Legal Issues for transgender people

Disclaimer: This is legal talk, not legal advice. Laws vary by state, and some of the information discussed on this page may not be applicable in your case. It is up to you to confirm any information herein by doing your own research.

Special note to young people

These legal changes are essential to protect your basic rights including marriage and employment. Don't be afraid to take these legal steps because they seem complicated or embarassing.

Failure to take care of your legal issues could lead to much worse problems later. Trans people have been dragged into court and put on television in highly publicized court cases because they didn't bother to take care of their legal documents. An ounce of prevention is worth a ton of cure in this case. You'll thank me later!

I recommend doing them in the following order:

Court Order For Name Change (most important!)

Make this your first priority. You will not run into any problems if you get this document first, since everyone accepts it as valid proof. Other documents might not be adequate in some cases. See the name change page.

Social Security

After getting a court order for name change, I recommend getting your Social Security card changed next. Some states require a Social Security card for a driver's license name change. You will probably need your Social Security switched over to change any employment and financial information. See the Social Security page.

Driver's License / State ID

Getting your name changed on your driver's license or state-issued identification card is not a legal name change. You must go to court for a legally binding change of name and sex.

Some states are now linking their records with Social Security records, so you may need to revise your Social Security information before you can get a license or state ID changed. Contact your local bureau to find out what procedure and identification is required in your case. Many states require Birth certificate, Social security card (new name), and two forms of other ID, showing your new name and residence, such as utility bills or medical records. See the driver's license page.

Birth certificate

I strongly urge you to amend your birth certificate as soon as you have completed all the physical changes you intend to make. Procedures vary by state. If you don't live in the state where you were born, you may need to have a court order performed in your current state of residence and then have it sent to you birth state. See the birth certificate page.

Passport

To get your name and sex changed on a valid US passport, you will need a court-ordered name change a certification from a physician confirming that he or she has had appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition. See the passport page.

Additional documents

High school or college transcripts and diplomas, FERPA, financial documents, credit reports.

Marriage

Summary of information on legal aspects of marriage for post-transition people.

Wills and power of attorney

Trans people should all have a legal will outlining their wishes. This is especially true for those in committed relationships and those with children. Your spouse or partner should also draw up a will explaining their wishes, or you could lose your inheritance, children, or other important things in your life.

Other resources

Links and references for helpful publications on legal aspects of gender identity and expression.