I strongly urge you to amend your birth certificate as soon as you have completed all the physical changes you intend to make.
- It’s fresh on your mind
- The necessary documents will be handy.
- After SRS, you get sort of 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.
Here’s why you should do it:
- Marriage and other legal documents. Some TS women 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.
- Travel: if you do not have a U.S. Passport, it is sometimes possible to travel to certain parts of the world using an original birth certificate. If you plan to do this, your name and sex should match your birth certificate.
- Stealth/privacy: One less record of your old name floating around. For those who are living stealth, it’s possible that this information can come back to haunt them.
If it’s available in your state of birth, request that your record is impounded or sealed and a new record is created.
Instructions (a general guide– laws vary by state)
1. Have vaginoplasty or orchiectomy. (Orchiectomy alone may not always work for getting documents changed. Your letter from your surgeon must state that you had irreversible genital surgery.)
2. Get a signed, dated, notarized letter from your surgeon confirming the date of the procedure. The surgeon should include your name, date of birth, date of surgery, type of surgery (male-to-female), and where it was performed.
3. Obtain your original birth certificate or a certified copy.
4. Obtain a certified copy of your Court Order for Name Change
5. Write a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services in your birth state (see Becky’s state by state information). Explain that you are transsexual 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.
6. Fill out all forms 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.
7. 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.
8. 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 should consider having a lawyer or TS friend who has been through this help you if you are uncomfortable filling out forms yourself. You will probably have to fill out a cover sheet, a Complaint, and an Order that the judge will sign.
Everyone I encountered at my local courthouse, including the judge, had never done one of these before, and they process almost 20,000 cases a year. I recommend coming in with all of the necessary information, including the written instructions you received from your state. Below is the text of the Complaint and Order I wrote out by hand, which worked fine.
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 [SRS surgeon], M.D., confirming that he performed surgical sex change on the Plaintiff on [SRS date].
The [birth state] Department of Health and Family Services 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 female
- 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 Due To Surgical Sex-Change Procedure.
Again, the wording will depend on your state’s laws, and your birth state’s requirements. Be sure to have someone in the County Court offices look over all your materials before you appear in front of a judge.
9. Return the form 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.
10. Enjoy your new birth certificate!
Dr. Becky Allison’s site is the primary web resource for amending a birth certificate. http://www.drbecky.com/birthcert.html
These sites may also prove to be helpful:
Lambda Legal: Amending Birth Certificates to Reflect Your Correct Sex
National Center for Health Statistics
The CDC maintains a list of summary info on vital recordshttp://www.cdc.gov/nchs/howto/w2w/w2welcom.htm
UK procedures: A reader notes:
I thought it may be helpful to link out to somewhere providing further information on changing the name of a child on a birth certificate.
The above page provides extensive information on changing the name of a child on the birth certificate as well as the possible options available if this cannot be done. I am sure it would be a useful resource to your visitors.
A note for those seeing non-US surgeons
Please note that some states are now requiring those who have reassignment procedures outside the country to have these procedures confirmed by US-licensed physician. For example, here is the revised 2005 Illinois requirement:
If you have the procedures done outside the country, you should have an exam by a US physician who will give you a notarized letter confirming the procedures have been completed.
Some states require evidence of “irreversible” medical procedures. However, the question of what constitutes irreversible medical procedures has not been established yet. In some cases, you may be able to get a gender change based on an orchiectomy or other procedures that are irreversible, but are not vaginoplasty.
The following information is courtesy Natalie G.
This page provides links to webpages hosted by various states’ vital records departments. With these links, you will be able to: 1) send for copies of your birth certificate; and 2) get the contact information you need to start the process in getting your name and/or gender changed on your birth certificate. Sometimes marriage and death certificate info is available on these sites as well. This page does not contain resources on states’ policies or procedures on changing your records; that kind of information is not, to my knowledge, ever posted on a state’s website (but it won’t stop me from trying to find it!). If you can provide me with information on how to change your vital records, please email me. I also welcome comments, corrections, and suggestions!