Utah 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.

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

A reader writes in December 2014:

In November of 2014 I got my name and gender marker changed in Utah; i did this at the Third District court of Salt Lake County in Salt Lake City. I want to share my story about how that whole process went for me so that it may benefit others in the future.

The first step to this process was to contact the department of corrections by filling out a form and mailing it to them along with a self-address, stamped envelope to confirm that I was not a registered sex offender. About a week later I got it back in the mail stating that I was indeed not a sex offender which means I was now ready to file all of my paperwork with the court for my name change.

Along with the document from the department of corrections; I needed a cover sheet for court proceedings, a petition for legal name change, a request for hearing and a final court order changing my name. There is no specific form for changing your gender in Utah so you simply ask for that to be changed as well when asking for your name to be changed. In the petition for the name change when it asked why I wanted to change my name I simple stated that "I have been living as a woman and wish to have my name and gender marked changed accordingly". Since I wanted both my name and gender changed it was important that I noted that in the petition since not doing so could very well mean that I would have to fill out a second petition, ask for a second hearing and pay a second fee at at later date; definitely something to avoid. Another thing I needed was a letter from the OB/GYN I was seeing for my transition related care that said that I had completed "appropriate treatment" to be designated as female.

Once I had all of this paperwork filled out I went to the third district court in Salt Lake City and went to the probate clerk to file it. The only mistake I made was not having the final court order changing my name filled out and ready since I assumed I wouldn't need that until the actual hearing; the clerk told me that I should of had it with but it shouldn't be a problem so long as I have it filled out and bring it with me to the actual hearing. I showed them my ID, signed the petition in front of them so that it could be notarized and payed the filing fee which was $360. About a week later I got a call from the court telling me when the date and time for my hearing date; the date they gave me was about 3 weeks away.

On my hearing date I went to the court with my parents. Since I was going to be presenting in from of the judge I wore a skirt and tried to look as formal as possible. At the hearing I gave the final order changing my name, that I should have filed with my other paperwork earlier, to the constable who then gave it to the judge when it was asked about. I also gave them the letter from my OB/GYN when it was asked for. The whole proceeding took about 15 minutes and when it was done the judge approved my petition for name change and also wrote into the order: "The requested gender change is approved. Petitioner henceforth may identify herself as female."

After I had the ruling in my favor I took it back downstairs to the probate clerk that I initially filed the paperwork with and then asked for five certified copies at $5.00 each for a total of $25.00. I made the extra copies since I thought various state agencies would want to keep a copy for themselves; turns out the extra copies were necessary as everyone I presented it to simply made their own copy and handed mine back which means I could saved $15-20 by only making one or two copies.

Once I had the certified copies of the order I went to the department of health to get a new birth certificate with my new name and gender on it; the fee for which was $25. The lady there was very nice and when I showed her my ID I must of have kind of pulled a face because she kind of giggled and said "don't worry, it can be changed". Anyway I had to fill out some paper work; sign one paper with the old name then the other paper with the new name. The whole process took maybe 10 minutes and when I was done the lady printed out new birth certificate at which point she said "congratulations" as she presented me the new birth certificate that has my new name and gender marker on it. The new birth certificate does show the amendments on the bottom that say "gender changed from M", "first name changed from", etcetera; I don't personally have a problem with it in my case but it is something to keep in mind for anyone else getting this done in Utah as they might want to try asking the court if they can have their records sealed.

Anyway once I had the new birth certificate I then proceeded to the DLD to get my new driver's license($18) that listed my now legal female name and gender and then proceeded to the Social Security Administration to do the same. I also updated my information with the people support manager at work who said he'll make sure they update all of my insurance information as well; he told me that if my new insurance cards arrive and they don't have the proper name on them then I should come to him as soon as possible so that he can get it fixed. I updated all of my banking information and really only have to apply for a new passport at this point and possibly contact my high school about updating my information there.

The whole process of changing and updating my identity was relatively easy and the whole process from the time I initially sent the request to the department of corrections regarding the sex offender registry to having all of legal documents updated after reciving the court order took less than two months. Now I'm legally a woman and am actually surprised by how much better I feel simply having a seemingly insignificant letter "F" on my documents.

Other notes:

It is not necessary to have any kind of surgery to get your name and gender changed in Utah; all you need is a letter from you physician that states that you have received "appropriate treatment". I have not had surgery and had actually only been living as a woman full time for a mere 7 weeks at the time of my hearing and had no issues getting this all changed over. Despite Utah's conservative reputation; it is actually currently one of the most progressive, or perhaps libertarian, states in this regard.

A reader writes in February 2007:

This is the story of getting my legal name changed in the Third District Court of Salt Lake County, in Salt Lake City.
In January I filed the cover sheet, petition for name change, and SORP certification with the 3rd District Court of Salt  Lake on 450 South State Street, and the whole process was rather painless. The court clerk's counter is on the first floor of the building, and there are actually a few clerks on duty at any given time. The clerk for name changes is the very last line, under the "probate/adoption" sign. The process felt like being in line at the supermarket, you basically just wait in line until it is your turn, then tell them you are filing for a name change and give them your picture ID, the cover sheet, petition for name change, and sex offender registry certification, and pay the filing fee which is $155.00. The clerk will then have you sign the petition and will notarize it--the SL courts website recommends having it notarized before you come to the court to file it, but this is truly unnecessary as it is a formality which takes two seconds more to have done by the court clerk next to how long it would take to go to an outside notary to have it done at the cost of an additional  fee.
After the clerk looks over and notarizes your petition he or she will give you a business card with the court's address on it, and will write on this card the name of the judge who will preside over your hearing, and also a phone number to call to schedule your hearing. I called later that day to schedule my hearing, and was given the date of February twelfth, only two weeks away, and told which courtroom it would be held in and at what time, and told to "just go on right into the courtroom" at the scheduled time.
My hearing was on the twelfth at nine in the morning, but I arrived a little early so I waited on the bench in the hallway until about 8:55, then entered the court through the big double doors and sat down in the audience section of the court. I was all alone in the courtroom, as my hearing was the first case of the day. At 9:07 the court clerk arrived, followed shortly by the judge, who sat down  then announced the hearing, which was of course mine so I stood and presented myself and went to the podium, where I raised my right hand and was sworn in. The judge asked a couple of question along the lines of did I understand the responsibilities of changing my name, and did I intend to defraud anybody--never any undue or uncomfortable questions or comments about the fact that I was changing my name from a male name to a female name. Satisfied that I understood everything and wasn't going to commit fraud or evade creditors, the judge asked for the final "order changing name," which I had filled out beforehand and brought with me. I handed it to the court clerk, the judge read it and signed it, and that was it. I thanked the judge and left, and by then it was about 9:18.
After the hearing you are required to file the ruling in your case with the court clerk's office downstairs, the same place where you initially filed your petition for  name change. When you turn in your file to the clerk's office, this is the time to get certified copies of the order, for a fee of $5.00 each.
The entire process was simple and fast. To think I was so afraid of something going wrong or having my name change denied unfairly by a biased court system that I put off filing for a name change for two and a half years after I transitioned, and accepted all the risks of using a female name while having a male legal name--only to find that the whole process, though it sometimes made me slightly nervous like going to the dentist or a job interview, was in the end entirely a benign and painless experience.
P.S. On the "Petition for Name Change" form, which is the first one you file, in the section where it asks the reasons you want to change your name, I simply put "I have been using the name K-- for two years in work, family, and social situations and would like to have  it made my official, legal name." I never mentioned either on the petition or in court the fact that I am transgender, the issue only arose when the judge mentioned the increased importance "when changing gender identifiers, to have certified copies...(of the order.)" So, though the judge guessed that I was transgender, it was a non-issue, at least to my judge.

A reader writes in November 2003:

I received my name and gender change in the state of Utah, which is one of the most conservative states you can live in. Last Monday, I stood before a judge in his private chambers and was issued a court order for a name and gender change. I was totally ecstatic and proceeded from there to the Social Security office and the driver's license dept. The greatest thrill came when they took my picture and handed me a driver's license that stated I was female.

It's a simple process, but one that takes courage. You have to want to take a risk, because all through out it you feel vulnerable. But in the end it is a triumph and you stand amongst the very few who are now legally and lawfully recognized by government. It's a wonderful feeling that is well worth the hassle.

At major city court houses, there is usually a private lawyer working for free on behalf of low income people. There is no shame in going to this resource where you are given a sample packet on the "Name Change" process. You fill in the blanks and take what fee that is required (mine was $155.00) and file it with the probate office in your county court house. You will then be assigned a judge and required to hand deliver your filed petition to that judge's clerk. You will then be given a court date or they will have a court clerk call you with a date to appear in open court. It is their discretion as to whether they take you into the judges chambers and proceed from there.
When you are granted the name change, you can then proceed to other government institutions that will recognize this legal court order.

Your life is now your own in a much different way. Though it's only on paper, your mind is given a major boost.
One last thing. Be prepared for both negative and positive reaction. Life is still very interesting and requires you to navigate with care amongst your friends and loved ones. Be conscious of their feelings while still maintaining a positive and upbeat attitude. You may experience some things that make you feel awkward or even helpless, but in reality, it is still all up to you.

Other resources


Utah state law

Precedent for transsexuals

[no specific case noted]