.
- A letter from your doctor stating that you have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria, that you are being treated for it, that you have been living as a ________ (insert gender) for ___ months/years, and that correcting your gender marker is appropriate and will help you.
- A fingerprint card with your fingerprints. We suggest going to identogo.com to schedule an appointment.
You do NOT need a letter from a therapist. This used to be required, but Travis County no longer requires it.
What Additional Steps Do I Need to Take?
We recommend getting three certified copies of the order correcting your gender marker and at least two certificates of name change (one-page document with less information than the order).
Once you get a certified copy of your order, you will need to take it to your local driver’s license office to correct your driver’s license. To change your name and gender marker with the Social Security Administration, there is a form to fill out and send to them with a copy of your order.
You can get a new, revised birth certificate that looks like it was never amended by filling out a form with the Texas Bureau of Vital Statistics and sending them a copy of the order.
You will want to contact your bank and credit card companies to learn their procedures, then send them either a copy of the order or the certificate of the name change. Most private companies will take a certificate of the name change.
What if I Cannot Afford the Court Costs to Change My Gender Marker and Name?
If the filing fees are difficult or impossible for you to pay, you can file a Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Costs. You will need to include details related to your expenses, income, and assets on the form to show you are unable to pay court costs.
The Legacy Clinic in Harris County sponsors a monthly meeting in which local attorneys assist people in preparing and filing the petition and order for a gender marker correction. This is a free service to the transgender community.
Can Parents Change Their Child’s Name and Gender Marker?
Yes, parents are legal guardians of gender non-conforming or trans individuals under 18 have the right to petition the court on their behalf to correct their name or gender marker. The child’s parent or guardian must file as a petitioner on behalf of the child, and both the parent and child need to agree. The parent will be responsible for ensuring all of the documents requested by the court have been included. Both parents must join in the petition unless one has the exclusive right to make legal decisions for the child pursuant to a court order.
Do I Need an Attorney?
You may be wondering whether you need an attorney to change your gender marker and name successfully. While it is possible to change your name and gender marker without hiring an attorney, working with an attorney can make the process much easier. Attorney Vonda Covington has a proven track record of helping Texas residents successfully change their gender markers and names. Contact Covington Law Firm, PLLC, today to learn more about how she can advocate for you, answer your questions, and represent your interests. Her fees, which include the filing fee, are under $1000.