Not everyone feels comfortable with the body in which they were born. And not everyone identifies as the gender assigned to them on their birth certificate. Therefore, many people choose to change the gender on their birth certificate and other official documents to more accurately reflect their gender identity.
Unfortunately, making this change isn’t always as easy as it sounds, and can require a variety of legal documents and procedures. So do you need a lawyer to officially change your gender?
State of Gender Laws
Because birth certificates and driver’s licenses are issued by states, the procedures for making changes to gender designations on those documents are covered by state law. This means the gender change process can vary depending on what state you live in.
For example, in California, you do not need a court order to change the gender on your driver’s license, social security card, or passport, nor do you need one to have a new birth certificate issued reflecting a change of gender. Instead, you need to fill out a petition for change of gender and have a doctor fill out an affidavit telling the court that you have “undergone clinically appropriate treatment for change of gender.”
Some states, like Alabama, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania, you must submit proof that your sex has been changed by surgical procedure. Other states, like New York, have been dropping that requirement, and instead request an affidavit from a doctor attesting to clinical treatment for gender dysphoria, previously known as gender identity disorder.
Not only do forms and prerequisites vary by state, but some states also require a court hearing before issuing an order for gender change. For the most part, these hearings can be formalities, provided you have all the proper paperwork in line. If not, they can get far more complicated. And while forms and local rules may be available online, court websites can’t account for everything that might pop up during your application and hearing.
While you may be able to file for a gender change on your own, an experienced civil rights attorney may be able to guide you through the process and take care of any surprises as well. If you’re thinking of changing your gender designation on official documentation, you may want to contact one in your area.