Minnesota name change 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. I cannot guarantee the accuracy of this information and provide it without warranty. Laws change and this information may contain errors and omissions. It is up to you to confirm any information herein by doing your own research.

Minnesota allows for women in our community to change their names before they have sex reassignment surgery.

A reader sent the following in June 2003.

Here's what I had to do in my state (Minnesota)..

Requirements:

You must live in the country where you are filing

You must have lived in Minnesota for 6 months

You must have two adult witnesses who have known you for at least a year.

They should be able to speak and understand English.

Steps:

1. Pick up the forms at the local courthouse. I picked mine up in the Hennepin County Courthouse in downtown Minneapolis. You will need a name change request form and a court order for name change form. I you own land, they need a legal description of the property. Don't sign the forms because they need to be notarized by a clerk.

2. You will need a hearing date. You will be sent to the appropriate desk and made to fill out another form. They will also ask for a $250 fee, then ask you to set up a date. Pick an appropriate date.

3. They will ask how many copies of the court order you want. Two is the optimal number, and that will cost an addition $50 apiece.

4. Go to the hearing. The judge will ask who is getting the name change, then ask some questions of the witnesses. This is the first embarrassing part because you are essentially being outted for a courtroom full of people. Hold your breath and hope that your judge is a nice guy/girl. ^^;

5. You will need to pick up your newly approved copies of the court order at the desk that the information desk directs you too. They take about a day to prepare, and will have a neat little seal and such. You will also recieve a sheet that suggests places where you need to change your name.

The places I had to go:

1. Social Security office for new card
2. New driver's license (required within 30 days of name change)
3. Change name with office/college
4. Change name on the bank account (harder than it looks
5. Doctor's office

Other suggested things to do is change your name on your car title, call social services offices, amend your will and change your voting registration.

That's all there is to do in Minnesota.

A reader sent this in August 2003:

It looks like someone has given you pretty good info on my home State of Minnesota though I have some things to add to it:

1. Due to cuts from the recent State Budget Crisis the Court filing fees throughout the State of Minnesota have gone up sharply, especially in the poorer counties.

2. If at all possible have blood relatives (Mom, Dad, siblings) as your two required witnesses. Judges reportedly seem more willing to "rubber stamp" the petition if the family obviously is supportive.

3. A lot of people here don't know this, but you can add additional things to your name change petition in the "Other" space provided. I added: "I also petition the Court to order the Department of Health to ammend my birth records by changing my sex designation from 'Male' to 'Female.'" (You have to be VERY precise in what you write in the petition and limit it to EXACTLY the wording you want - adding it to your name change petition also saves you an additional filing fee and Court appearance). I am pre-operative, by the way, and the Department of Health had already declined to change my birth record sex designation.

I had letters with me in Court from my doctors indicating their belief that I have an intersex condition (at the time still being investigated), however the Judge in my case never asked to see the letters - but I had them with me just in case he asked for documentation to justify changing sex designation on the birth records. My Mother and my older Sister were my sworn witnesses. The Judge simply asked them if they believed he should grant my petition - they couldn't shout an emphatic "YES!" fast enough. The Judge then said "If there are no objections, then, I see no reason not to grant the petition as requested." He specifically wrote on the order "The Minnesota Department of Health shall change birth record to show new name and designate sex as 'female.'"

In Minnesota the Department of Health officially says there are three ways to get the sex designation changed on your birth records:

1. You MUST be post-op with a notorized document or sworn affadavit (preferably from a US surgeon) who performed SRS on you. You file a form at the Department of Health with your documentation for review, pay something like $20 and they decide whether or not to grant the request.

2. You can submit the filing form and fee with documentary proof of some kind that you have been living as your target sex for at least seven years (what is an "acceptable document" is totally at their discretion) and the Commissioner will decide whether or not to change your birth records [ I should point out that this is an old "Common Law" method of establishing identity and the burden of proof for the petitioner is high, with so very few documents being deemed "acceptable" this option is effectively theoretical ]

3. (They only reluctantly told me about this option) Obtain a Court Order that your birth records be ammended. The Order carries the weight of Law and the Department of Health MUST make the stated changes and cannot refuse to abide by it or they will be held in contempt.

The specific State Law regarding the Court's authority to order birth record changes is kind of buried among Adoption Law (but not exclusive to it) and reads as follows:

Minnesota State Statute 144.218
Subd. 4. Incomplete, incorrect, and modified vital
records. If a court finds that a birth record is incomplete,
inaccurate, or false or if it is being issued pursuant to
section 259.10, subdivision 2, the court may order the
registration of a replacement vital record, and, if necessary,
set forth the correct information in the order. Upon receipt of
the order, the registrar shall register a replacement vital
record containing the findings of the court. The prior vital
record shall be confidential pursuant to section 13.02,
subdivision 3, and shall not be disclosed except pursuant to
court order.

NOTE THE LAST PART! I was told by a legal professional afterward that, because my birth records were changed by Court Order, my prior birth record is "confidential. . .and shall no be disclosed except pursuant to court order." In other words, the original birth records are effectively SEALED! I haven't bothered to verify whether or not mine actually are or not, I don't care so long as they've been changed. When you change your birth records through the clerical system within the Department of Health (by filling out their forms and paying their filing fee) you are offered NO such protections. Your previous record can be obtained without a subsequent court order (by any authorities or relatives authorized to access your vital statistics records).

Minnesota actually is somewhat restrictive in who has legal access to even the non-sealed birth records and a signed release from you may be required for someone else to obtain a copy of the Birth Certificate anyway. Minnesota states that Birth Certificates are only available to the following individuals:
Person Named on the Certificate
Mother/Father (or Legal Guardian)
Husband/Wife of Person Named on Certificate
Son/Daughter of Person Named on Certificate
Sister/Brother of Person Named on Certificate
Legal Representative of an Authorized Person
Individuals with a legitimate and legal reason to search for genealogical purposes
If what I was told was true about my original record being sealed, changing your vital statistics records via court order can offer an additional "roadblock" for anyone snooping into your past - a major consideration for anyone planning on living "stealth."
The certified copy of my ammended record says my name was changed on [date] and that "data items other than the registrant's name or date of birth were ammended by Court Order on [date]." But it doesn't say WHAT data was changed and if anyone wanted to find out they'd probably have to obtain their own court order to look at the original, un-ammended record, and either way I would be informed of the request (because even un-sealed records often require written consent from the preson named in the record), so I'd have an opportunity to contest the right of whomever it was to see the record at all.
It seems most people aren't aware you can add additional requests for changes to birth records beyond your name to your name change petition - if you get a sympathetic (or apathetic) Judge you CAN get your sex designation on your birth certificate changed at the same time, regardless of surgical status or whatever the Department of Health "authorizes."

Anyway, that was my experience here in Minnesota. In case you're wondering, I'm NOT a lawyer, paralegal, or law student (though I had one Law class in college); and I didn't have a lawyer help me with my name change at all either (though I had access to a very good one in my family, I didn't ask for his help).

Other comments and resources

In June 2003, a reader wrote:

In looking at what you have for Minnesota, the main thing I would add is that the dollar amounts vary considerably from county to county. I worked in a rural county and the fees and costs for court filings and orders were not as high as what the person from Hennepin County mentions.

Minnesota state law

For a complete understanding of the law see Chapter 259.10 and 259.11 of the Minnesota Statutes

http://www.revisor.leg.state.mn.us/stats/259/10.html

http://www.revisor.leg.state.mn.us/stats/259/11.html

Legal precedent for transsexuals

[not known]