With Trump headed tot he Oval Office, many transgender people feel it’s more urgent than ever to change their ID documents, especially federally issued ones.
It’s unclear whether the process will become harder under the new Republican administration, but the Republican Party platform opposes trans people’s right to use the public bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity as well as other basic human rights.
Trans advocates are most concerned that the Trump administration may try to undo measures taken to make the changing ID documents easier. The most recent changes, credited to Clinton and President Barack Obama, were made in May 2010, when the U.S. State Department announced new guidelines for issuing passports to transgender people. The new policy said that people needed proof of treatment from a doctor, but not proof that they had undergone gender-confirmation surgery.
The process of changing identity documents is complicated. There’s no one-stop way to do it, because there’s no central government agency that deals with all the various identity documents.
In a 2008 survey of those who had transitioned from male to female or from female to male, 21 percent had updated all their identity documents, according to a report by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. The survey, which had 6,450 respondents, also found that among those who had transitioned, 33 percent had updated none of their ID documents.
With this in mind, we’ve assembled a road map for changing identity documents. Information and free legal assistance can be found in more detail at the Transgender Law Center’s website.
When you want to change your identity documents, the center recommends you do it in the following order.
GO TO A CALIFORNIA COURT
You’ll need to request a court-ordered change of gender and change of name. (They’re separate.)
Tip: If you are changing your name to better match your gender identity, and you check that box in the name change form, you’ll be entitled to some protections, such as not having to publish your name change in a newspaper and not having to attend an in-person hearing.
Be prepared: There’s a fee of $435-$450. (A waiver is available for those who can’t afford to pay.)
GO TO A SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION OFFICE
Start with: Application form SS-5. Use your new court-ordered name or gender marker. Then take the document to the local Social Security Administration office or mail it to the SSA.
Be prepared: You’ll have to show proof of your U.S. citizenship or immigration status, your court order, and your current photo ID. The new card is free, according to the Social Security website.
For Gender Marker Changes:
Also be prepared to show a medical certificate of “appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition,” which is a signed statement from a licensed physician. If you changed your documents in a different order, you could also show a passport with the new gender marker, a state-issued birth certificate with the new gender marker or a court order directing legal recognition of the new gender marker.
GO TO THE DEPARTMENT OF MOTOR VEHICLES
For Gender Marker Changes: Start with the DL329 form. Complete it and have your doctor or psychologist complete and sign it.
Tip: Make sure your doctor fills in every blank space on the form, even if they put an “N/A.” Otherwise, the DMV may send it back to you.
For Name Changes: Start with the DL-44 form, which can be obtained at a local DMV office, or by calling the DMV’s automated number and requesting it at 800-777-0133. The form is not available online.
Tip: Changing your name on your driver’s license won’t automatically change your name on your vehicle registration information.
You’ll have to do that separately.
CHANGE YOUR PASSPORT
For Name Changes: It differs depending on how old your passport is.
If your passport is less than one year old: Complete and submit the U.S. passport pre-application form DS-5504, along with a copy of the court order (from above) and two new passport photos.
If your passport is more than one year old and less than 15 years old: Complete and submit a renewal application, or DS-82.
For Gender Changes: Start with the DS-11 form. Be ready to provide a letter from your doctor on office letterhead that confirms your gender transition is in process or complete.
Tip: Things will go more smoothly if you apply in person, even if you’re otherwise eligible by mail. If you’re applying for a new passport instead of a renewal, be ready to have passport photos, proof of U.S. citizenship and a valid form of photo ID.
Anyone under the age of 18 who wishes to go through this process must either have approval from their parents or guardians, or be an emancipated minor. Because of the interconnected nature of online information, it’s likely that someone may be able to view both the old and new information, so be prepared for the fact that people may be able to infer that you’re trans when they look at some information.
For more information on these ID changes and others (like birth certificates): See the Transgender Law Center’s booklet “ID Please: Full Guide to Changing California and Federal Identity Documents,” at www.transgenderlawcenter.org/resources/id/id-please.