Changing Identification Documents After a Gender Reassignment

According to the National Center for Transgender Equality (“NCTE”), one in three transgender people are discriminated against because of a mismatch in gender or name to an identification document. A 2015 anonymous survey by the NCTE (the 2015 US Transgender Survey, “USTS”), examining the experiences of transgender people in the United States, yielded 27,715 respondents and revealed “disturbing patterns of mistreatment and discrimination” of transgender people. With regard to changing identification documents to match their “gender preference,” only 11% of those surveyed reported that all of their IDs had the name and gender they preferred, while more than 68% reported that none of their IDs had the name and gender they preferred. Additionally, it was reported that approximately 32% of those who were surveyed claim to have been verbally harassed, denied benefits or service, asked to leave, or assaulted when presenting an ID with a name or gender that did not appear to match their gender presentation.

With these kind of statistics, why don’t more transgender people change their identification documents to match their preferred name or gender? Well, the legal process can be daunting and difficult to navigate. Amendment 10 to the US Constitution states that the “legal classification of sex is a matter of state jurisdiction”, meaning each state has its own laws about how or when a person can legally change their name or gender from what was assigned to them at birth. In addition to the varying state laws, each federal and state governmental entity has a different procedure for making gender marker changes to identification documents. This process can be confusing, time consuming and expensive. For those with limited resources, some might just call it a loss and suffer the undeserved consequences.

We can help navigate the system. Arizona law provides that the birth certificate of a person born in the state shall only be amended under four circumstances. With regard to gender marker changes to identification documents, Arizona law requires a person to have “undergone a sex change operation” or to have a “chromosomal count that establishes the sex of the person as different than in the registered birth certificate,” and to have both a “written request for an amended birth certificate” and a “written statement by a physician that verifies the sex change operation or chromosomal count.” This means that, in Arizona, the first step is to speak with a knowledgeable physician who can assist with the required documentation. The next step is to petition the State Court for a name change. An order from the State Court can be used to complete the appropriate forms with the Social Security Administration office for your amended social security card, the Arizona Motor Vehicle Department to get your driver’s license, the US Department of State to change your passport information and the Vital Records Office to change your birth certificate.

Processing paperwork with four different government entities is not an easy task. Understandably, many people become discouraged. But you don’t have to go it alone. Contact the attorneys at Platt & Westby, PC 602-277-4441 or pwestby@plattwestby.com to assist you in obtaining the relief you are entitled to!

[1] James, S. E., Herman, J.L., Rankin, S., Keisling, M., Mottet, L., & Anafi, M. (2016). The Report of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey. Washington, DC: National Center for Transgender Equality.

[2] U.S. Const. am. 10.

[3] A.R.S. § 36-337

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