But why don’t you…

I hope you’ve been reading @zip’s stories, especially the one on Facebook’s horrid wallet-name policy.

I have this feeling that you read that post and are going “but, actually…”, and I must:

Marge Simpson is an honorary trans lady for our purposes today.

“But why don’t you get a name change?”

At least 28% of people who identify as trans * and genderqueer do not have identity documents that match the name they go by. And that number is probably much higher.

Changing the name you use on identity documents is not cheap, or quick, or easy:

  1. In the United States, it requires a court order, which, in turn means you must file a petition with the court.
  2. If you are also changing the gender marker on identity documents, you will also need a letter from the physician treating you that you have undergone medical treatment to transition. What constitutes sufficient medical treatment varies from state to state.
  3. In most states you will need to place a notice in a newspaper of record for several weeks before your court date.
  4. In most jurisdictions you’ll also have to appear or send counsel to represent you in court the day of your hearing.
  5. Once you receive the court ordered name and gender change, you must then go to the Social Security Administration office and request a new card reflecting your correct name, and changing the marker, oh wait: there’s still just F and M as the options for your gender marker.
  6. 48 to 72 hours after you request a new Social Security Card, you can then go to a DMV office and request a new drivers license or ID card with your correct name on it, but if you identify as neither a woman or a man, you’re still out of luck.
  7. Once you receive your new ID, you can send that information off to Facebook and hope they reinstate your account.
  8. Then you have the fun of getting your name correct on your medical records, bank accounts, credit cards, student loans, mortgage, car title, property title, and all your online accounts. Most will demand a certified copy of your court order as well as a copy of your id.

The Optimistic Path

If you are in California, you will not have to submit evidence of top and or bottom surgery, just a statement from your physician. And you don’t have to put notices in newspapers that you’re changing your name if you’re also changing your gender marker.

But this still assumes:

  1. You have money to pay for court costs, and legal fees if you’re getting assistance filling out the paperwork.
  2. You have access to medical care, physicians who understand trans * health care issues, and won’t insist that you have surgeries to be considered as medically transitioned.
  3. The ability to take off work, as well as access to transportation to go and file medical records requests to get doctor’s letters, file documents at the court, attend court hearings, go to the SSA office, and go to the DMV.

At a minimum, I’d estimate the cost of my name and gender marker change in California at at least $1,000.00. I am a middle-class, middle-aged, white software engineer. Not everyone is.

It Gets Worse

In many states, a physician’s certification is not enough, they will demand proof of “genital reassignment surgery,” a process that costs upwards of $30,000.oo, before the courts will respond to a name and gender change petition.

Some states will not issue new ID unless you’ve “lived in your new gender” for some period of time.

Other states will refuse to change the gender marker on your ID.

All this, for what?

Changing one’s name, to be consistent with Facebook’s policies, is non-trivial. It’s an expensive, time consuming process that excludes people who don’t have access to resources, health care, and free time.

To save your users’ time and money, remember this:

This is a trivial matter.