Illinois 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.

Illinois allows for trans people to change their names before they have sex reassignment surgery.

1. Start the process

Call your county government offices to find out where you need to go. If you live in the city of Chicago or Cook County, you can go to Room 802 of the Daley Center in the Loop (on the south side of Randolph between Clark and Dearborn Streets).

Plan ahead! If you have a target date for going full-time, you should find out how long it will take to get a court date. For instance, the earliest I could get a court date was over seven weeks from the date I registered.

2. Take care of pre-hearing requirements

In Illinois, you are required to publish a legal notice of your name change daily for 3 consecutive weeks prior to your court date. The chancery office where you go probably will refer you to a publication in which you can run your notice. At the Cook County Chancery Office, the Daily Law Bulletin table is right next to the Chancery counter.

In Illinois, if you use the Daily Law Bulletin, publication of legal notice costs $85.00, payable in advance by cash, personal check, or credit card. You also have the option of publishing elsewhere (such as local papers if the circulation meets certain requirements).

I was also given three copies of my petition to fill out, which asked for old and new names, address, length of Illinois residency, and place of birth. On the back of each was an affidavit which had to be signed by a friend acquainted with me who knew my birth name. This had to be filled out in the presence of a notary public and notarized.

3. Show up on your assigned court date.

I had the option of coming in at 9:30 am or 1:30 pm. If you have an option, I'd recommend doing it as early as possible so you can spend the rest of the day getting the ball rolling on other name change applications.

What you will need to do will vary by state. Here's what I had to do on my court date:

A. I picked up my certificate of publication. My notice read as follows:

State of Illinois, County of Cook, ss. -- Circuit Court of Cook County. Public notice is hereby given that on [ date], a Petition will be filed in said Court, in the Chancery Division, Room 802, Richard J. Daley Center, praying for the change of my name from [my old name], to that of [my new name], pursuant to the statute in such case made and provided.

[Dated], Chicago, Illinois

[my male name], Petitioner

B. Hand info to the clerk cashier

I presented proof of publication, my completed and notarized petitions, and my Circuit Court filing fee $220.00 (payable only by cash, certified check, or money order) to the cashier. She stamped them all with the time and date, then went to a computer to assign me a judge and room. They handed me a printout with the courtroom and judge's name.

I went up to the courtroom and waited for my case to be called. The judge only had two cases that afternoon, but the first one took almost two hours. I was not expecting this-- it was these three lawyers quibbling about technicalities in a class-action suit where an orange juice company was caught using waste water to make their juice. Mmmm.

Not unlike that other annoying case involving O.J., the trial had dragged on interminably. Eight years, in this case, and I could see why. Finally, they got done, and it was my turn.

C. I appeared before the judge and had him sign my petition.

When I went up, the three idiot lawyers were standing in the back arguing about something, and the judge yelled at them for disrupting his courtroom while in session and told them to take it outside. They grabbed their junk and scurried out like the vermin they are.

He called me to the bench by saying "Miss?" and kept calling me "Miss" throughout the proceeding. I suppose this was better than some alternatives, but I would have preferred something a bit less diminutive. I chalked it up to our differences in age. He was very respectful and businesslike, though.

I was actually glad he kicked the lawyers out. That meant it was just me, the bailiff, the stenographer, and the judge in the courtroom. There was an audible sound from the bailiff when the judge called my case by my male name. I was paying too close attention to what the judge was saying to see the bailiff's reaction, but it seemed like a gasp of surprise.

My part took only 5 minutes or so. The judge had not had any other TS cases before, so he had a few questions. I explained a bit about RLT prior to SRS and that I needed to switch over my financial and legal records to do so. He swore me in and asked several questions about whether I had any criminal record or had declared bankruptcy in the last 10 years. He asked if I was doing this for any fraudulent purposes. I was happy to answer no to all those questions.

He signed my petition, handed it to me, stood and shook my hand and said, "Good luck to you, Miss."

That was it. Had I not had my time wasted by the orange juice morons, the whole thing would have taken about 5 minutes.

4. Get any certified copies you will need

I returned to the chancery office to get certified copies of the signed judgment for $6 each. I got half a dozen just in case, but I probably won't need half that many. You'll need to send certified copies to some financial institutions and government agencies, which will NOT accept photocopies or notarized copies.

The whole process took me about three hours over seven weeks and cost $341.00. Your results may vary.

Other resources

Great step-by-step info:

Other good sites on procedures: (PDF file: requires reader)

Illinois state law

For a complete understanding of the law see Chapter 735 of the Illinois Compiled Statutes, Section 5/21-101 et seq. or consult an attorney.

Please note that some states are now requiring those who have reassignment procedures outside the country to have these procedures confirmed by US physician. For example, here is the Illinois requirement:

If the surgery is performed by a  NON- U.S. licensed physician, the affidavit must be accompanied by an additional affidavit, “Affidavit by Physician Verifying Completion of Gender Reassignment”.  The additional affidavit must be completed by a physician licensed to practice within the United States and confirm that the gender reassignment surgery was completed.

In 2009, Illinois reversed a 2005 policy that said sex designations would not be changed of procedures were done outside the US. That policy was successfully challenged by the ACLU:

If you have the procedures done outside the country, you should get an exam by a US physician who will give you a notarized letter confirming the procedures have been completed. Non-US surgeons like Pierre Brassard have gotten licensed in the US in response.

A reader writes in December 2011:

Regarding getting one's gender changed on an Illinois driver's license or ID card.. While a medical report works, one can also bring in (a) a court order changing one's legal gender or even (b) a letter from one's doctor confirming transition is in progress. Because changing gender automatically changes one's driver's license number, a person changing gender will get a new picture that day too.. hopefully reflecting the changing you :) Changing name, though... While you can go in and they can play a little with the name (like going initials-only for first and middle name), without, basically, a court order to change name (or a marriage or civil union certificate.. though obviously that can only change the last name), you can't get, say, your preferred name on the document.

Legal precedent for transsexuals

[not known]