Texas Name and Gender Marker Change

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About

Here's some info on this wiki.

Basics

Start with this set of instructions, "What are the steps to change my gender marker? (Travis County)", from the Travis County Law Library.

Also, the Travis County Law Library has free clinics where attorneys will assist with understanding the forms and explaining what information goes in which blanks. The attorneys do not represent you but they can make the process less intimidating. It is highly recommend that you use the forms from the law library as they have been carefully reviewed and are routinely seen by the judges. They will also notarize reviewed forms for free. The official clinic hours are M-F, 10am-12pm. It's recommended that you call ahead of time to verify.

Additionally, UT Austin Law School's Trans Name and Gender Marker Project periodically holds workshop to assist transgender people in all aspects of changing name and gender marker. Fill out the survey on that page to indicate your interest in future name and gender marker workshops.

What documents will you need?

Also see the list of sample documents.

  • Petition to change name and/or gender.
  • Letter from your physician (general practitioner, endocrinologist, GCS surgeon, etc.) stating that that you have made "irreversible changes for gender transition from <your biological sex> to <your gender identity>".
  • Most of the Travis County judges also like a letter from a mental health professional, like a LPC or LCSW.
  • Fingerprint card. Note that if you change your name and your gender marker at different times, you will need to do one fingerprint card each time.
  • Background check: you do not need background check documentation, because your petition, which is your sworn testimony, already included the declaration that you have not been convicted of anything above a Class C misdemeanor. Of course, if you have convictions of above a Class C misdemeanor, it'd be best if you do include a background check.

What will you need to do?

These are the general steps. See the county-specific section for instructions specific to your county, if any.

  1. Beforehand:
    1. Get physician's letter.
    2. Write your name and/or gender marker change petition.
    3. Get fingerprinted and get fingerprint card.
    4. Optional but HIGHLY recommended: have the Law Library (see above) review your forms for free. They will ensure everything is correct.
    5. Go to district court and file petition. (This will give you a case number which you will need for the next step, making an appointment.)
    6. Find the judge who is on duty for uncontested dockets, and call or email their court operations officer to ask for an appointment with the judge.
  2. Day of your appointment:
    1. At appointment time, appear in front of a judge in their chamber, who will look at your documentation, maybe ask you questions, and decide whether to grant your petition.
    2. After your petition is granted (why wouldn't it be? :) ), go to the Court Clerk's office and get certified copies of your petition.

Where will you need to go?

Legally, you can file your petition for name/gender marker change in any Texas county, not just the county of your current residence, but some judges may misread the statute to require petition be filed in the county of residence.

How much will you have to pay?

  • Name change filing fee in Travis County is $293 if paid in cash.
    • If you are not able to pay, depending on your income, you can file to have the fee waived.
    • Bring cash or check: there is an additional 3% charge ($301.79 total) if paid with a debit/credit card.
  • Gender Marker petition does NOT have a filing fee
  • Notary fee for Name Change form: varies
    • The Law Library (see above) will notarize your reviewed forms for free.
  • Gender Marker petition does NOT need to be notarized
  • Fingerprint card cost varies
    • Passport Express charges $18.94

Common Problems & Issues

Changing name and gender marker in a different county from one's county of residence

The Family Code (Tex Fam Code 45.101) says "An adult may file a petition requesting a change of name in the county of the adult's place of residence." Note the law uses the word "may". If one "may" perform an act, it is permissive, which suggest that they "may" also file somewhere else. This is a standard rule used when interpreting statutory language.

However, as the statute does not mandate that name change be allowed anywhere, a judge can (and some have) deny a name change/gender marker change petition on the grounds that the petitioner lives in a different county.

So what to do if you run into this problem? Rule #1 be polite to everyone in the courthouse without exception.

If the person telling you that you can't file the name change is in the clerks office, VERY POLITELY ASK they that accept your filing and allow you to present your request the judge to consider your petition.

If the person telling you that you must file the name change in your home county is in the Courtroom, or is on the Judge's staff, very politely point them to the language of 45.101 and note that it is permissive and ASK them to allow you to present your petition . If they say no, thank them and ask that your case be continued and retained and try again in a week or two.

Fingerprinting

You need to get a fingerprints card before going to court. There are services around Austin that will verify your identity (you need to bring ID), fingerprint you, and give you a fingerprint card to take to court. Supposedly, you can also go to the Austin Police Department and have it done for free. Need confirmation and further information on this.

FAQs

County-specific information

Information on venue, friendly/hostile judges, etc. by county.

Files & Documents

What else will need to do post-change

There is no specific order by which to change your driver's license and your Social Security information. People have reported success changing either one first.

Driver's license

Bringing your court orders for name & gender marker change is sufficient to get your driver's license updated at any DMV.

Social Security

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has a specific procedure for changing your name and gender. It is here: "RM 10212.200 Changing Numident Data for Reasons other than Name Change". It's a good idea to print that page out to take with you and show it to the SSA clerk. Here is the SSA FAQ on changing gender 1.

Passport

Information on changing name/gender on passport is here.

Bank accounts

The court order and driver's license with my new name and gender marker were sufficient to change the name of my accounts and credit cards etc. at my banks, Chase and University Federal Credit Union.

Credit history

This page has step-by-step instructions on things someone should do when they get married and change their name.

Birth certificate

The Vital Statistics Unit (VSU) of the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) maintains birth certificates and any amendment/re-issue requests go through that unit. One may have the birth certificate either amended or re-issued.

Name Change

The Legislature has explicitly granted the DSHS the power to amend the name on a birth record. Tex. Health & Safety Code § 192.010 (West 2010) ("[A]n adult . . . whose name is changed by court order, may request that the state registrar attach an amendment showing the change to the person's original birth record."). However, as the language indicates, such an amendment is quite literally stapled to the original birth certificate that shows the birth name. If this is the only change you wish, then it can be done at the DSHS website. If you are also changing your gender/sex, you can have it re-issued (see below). Note that there is nothing prohibiting re-issue of a birth certificate reflecting only a name change, but there is nothing that permits it.

Sex Change

The Legislature has, perhaps surprisingly, explicitly granted the DSHS the power to re-issue a birth certificate reflecting a sex change/correction. The choice of "sex" rather than "gender" is deliberate, as the Texas Health and Safety Code uses the word "sex" and requires that the relevant portion of the court order reflects this language. Tex. Health & Safety Code § 192.011(a) (West 2010) ("This section applies to an amending birth certificate . . . that completes or corrects information relating to the person's sex, color, or race."). This section explicitly permits a person to, on request, have a new birth certificate issued that "incorporates the completed or corrected information instead of issuing a copy . . . with an amending certificate attached." Tex. Health & Safety Code § 192.011(b) (West 2010).

Process

Generally

Claire Bow, a trans attorney in Austin, is the expert on this process. It is apparently possible to have a birth certificate re-issued via mailed-in request, but it appears to be considerably easier to go to the VSU in person.

Personal Experience

I needed to get both my name and "sex" changed on my birth certificate, and Ms. Bow advised that I go in person to the VSU and to insist that I need it "re-issued." I did so and informed the receptionist that I needed to have a birth certificate re-issued. I was called back to a desk and spoke with a clerk who was extremely helpful and non-judgmental. The process was somewhat convoluted, but each clerk there appears to know exactly what is necessary to obtain a re-issued birth certificate. It cost $47 to change the information plus $20 for a copy of the birth certificate. It arrived to my apartment in Dallas exactly two weeks later. Just be confident and very clear, and there should not be any problems.

Contact

I am a licensed attorney in the State of Texas and handled this entire process on my own, though only through the tutelage of Katie Sprinkle and Claire Bow to whom I am eternally grateful. Please contact me (Jessica Jones) if you have questions or need advice.

Other things

Glossary






[1]: The SSA FAQs are here: "Help Topics" / "Social Security Number and Card" / "General Questions" section of the SSA FAQs.



[1]: There are sometimes Assistant Attorneys General in the room during uncontested docket, who work for Ken Paxton. Most of the AAGs are there for child support cases, not political hires in one of the divisions likely to cause issues. All the same, we want to draw as little attention to these proceedings as possible.