Tennessee 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.

The excellent information below was submitted in January 2009 by Knox Boyz of East Tennessee (knoxboyz.org)

Tennessee will not change gender on a TN birth certificate.

As of January 01, 2006, in order to renew a TN license/ID, apply for a new license/ID, or transfer license from another state, you must present your (original) birth certificate with application. (Original meaning with clerk stamp not a photocopy. Can be newly issued from county or state office, does not have to be one given to your parents at your birth.)

If you have a TN birth certificate but wish to change gender marker on your TN license/ID:

First get your court order name change, stating it is for Transition reasons. Each county has different fees, most require attorney representation. Knox County does not. You must request name change hearing in your county of residence. Courts will not order gender change for TN natives. Only instance of court order gender change has been for persons showing medical proof of Intersex diagnosis and were born in other states. Knox Boyz of East Tennessee offers assistance in dealing with Knox County, though this is one of the easiest counties currently if you do not let the clerk, Ms Pat, scare you off with her attitude.

Must have letter certifying you have completed a permanent sex/gender altering surgery. This is the same letter required for Social Security to change your marker. Does NOT specify what surgery is required or which surgery you had. Knox Boyz has the legal document template and full directions for completion, provided free on request. (admin@knoxboyz.org)

Present court order name change and surgery certification, with original birth certificate and current driver license, to TN Depart of Safety Licensing Station. County Clerk offices CANNOT change your gender marker, though they can change your name with the court order. Not every county has a DOS Licensing station, but assistance to find one is available. The usual new license fees apply.

If you have an out of state birth certificate:
The same procedure can be followed if you were born in another state. Get court ordered name change and surgery certification. However, some states do not require surgery for your gender marker to be changed. In those cases, use your name change order to get your birth certificate changed then submit the new birth certificate to TN DOS to change your TN license/ID.

An aside regarding birth certificates:

In regards to those born in states that will not changer gender markers on birth certificates, our official stance is to acquire a US Passport in your correct name and gender. Once a US Passport has been issued you no longer have to refer back to birth certificate. US Passport trumps any birth certificate for any reason (including Real ID Act). Once you have gotten your new TN license/ID, your new passport can be obtained fairly easily with same documents you used for DOS. (also something Knox Boyz helps with)

In most cases, you can use the same documents from TN to apply for a new birth certificate in other states that allow gender marker changes on birth certificate. Contrary to public assumptions, phalloplasty or other "bottom" surgery is not specifically stated as the surgery required for FTMs across the country. (There are 2 states that specify bottom surgery.) Just because someone says "Sex Reassignment Surgery" it does not mean genital reconstruction is actually specified in the law. That term was used as a short hand in reference to MTFs being the only perceived Transsexuals when the laws were written beginning in the 1950s, and law makers not being aware of medical reality. These laws may be rewritten in the future to reflect current awareness, so monitoring will continue.

Other resources

A reader sent this in October 2003:

On October 9th I legally changed my name through the local court. I can say that there are some variences even inside the state. I called the court (chancelry (sp?)) and asked what I needed to do.


1) I had to set an oppointment (two weeks out at 8:30 am)

2) Bring my birth certificate and driver lic

3) Check/Money Order/Cash for 124.50


I arrived at 8:15 am and awaited my time. I answered the questions the clerk asked. Such as why and what to. Took my check for the amount stated above, and made copies of my d/l and birth certificate. While she printed out the (5) five copies, I was ushered into another office where I had to swear to tell the truth and the whole truth. There I was questioned to make sure that I was not evading the law or legal debts.

Again I was asked to wait outside the office. Within about another ten minutes the clerk brought me five certified copies and I was done. I walked out of the building at 9:09 am.

From a reader in September 2004:

I had received the forms for my name change from a friend, which were very easy to fill out. I took them to the probate court in Nashville, paid $99.50, and picked a court date, which was in two weeks. I arrived on that date, waited a very short time, the judge called my name ( the name I was changing to), I stood at the podium, and all that was said was "I am happy to grant your request for a name change". No questions were asked. I then went down the hall to the clerks office and picked up my court ordered name change document. I was in and out of court, with my new name, within 30 minutes. With a huge smile on my face!

Tennessee State law

Precedent for transsexuals

[no specific case noted]