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Getting Legal


A huge step in transition is to choose a new name reflecting my life and appropriate gender and then going through the steps to make that official.  This is a very significant step as it solidifies who I am and proclaims my new identity.  Even better – I get to choose it !

Here is what I did.  I’ll explain how I came up with my name, the steps I had to take in this state (every state is different so you need to check out yours) and some stories along the way …  I’ll include the gender forms that I used for social security and the state here.

My given name, “Si Fan” (思凡) was given to me in Beijing.  It’s part of a full name they researched and had gotten officially approved (see my Beginnings post).  It’s part of a name that meant “One who thinks differently” – I was an instructor, so this was very special.  I have been using this name as a nickname for almost 10 years.  My middle name is the feminine equivalent of my given name at birth.

My partner and I are going to be married in about 7 months and decided that instead of one of us taking on the others surname, that we would choose a completely new surname – one that we both liked, had meaning to us and represented the culture and place that we have become a part of.

After researching and deciding on my name the next step was to submit the paperwork to the Lt. Governor (the process in my state).  They in turn investigate and if all is ok send back a ‘notice of change of name’ which then has to be published in the paper.  Once the paper sends a notarized affidavit back to the Lt. Governor, he then issues a ‘order of change of name’ that is also notarized.  I ordered 14 originals for all the additional steps I have to take.  However, so far every single place has returned my original – so at this point I still have all 14 !  I sent my gender letters from my endocrinologist and my therapist so that the state records would be updated and the paper would publish with the correct gender.

In my state, the DMV required that the social security card be updated first.  So I brought my certified name change, the SSI application,  plus the SSI form for gender change (copied below).  As the rules had just changed regarding gender change – the person I was with had to bring in her supervisor in order to figure this out.   They both congratulated me and wished me well in my new role.  I could tell they were sincere and happy.  It was in the federal building here that my partner pulled me into the woman’s public restroom – my first time and almost a catastrophe!  See the bottom of my post on “Using the woman’s restroom“.

Note:  nearly everyone wants to ‘see’ the actual social security card with your new name on it.  They said it would take up to 10 days for it to arrive via mail – but mine arrived about 4 days later.  As far as the social security office is concerned, they said their records were updated as I sat there.  So work, the bank, etc could have called to verify that very afternoon.  However, they all wanted to physically ‘see’ that card and I had to wait until it arrived.

The DMV required a form which I had filled out before hand but which they changed and I had to fill it all out all over again when I got there.  I also had to present the order of change of name.  They have a form for gender change that I had both my endocrinologist and my therapist sign.  However, this form said “State Identification” and not “Drivers License”.  It was the only form they had for this ….  Being bureaucrats they had to send this up the line all the way to the state capital as I waited.  I had suggested that I could simply cross out the “State Identification” and write “State Drivers License” and after 45 minutes of waiting, the instructions came back: “have her cross off “Identification” and write in “Drivers License” and sign under the change” — ack !! They take your picture at the site and print a 60 day temporary license.  They told me to call if I didn’t receive my license within 30 days.  30 days – ack!  I received it in the mail about 10 days later.   The person that was helping me was the supervisor.  I told her I was sorry to take so much time.  At this point she turned from being the typical stone cold supervisor to a smiling, happy person.  After we were finished we hugged across the counter and she wished me happiness in my new life!   Just like the social security card, some places will not accept the temporary license – they need to see the real license which means I had to wait for that to arrive before I could proceed.

At this point I now have my social security card and my new drivers license, both with my new name and my gender changed to female.

My work place required a photocopy of the ‘real’ social security card plus the certified order of change of name and I included the statements from my endocrinologist and my therapist for gender change as well (I gave them copies of the forms I used for the social security).  Work is a bit tricky – I have to go back and check everything to make sure all was changed correctly.  This includes health care, retirement accounts, 401k, work email address, web access to HR and the state, directories and listings, dental coverage, eye coverage, and FHS co-pay.  Basically look at your benefits and coverage plans and make sure all of them are changed.  Since I work on a different island than where HR is located, I also had to make sure the separate listing at our facility here were also changed – including the name on the door and phone.

The bank I use required the actual social security card, the real drivers license (not the temp), and the certified order for change of name.  As the license had my new gender on it – that was all that was needed to change my gender.  Make sure all your checking, savings and other accounts are changed and order new checks with new names on them.  One tricky part of this, is that my payroll check was coming in and no one knew if the change at work would be reflected in time for the next payroll.  So I had the bank put a note in the file just in case.  Of course any outstanding checks could be of concern as well.  In my case, I had my partner write all the checks for a month before, even though the bank assured me all would be accepted ……

We know the customer representative at the bank.  About two weeks before the change of name, I had been in the bank presenting as a woman and waved at her as we walked out.  Her face lite up with a huge smile!  She sort of knew I was transitioning but I had never officially told her.  So when my partner and I came in to do the name and gender change, she was so helpful and happy.  We had a huge hug afterwards!!

When changing your name you have to be very careful about timing and have alternative solutions in place – just in case.  A good example of this is an airplane trip we are taking in a few weeks.  We had to make the reservations long ago in order to get good tickets at a good price, but that meant using my old name because this was before the name change was even submitted.  I had called the airline to find out what I had to do and what options were available.  If my name change came in before my flight – I could simple go to the local airport counter and present my documentation and they would change it.  Worst case, if my name change came through at the last minute, I could use my passport (they suggested to not change that until after).  As it turns out, I had enough time to have the ticket changed – both name and gender.  The woman behind the counter was the supervisor and was able to get everything changed.  She was going to charge me both for a name change and a ticket change, but after working with me on all this (lots of calls to her supervisor and the main office) she told me she would not charge me.  She was wonderful – she stayed to help me even though everyone else was closing up and leaving.  When finished, I reached over to shake her hand and thank her – she grabbed my hand with both of hers, came over and hugged me and we had a tearful goodbye and good wishes — so wonderful!

Because we booked this ticket using a different (from the airline) booking agent – I went back to their website and made sure all the changes were reflected.  I also noticed that my seat assignments were missing and I had to redo those.  It pays to always double check on any or all changes!

I’m not sure what it is, but so far everyone has been extra warm hearted and helpful during this process.  I know it takes two to tango and I very happy for all the good wishes and extra support everyone has shown me.

I have also changed my email, (kept my old email addresses but have them forwarding everything to my new address) created new facebook, linkedin, twitter, youtube and pinterest accounts and invited all my friends to these new accounts.  I also changed my cell phone.

What’s left?  Well, insurance, car titles, utility bills (electric, cable, internet), magazine subscriptions, societies and clubs I belong to.  I have a separation agreement that is being converted to a divorce.  The other state involved just needs the order for change of name certification for that.

Which leaves the birth certificate.  If I would have been born in this state – all would have been taken care of automatically.  However, I was born in a different state.  I will be sending the change of name order, but I need to do additional research on what they require for gender change.  They do have the capability to ‘impound’ the original birth certificate which basically means I was always Sifan !  I’ll edit this post and update this with what happens.

I’ll close with a very important point:  because some places require the actual documents and other places take time to get you these documents – there is always going to be a transition time when you are half and half – both names.  If you need to prove who you are (airport security, traffic stop, etc), you need to carry a) photo id b) something to connect your two names.  In my purse, I carry a certified copy of the order of change of name along with my old work id (picture id) and my new drivers license (picture id).  I also carry letters from my doctors and therapist stating both names and my new gender.

This was my experience, in this state, under the conditions I stated above.  You need to research and plan your legal name changes under your specific conditions but I hope this gives you some ideas and things to think about to make yours smooth and less hassles.

With much aloha,


Form for Social Security gender change:

(Physician’s Address and Telephone Number)
I, (physician’s full name), (physician’s medical license or certificate number), (issuing U.S. State/Foreign Country of medical license/certificate), am the physician of (name of patient), with whom I have a doctor/patient relationship and whom I have treated (or with whom I have a doctor/patient relationship and whose medical history I have reviewed and evaluated).
(Name of patient) has had appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition to the new gender (specify new gender, male or female).
I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the United States that the forgoing is true and correct.
Signature of Physician
Typed Name of Physician

About sifankahale

I retired from an astronomical observatory and now live on the Oregon coast where I teach astronomy and give talks and presentations. I am enjoying astrophotography, kayaking and hiking in beautify Oregon.

One response »

  1. Having all this paperwork done beforehand is great. You’ll find GRS to be a piece of cake compared with the paperwork.


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