Imagine spending the first portion of your life feeling like you’re in the wrong body.
You might not understand why you feel the way you do. Perhaps when you’re younger you don’t have the language to explain it. Or maybe you aren’t in a position to come out. Maybe you’re part of a family or live in an area where it isn’t safe to share your truth.
You hope with time that you’ll forget about the thoughts, or that they’ll pass by after a while. But the nagging feeling in your brain simply won’t go away. No matter how hard you try to shake it, there’s an inner voice telling you that something doesn’t seem quite right.
This is the reality of growing up transgender. It might be difficult to comprehend or understand if you’ve never met or known anyone who is. If you do have a transgender friend or family member, though, you likely know how scary and intimidating those early feelings can be.
Thankfully, people have more options and help available for their transition today than ever before. One of the most life-changing aspects of a person’s transition process is their transgender name change. Why is a name change so important? Continue reading to learn more.
Transgender Name Change: What’s in a Name?
Have you ever met someone who is transgender?
The chance that you have continues increasing as time passes. In 2011, only 11 percent of Americans reported knowing a transgender friend or family member. A 2019 survey revealed that now nearly one in four people, or 24 percent, know someone who is.
Still, the increasing number of news stories surrounding transgender individuals offer only a narrow perspective on what being transgender means. If you’ve never met someone personally, it’s difficult to understand what many have endured during their lives. Just like no two people are exactly alike, transgender individuals have their own stories as well.
Something many have in common, though, is a desire for a transgender name change. Not only do they feel uncomfortable in their bodies, but many also feel uncomfortable with their birth name. Their old name represents everything prior to their transition, from their old selves to their old lives. Some people even refer to their old name as their “dead name.”
Having access to a name change is a life-altering option for transgender people who want to take this step. Thankfully, more state governments and private companies are offering this option to their trans residents and customers.
The Process of a Transgender Name Change
There are two separate parts to a transgender name change: social and legal. First, a person lets their friends and family know that they prefer to use a new name. They navigate their social life with their new name for some time. Then they proceed with the legal portion of their name change, where they make official changes through the courts.
The first is an exciting step in the transition process as the people closest to them start using their new name. If you don’t know anyone who is transgender you might think that would be enough, but that’s only the beginning.
Have you ever considered how many documents and other accounts have your name on them? Your birth name is everywhere, from your driver’s license to your credit cards, your bank account to your birth certificate.
Even when people use their new chosen name among friends and family, their old name tags alongside them. It’s as far away as their academic records or as nearby as their wallet.
Obtaining a Legal Name Change
You might not realize how many things your name is on. When someone changes their name, they need to change their name on various documents and accounts such as:
- Social Security card
- Birth certificate
- Driver’s license
- Bank account and statements
- Academic transcripts and records
- Student loans
- Credit cards
Until they receive a legal name change, trans people still need to use their old name in many situations. It may be for something as simple as purchasing an item online, or as serious as a hospital visit. But a person needs a legal name change before they can update their name on any of the documents above.
The name change process differs from state to state. Requirements are different depending on where a person lives. Some states make it smooth and painless while others put up more challenging hurdles to jump.
Online resources, such as the National Center for Transgender Equality, provide information for each state’s process. The NCTE updates its database regularly in order to offer the most accurate and current documents. If you live local in the Reno/Sparks area check out Andriea Aden at Aden Law she offers some of the name change services pro-bono.
How Can a Name Change Help Transgender Individuals?
It helps when a transgender person has friends and family who call them by their chosen name. Hearing their new name rather than their old one affirms their newfound identity. They feel more at ease with the support of those closest to them.
While it’s helpful to have friends and family on board, it’s an entirely different feeling to see your new name on an official government document. There’s an incredible sense of relief for individuals when they receive approval for their name change.
Most transgender people have only the simplest of requests: they just want to be seen. Not as a news story, not as a statistic, not as the cover of a magazine. They simply want to be seen, heard, and respected as the individuals they truly are. Receiving their transgender name change is an immense step forward in that process.
Having a driver’s license with your chosen name, an updated gender marker, and a new picture is another level. Think of the first time you showed your ID to buy your first legal drink after you turned 21. Now multiply that feeling of excitement a hundred times over. That just might capture a sliver of the joy an individual feels when they receive their new license.
How could you possibly deny that?