This article is meant to provide some basic information on questions I get asked all the time by transgender people and their families about name and gender changes. I hope you find this article helpful.
If you are transgender, live in Arkansas, and wish to change your name, the good news is that the process is simple. Arkansas law allows you to change your name for any reason but not for purposes that are fraudulent, to escape a debt, or for any other unlawful purpose. Some states require publication of the name change in newspapers, but Arkansas does not.
If you currently live outside of Arkansas but were born in Arkansas, you would typically file your name change in the current state and county in which you live. I have an extensive network of colleagues in many states, so if you need assistance let me know and I will try to connect you with an attorney or organization that can help you. If you want to update the gender marker on your Arkansas birth certificate but currently live in another state, I can help you file for a gender change here in Arkansas. Email or call me and we can discuss it further.
Here are the common options for updating your name and gender marker:
A number of groups and individuals have collaborated to create a Name and Gender Change Guide to help people through the process of changing name and gender marker. Using the guide, you can draft your own paperwork, file it with the court, attend a hearing before a judge, and then obtain a certified copy of your name change order after the judge signs it. Courts charge around $165 to file a new case, and up to $5 for a certified copy of the order depending on the county in which you have filed your petition.
After you obtain a certified copy of your name change order, you can follow the guide and use your name change court order to update your name on your Social Security Record at the Social Security Administration and update your name on a new or renewed U.S. Passport. You are also able to update the gender marker on your Social Security Record and U.S. Passport by obtaining a letter signed by your doctor (usually your primary care physician, or a doctor with whom you have a doctor-patient relationship) that says you have had "appropriate clinical treatment" for transition to female/male. Surgery is not required to update the gender marker on your Social Security record or U.S. passport. If you do not have a passport, or you need to renew it and update the gender marker, you will need to use the form DS-11. If you have never had a passport, you must apply in person at a passport acceptance facility.
The sample physician letter mentioned above can be found in the ArTEC Name and Gender Change guide. The same letter will work for both the Social Security record and passport.
After you update your Social Security record, you will also be able to update your Arkansas driver's license with your new name, a current photograph, and the correct gender marker. Surgery is not required to update the gender marker on your Arkansas driver's license. Go to your local revenue office (or another one that is trans-friendly) and bring your current driver's license, your name change court order, and a payment method and request a new driver's license with your new name. You may ask the clerk to also change the gender marker for you. There is no official form, but you may use the "Driver's License Gender Designation Form" in the guide if you wish...it may be helpful to the clerk but is not a requirement. That form was created for convenience.
Arkansas Legal Services Online provides interactive forms to Arkansans representing themselves in a civil court matter, including adult name change and fee waiver:
- Self-Help Forms - Name Change Petition for Adult is an easy to use interactive form that will produce all the documents needed to petition for an adult name change with the court.
- Self-Help Forms - In Forma Pauperis is a fee waiver request for people with low-income.
After you have prepared your court documents for name change, I am happy to review them and provide feedback for a small $25 fee.
2. Attend a Local Name and Gender Change Clinic
Periodically throughout the year, several groups and various people come together to help transgender people complete their own court paperwork for name and gender changes. At the clinic there will be at least one attorney, one physician, several notaries, and other assistants who will all work together to help you prepare the court documents that you can file on your own. You will still need to pay the $165 filing fee when you file it at the courthouse, and any other charges to obtain certified copies of your order. Some counties, such as Saline, provide certified copies of the orders at no charge. Pulaski County charges $5 per certified copy.
The next clinic is scheduled for Saturday, March 18, 2017, from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Little Rock located at 1818 Reservoir Road in Little Rock, Arkansas.
3. Use an Attorney to File Your Name and/or Gender Change Petition
I have been helping transgender people with name and gender changes since 2009 and would be happy and honored to help you with this part of your transition. My flat fee for a name change is $350. For a name and/or gender change, my flat fee is $400. I have helped clients all over Arkansas with name and gender changes, and if you live outside of Pulaski County, we can usually handle everything by phone, email and certified mail. A gender change petition is different from a name change petition in that we will need to get an affidavit from your primary care physician or the surgeon who performed the surgery and file that with the petition. If a gender change court order is granted by a judge, then you will most likely be able to update the name (if you've changed it) and the gender marker on your birth certificate, unless you live in one of the few states that may not allow gender marker changes to birth certificates (Ohio and Tennessee are two).
My services for these types of cases include handling all of the court paperwork, obtaining three (3) certified copies of your court order, and providing you with detailed and customized instructions on updating your Social Security record, renewing or obtaining a U.S. Passport, updating your Arkansas or out-of-state driver's license or trading in your out-of-state license for a new Arkansas license, and updating the name and gender marker on your birth Arkansas or out-of-state birth certificate. Until you have updated all of these documents, you may call me or email me without any extra charges. For clients who prefer to meet in person, we can meet to prepare the court paperwork and then meet again to review the customized instructions. For those who cannot meet in person, we can review the instructions by phone if you have any questions.
I get a lot of questions about updating name and gender marker on birth certificates. Please note that in some states, including Arkansas, some form of "surgical procedure" is required to update the gender marker on your birth certificate. In other states, such as California, you only need to provide documentation of having "appropriate clinical treatment" for gender transition and surgery is not required. If you were born in Arkansas or in another state that requires surgery to update the gender marker on the certificate, I recommend that you apply for at least a U.S. Passport Card, which is similar in size to a driver's license. The card is different from a U.S. Passport Book which allows for a wider range of air travel. If travel is not a concern, the Card is cheaper and easier to carry around than the Book. In most situations where you would be asked to provide a birth certificate, you can substitute the U.S. Passport Card. Cards cost less than $100. Books cost more than $100. If you only update the name on your birth certificate and do not update the gender marker, than presenting your birth certificate will potentially out you as transgender. Some clients and others I have talked to who are in this situation have been fine with the U.S. Passport instead of updating the birth certificate.
If you made it this far, thank you for reading this article. I hope it was helpful for you. If you find any errors or inconsistencies, or you have any suggestions for improving this information, please let me know.
Here are some additional resources:
Arkansas Birth Certificate
- AR Dept. of Health - Vital Records/Certificates
- $15 to make an amendment
- $12 to obtain a certified copy
Arkansas Driver's License
- Driver's Services Frequently Asked Questions (look for "name change ")
- State Map to look up various offices by County
- Look up Driver Control Offices
- U.S. Passport Fees vary if you get a "card" or "book"
- U.S. Passport Gender Desigation Change page
- Physician's medical certification template (same letter can be used for Social Security)
- LGBTI Travel Information
Social Security Administration
- FAQ: How do I change my gender on Social Security's records?
- SSA Program Operations Manual System (POMS)
- POMS - RM 10212.200 Changing Numident Data for Reasons other than Name Change
- On the page above, see "C. Exhibit – Sample Letter from Licensed Physician Certifying to the Individual’s Gender Change" for sample physician's letter. (same letter can be used for U.S. Passport)
Thanks! - Mike Lauro
Updated: 03/18/2017 (added AR Legal Services self-help form links)
Updated: 04/20/2017 (added Passport LGBTI Travel Info)