This section assumes you are:
- an American citizen
- already assigned a birth certificate
- changing your certificate’s legal name and/or gender marker
IMPORTANT: If it’s available where you live, request that your record is impounded or sealed and a new record is created.
Reasons to change it
I strongly urge you to amend your birth certificate as soon as you can while changing other identity documents.
- The necessary documents will be handy.
- After transition, many of us get burned out with transition matters, and it’s easy to put it off for a long time.
- The laws in your birth state can change at any time, and you might miss your chance to have the record impounded.
Marriage and other legal documents
- Some of us have run into legal troubles when trying to get a marriage license, or even long after they’ve been married because of discrepancies on their birth certificate, especially sex designation. In one Texas case, a widow was denied the right to collect damages in her husband’s wrongful death suit, and her unchanged out of state birth certificate was used as evidence against her.
- People in our community who plan to travel outside their home country must have a valid passport.
- It is sometimes possible for citizens to travel to certain parts of the world using just an original birth certificate. People in our community should not use this option.
- Getting your old record amended and sealed/impounded means one less record of your old name floating around. For those who are living stealth, it’s possible that an unchanged or unsealed birth certificate can come back to haunt them.
This is a general guide– laws vary by jurisdiction.
1. Gather information
- Visit your state’s official government website or
- Contact the department in your birth state that maintains birth records.
- Explain that you have made a gender transition and seek to amend your name and sex and have the original birth record impounded. They will send you instructions, or possibly a form which can be used by any state to order information on your birth record to be changed. Remember, your state may have their own rules as to what they are authorized to order another state to change on a birth record. You will need to check state law yourself or contact your courthouse or legal advisor. It’s a good idea to obtain written instructions from your birth state. I needed to show my instructions to the judge so that she understood what was being requested.
- If your current state of residence allows ordering the record in your birth state to be impounded, you can get the order certified where you live (otherwise, you should see about returning to your birth state and doing it in person). Go to your county courthouse, where the Clerk of Court or Deputy can assist you in preparing the proper forms. It is very likely you will have to pay a fee, and it is also likely you will need to appear before a judge. The cost for the appearance will vary significantly: I paid $221 in Illinois.
2. Get any required medical documents
- Get a signed, dated, notarized letter from your provider. It should include your name, date of birth, and date of start of medical treatment. If your treatment was done by a provider outside the country, you may need to have these procedures confirmed by US-licensed physician.
3. Get any required legal documents
- Get your original birth certificate or a certified copy.
- Get a certified copy of your Court Order for Name Change
4. Fill out all forms
- Do this exactly as specified, making sure to specify that the birth certificate should be impounded and a new birth certificate should be created for the registrant.
5. Turn in all application materials
- Once your application is complete, you will be given a court date.
Below is the text of the Complaint and Order I wrote out by hand, which worked fine. Be sure to have someone in the County Court offices look over all your materials before you appear in front of a judge.
I, [full name], seek to amend the name and sex on my birth certificate to reflect my Court Order for Name Change and to reflect my surgical sex reassignment to female. I also seek to have the original birth record impounded as allowed under [birth state] law. I ask the Court to grant relief in this complaint by ordering the Clerk of Court to certify the [name of form or order required by birth state].
In this case which came today, Plaintiff testified under oath in the complaint. Relief in this complaint was granted after presentation of a notarized letter dated [date on letter] from [physician], M.D., confirming that he began treating the Plaintiff as part of a gender transition on [date].
The [birth state department] is directed, upon receipt of appropriate fees, to make the following changes on this birth record:
Amend the name to read [new name]
Amend sex to read [new gender]
Impound the old record and create a new birth certificate for the registrant.
The Clerk of Court is so ordered to certify the Order To Change Name & Sex On Birth Certificate.
Again, the wording will depend on your state’s laws, and your birth state’s requirements.
6. Appear in court
- You can appear in court for yourself (pro se), meaning you are your own lawyer. It’s easy if you have all the forms filled out correctly.
- You can have a lawyer or friend help you. You will probably have to fill out a cover sheet, a Complaint, and an Order that the judge will sign.
7. Return the forms
- It probably needs to be imprinted with the court seal along with any required fees and documents. I recommend you not trust this document to the standard U.S. Mail– you should send this through an express service so it can be tracked in the event of its loss.
8. Enjoy your new birth certificate!
National Center for Transgender Equality (transequality.org)
Lambda Legal (lambdalegal.org)
National Center for Health Statistics (cdc.gov/nchs)