Name and Gender Change for Transgender and Non-Binary Individuals

Maryland continues to progress in advancing the rights and inclusion of Transgender people, but major legal and bureaucratic barriers, including access to changing one’s name and gender on identity documents, remain. These barriers put transgender and non-binary people at risk for discrimination in employment, housing, education, healthcare, and travel.

Why is this important?

In the USA, state and federal identification documents are essential to accessing jobs, housing, health care services, public health and social benefits, and basic political and civil rights. As a result, people whose identification does not reflect their chosen name or gender identity may avoid seeking jobs, health care services, and other benefits for fear of being “outed” as transgender and facing discrimination and violence. But, when identity documents do reflect someone’s chosen name and gender identity, they are more likely to seek and access these services and rights with far less fear of harassment. One pilot study demonstrated that transgender women of color who were able to change their name and gender to match their identity were three times more likely to own or rent a house, less likely to postpone medical care due to gender identity, and less likely to experience verbal or physical harassment. Creating accessible and affirming processes for legal name and gender changes is a first step in addressing the disproportionate violence and negative health outcomes experienced by the Trans community. 

What is the current process?

Currently, there is a multi-step process to change one’s name and gender identity on Identity Documents. Normally, one must obtain a legal name change, then update Social Security record, Driver’s License or State/Territory ID, Passport (if you have one), and birth certificates (if you have need or want to). Currently, obtaining a legal name change requires a person to complete a “Change of Name” petition, file it with one’s local circuit court (typically costs $165 or a completed fee waiver), publish notice of name change in one’s county or city newspaper, and receive a signed order for name change. This process is much more cumbersome for minors. Click here for FAQs.

FreeState Justice can support you in obtaining a legal name change and gender marker change.

What are the Issues and What Can We Do?       

Need for third-gender marker on state-issued IDs

  • In the 2019 legislative session, FreeState Justice succeeded in passing a bill that introduced a gender neutral option for state-issued ID. Since some people do not identify into the categories of “male” or “female,” an alternate gender marker of X (a gender other than male or female, undesignated) allows for more accuracy for people who are not represented by “M” or “F” and gives a privacy option for anyone who does not want to disclose their gender. The law allows for self-attestation of gender, allowing an applicant to self-report their gender without requiring verification from a medical or social service provider. Verification presents a barrier to accuracy for many individuals. Individuals themselves know best what gender marker is appropriate to display during official interactions.

Strict and cumbersome physician requirements for birth certificate update

  • During the 2020 legislative session, FreeState Justice is supporting a bill that waves the publication requirement. Publication is a costly requirement that disproportionate impacts individuals with low incomes, individuals living in urban areas, and individuals who are transgender. The cost of publication varies dramatically from county-to-county and newspaper-to-newspaper, from $40 up to $250. Some newspapers put legal notices online, where they may stay forever. Although Rule 15-901 allows publication to be waived, courts are inconsistent in when they grant motions to waive publication. Decision is up to the presiding judge, with no guidance in the rule itself. In many counties, publication waivers are rarely, if ever, granted. This bill will streamline the process and administrative burden associated with changing one’s name. Publication is an outdated requirement that states are shifting away from. 16 states, DC, and Puerto Rico allow name changes without publication.

Strict and cumbersome identity document updates for minors

  • A parent, guardian, or custodian may file a petition under oath requesting a name change for a minor with the local county circuit court. Publications for minors currently also require publication, although this is addressed by the publication requirement bill described above. Currently, a judge has a of discretion in granting name changes, and may ask a lot of questions or simply grant the name change if there is no objection. In the case of objection, the judge typically evaluates cases with a “best interest of the child” determination. See Trans Equality for more information.