Transgender Education Advocates of Utah – TEA (teaofutah.org)
National Center for Transgender Equality (transequality.org)
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Human Rights Campaign (hrc.org)
Williams Institute (williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu)
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World Professional Association of Transgender Health (wpath.org)
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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.