It’s more than a name

Legal Eagles: Navigating the ‘system’ for the transgender community

A significant step for many transgender persons is changing their name and gender marker. While the law of the state where you live applies to your name change and changing your gender marker on your driving license, the law of the place where you were born applies to changing your gender marker on your birth certificate. This article contains general information about how these processes work under North Carolina law, but it’s not legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you have questions, then you should consult an attorney.

Changing Your Name

People often change their names upon adoption, marriage, divorce or obtaining citizenship. Those name changes are tied to their underlying process. This article focuses on general name changes under NCGS chapter 101.

You must post notice of intent to change your name for 10 days at the courthouse in the county where you live (unless you’re a victim of domestic violence, stalking or human trafficking). Show your notice to the Clerk of Superior Court to get it file-stamped before posting and to find out specific posting guidelines.

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After satisfying the notice period, submit a signed and notarized petition to the clerk. The petition must contain: (1) your old name; (2) your date and place of birth; (3) a statement that you are a resident of the county in which you’re filing the petition; (4) the full name(s) of your parent(s) shown on your birth certificate; (5) your new name; and (6) a statement of any outstanding tax or child support obligations. If you’re under 18, then one or both of your parents must sign the petition.

Submit with the petition: (1) the file-stamped notice; (2) the results of federal and state criminal background checks conducted within 90 days of filing the petition; (3) signed and notarized statements of good character from two persons who know you, live in the same county as you, are not family, and do not live with you; (4) a filing fee of $120. Some clerks require additional information; just ask when you post the notice.

Apply for the criminal background checks when you post the notice, as processing those can take a while. If you’re under 16, then you don’t need to submit the results of federal and state background checks or the affidavits of good character. There are fees for the criminal background checks and certified copies of supporting documents.

The clerk will review your petition and its supporting documentation and, if everything is sufficient, issue an order that your name is changed. It’s a good idea to get multiple certified copies of your order, but you can always get more later. There is a fee for each copy. If you were born in North Carolina, then the clerk will notify vital statistics, which will change your birth record and bill you for an administrative fee.

Take your order to your local Social Security office, update your Social Security record and request a new Social Security card. Two days later, take your order to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to get a new driving license. Don’t forget to change your name on your passport, bank accounts, credit cards and other identification, too.

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Choose your new name carefully! If you’re 18 or older, then you only get one shot at changing your name! (Two shots if under 18.) You can repeat this process to resume your old name, but not to change to another new name.

Changing Your Gender Marker

NCGS § 130A-118(b)(4) controls amendments to birth records as a result of “sex reassignment surgery.” You must have undergone some sort of gender-affirmation surgery, but the statute does not state which surgeries qualify; therefore, any surgery that alters your primary sex characteristics could satisfy this requirement. After your surgery, get a signed and notarized letter from your doctor confirming your “sex reassignment surgery.” It’s a good idea to get several originals of this letter.
Submit an Application for a Copy of a North Carolina Birth Certificate with section two completed (download from online) and include: (1) your doctor’s letter and (2) the appropriate fees for changes and copies of your new birth certificate.

If you weren’t born in North Carolina, then you can change your gender marker on your driving license by taking a doctor’s letter as described above to DMV.

Conclusion

Each person’s transition is unique. If changing your name and/or gender marker is right for you, then I hope that this information makes the process less intimidating.

Justin R. Ervin, III is a partner in the law firm of Johnson, Peddrick & McDonald, PLLC in Greensboro, N.C. Ervin’s practice focuses on estate planning, estate administration and adult guardianships. He has a particular affinity for serving LGBTQ individuals and families, as well as immigrant families. Ervin is open and active in the local LGBTQ community, having served on the Board of Directors of Guilford Green Foundation.

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