by Ilona Turner, Legal Director

In addition to all the other legal work we do, Transgender Law Center helps hundreds of people each year who need information or assistance to change their name and gender on legal ID documents.  One person we have helped is “Alex” (not his real name), an undocumented transgender man from Mexico who lives in San Francisco.  Last year he came to our office seeking our help to legally change his name so that his immigration paperwork could be issued under his current masculine name.  This year, thanks to the new change in California’s gender change law, we were also able to help him file for a court-ordered gender change.  We helped him fill out the paperwork and explained to his doctor how to write a letter confirming that he has had clinically appropriate treatment for gender transition.

Having identity documents including a legal name and gender that accurately reflect a person’s gender identity and expression is important for everyone.  For members of transgender communities, having ID that matches their gender presentation can be particularly helpful in situations where their gender is questioned by the government, businesses, or others who are policing access to sex-segregated activities or facilities.  Unfortunately, the process of updating identity documents to reflect a person’s preferred name and gender can seem like a confusing maze, since each form of identification has separate standards and processes.

At Transgender Law Center we are committed providing people with clear information about how to navigate those procedures, and helping out when individuals are facing barriers that they can’t overcome on their own. Since the bill we co-sponsored to eliminate outdated barriers to legal gender changes became law in California on January 1, we have assisted numerous people in filing petitions for court-ordered gender change under the new standard.

As Alex told us, “Estoy muy agradecido y feliz por la ayuda de Transgender Law Center. Yo no habría sido capaz de cambiar mi nombre y el género legal sin ellos. Me solía sentir vergüenza cuando mi identificación no coincidía con mi género. Ahora me siento mucho más cómodo. Su ayuda se ha hecho una gran diferencia en mi vida.”  (“I am so grateful and happy for the help of Transgender Law Center.  I would not have been able to change my name and legal gender without them.  I used to feel embarrassed when people saw that my ID didn’t match my gender.  Now I feel much more comfortable.  Their help has made a huge difference in my life.”)