A transgender person can transition in any number of ways. There are three primary modes of transition that I like to refer to: social transition, medical transition, and legal transition. A trans person may undergo all of these modes of transition, none of them at all, or any combination in between. A social transition involves changing the way one presents themselves and expresses their gender (or lack of gender) in addition to the way they relate to others and how others relate to them. They may change the way they dress, their pronouns, and the name(s) they go by. A medical transition involves certain medical interventions that treat dysphoria. They can include HRT, facial reconstruction, gender confirming surgeries, breast augmentations, reductions, or removals, etc. A legal transition includes changing one’s legal name or legally recognized gender (or both).
I have previously written about my social and medical transitions, but I have not said much of anything about a legal transition. That’s because I was waiting until I had gotten to certain point in that part of my transition where I felt I could say something useful or interesting about it. It’s also the reason why I haven’t written anything for a while–I have just been so damn busy! But now that I am in a place where I am satisfied with my legal transition, I am finally ready to describe the process I went through and my thoughts on it.
Of course, my experience is mine alone. It is not intended to be a prescriptive set of step-by-step points that apply universally to everyone. For example, I live in the state of Arizona, which has laws that differ from those of Idaho, which differ from those of California, and so on. Also, my goals are not every trans person’s goals. I specifically set out to change my legal name and the gender markers on my social security card and driver’s license. Also, I have to acknowledge my privilege. I am white, middle class, and reasonably connected to people who could help me at my request. Most trans folks don’t have that. There are all kinds of barriers that make it more difficult for most trans people than it was for me. This makes my experience even less generalizable.
I started simply by looking up the legal name change process for the state of Arizona on the internet. There, I found a link that took me to the Superior Court of Arizona in Maricopa County’s website. I found out where to get a set of instructions and files I needed to begin the process. The first major step I took was applying for a name change and filing at the county clerk’s office. Once I did that and paid a $319 fee, I was given a phone number to call after about four business days. When I made the call, I got an appointment for a hearing. In the meantime, I was required to have my wife complete a notarized consent form and return to the county clerk’s office to hand in my ‘notice of hearing’.
On my court date, I dressed up in business casual attire–a black skirt, crimson red blouse, and black heels–and appeared before a judge who then made the order to change my name. After the hearing, I had to go to the county clerk and have the order be given its final seal of approval. Afterwards, I was able to take that order (in addition to a physician’s note) to the Social Security Administration office and the DMV to have them change my name and gender markers.
This is but a brief description of the whole process. It was relatively easy for me because I had the means and the time to do it. Not a lot of trans folks have the means, unfortunately. This should be right as should equal access to medically necessary transgender related healthcare.