One of the largest challenges faced by a transgender person after they come out is the process of changing their name and gender marker on all their forms of ID. The process includes dozens of pages of paperwork, a court hearing and hundreds of dollars in fees.
A big problem with going through this process in Florida is that there isn’t one consistent, statewide system for name and gender marker change. Instead, each of the state’s 67 counties has its own specific guidelines and paperwork for the process. This makes it challenging for someone trying to start the process to find instructions on how to complete it, although a new website that was recently launched is designed to help simplify this.
Excluding all county-specific paperwork, the process begins with the individual filing a name change petition with their local courthouse. This is the most paperwork-intensive part of the process, and it requires multiple forms that all need to be signed and notarized before they can be filed.
Once the petition is filed, the individual schedules a court hearing. At the hearing, the judge will issue the individual a court order to change their name. They can then use that to change their name on their forms of ID.
This process begins with the individual’s Social Security card, then driver’s license, passport and finally their birth certificate, all in that order.
The gender marker change process is more complicated. An individual can’t just get a court order to change their gender marker like they can with their name.
To change their gender marker, an individual needs a physician’s certificate. A physician’s certificate is a letter from a doctor that states the individual has had or is undergoing appropriate clinical treatment. This could range from taking hormones, talking to a therapist or just the social transition of dressing as the opposite gender.
“It’s not as easy or as straightforward as it should be, especially for the gender marker change,” Chloe Goldbach said.
Goldbach is the Community Outreach Chair for Alachua TranQuility, an organization dedicated to serving transgender people and their families.
When Goldbach went through the process in 2015, the state required proof of sexual reassignment surgery before the gender marker on a birth certificate could be updated. This rule was changed recently, but because of it, Goldbach couldn’t update her birth certificate when she updated the rest of her IDs.
Altogether, this process can take months to complete. Meaning that a person going through it may spend all that time being referred to by a name and gender they don’t identify with. They’ll constantly have to explain to doctors, teachers, employers, landlords, police officers and even bartenders that the name on their ID isn’t who they are, which can be extremely difficult.
“As long as your name isn’t legally changed you’re going to hear it all the time, and that was really hard for me,” said Nathan Quinn, the vice president of the University of Florida’s Pride Student Union, a group that works to support and educate students and members of the local community on LGBTQ issues.
Quinn went through the process when he was in high school, and it took about a year before it was completed. So, during that time, he was forced to explain to teachers and faculty at his school why his name and gender didn’t match what he was enrolled as.
A new website that launched in March called Florida Name Change is designed to make the name and gender marker change process much easier for the thousands of transgender people living in the state of Florida.
The website presents transgender people with a much more streamlined method of completing this process. It offers users a step-by-step walkthrough of each form, including county-specific forms, showing them what needs to be notarized, explaining what information needs to be put in each section, and other helpful tips, all free of charge.
Once the user has filled out each form, the website will email them a copy of the form that can be printed, signed, notarized if necessary and easily filed.
The website was developed as part of a partnership between the Florida Justice Technology Center, a Tallahassee-based non-profit devoted to creating online tools to aid the public with any legal needs, and Southern Legal Counsel, a Gainesville-based non-profit that is devoted to defending the rights of marginalized groups that may not have access to legal help.
“There’s over 100,000 trans individuals in the state of Florida, and 68 percent of them haven’t gone through this process. They haven’t updated their name or gender marker,” said Simone Chriss, the director of Southern Legal Counsel’s Transgender Identification Initiative. “We wanted to create a tool that could reach as many of them as possible.”
Going forward, Chriss hopes that Southern Legal Counsel can use the site to present a narrative to Florida lawmakers to show why the state needs one unified process for name and gender marker change.
“It [Florida Name Change] definitely makes things easier,” said Goldbach. “I wish something like that would have existed three years ago.”
The website can be accessed now at floridanamechange.org