Name, Gender, and Sex Changes

Overview

When it comes to Trans, Gender-nonconforming, Non-binary, Genderfluid, and other LGBTQIA+ folks, having a legal identity that matches their authentic identity is incredibly important. This can also extend beyond the LGBTQ community, so if you are an ally looking for this information, it may also apply to you. 

SPECIAL CONSIDERATIONS

There are multiple special considerations for the legal avenues to conforming your legal identity with your authentic identity. 

LOCATION: You must complete this document in the county where you reside. Residency is determined mostly by where you have lived for the past 6 months. 

MINORS: Minors for name changes are specifically under the age of 16. This is important for name change clients who meet this criteria. It can be hard to figure out what you want your name to be, but if you (or your child) are under the age of 16 and are confident in your choice, it’s incredibly easier to change your name before the 16th birthday. 

NUMBER OF NAME CHANGES: Your name can only be changed by court order (outside of marriage name changes) once. Technically you can petition for a name change more than once, but each additional change is going to be much harder and you will want to show good cause for why this change is necessary. 

GENDER VS. SEX CHANGES: Gender and Sex changes are designated on drivers licenses and birth certificates. Often, clients will institute a name and gender/sex change in North Carolina but have a birth certificate in another state. That state’s birth certificate rules will apply. I have seen other states where you can designate a separate gender from sex, but many states still only include sex as an option. 

SEX CHANGE: Sex changes on birth certificates require significant documentation to prove the sex change is appropriate, usually surgery. Surgery is not always desired or attainable by clients who also want a sex change on their birth certificate. 

Name Changes

Name Changes are a common need for LGBTQIA+ folk, but aren’t limited to only those who consider themselves part of the community. 

The process for name changes in North Carolina are controlled by Chapter 101 of the North Carolina General Statutes. This process is lengthy with multiple parts. Be sure to follow all of the instructions to avoid delay. 

 

Materials

NOTICE FOR INTENT TO CHANGE NAME

This document is a notice that is posted in the courthouse. This is often a concern for queer folk, especially in more rural communities, for the risk of being outed and being identified by their community members. This notice must be posted in the courthouse on the notice board for 10 days before the name change is granted. There are carveouts for domestic violence protections, but there are currently not protections for queer folk concerned about discrimination. 

PETITION FOR NAME CHANGE

This is your actual court document that outlines all of the basic requirements for why you want your name changed. Some clients are concerned about using language like “to conform with gender identity” as it highlights that the client is queer and possibly trans. This document’s contents are dictacted by NCGS 101-3. 

AFFIDAVIT

This Affidavit is for the Petitioner and certifies the Petitioner is a resident of the county and whether or not they have outstanding tax or child support obligations. 

AFFIDAVITS OF GOOD CHARACTER

These affidavits are completed by friends or colleagues of the Petitioner. They MUST be residents of the same county as the Petitioner, which can sometimes be a barrier for LGBTQ folk especially in rural areas. 

BACKGROUND CHECKS

The Petitioner has to complete background checks with both the SBI and FBI. These require two sets of fingerprints to be done and sent to the SBI and FBI. This is also one of the longer portions of name changes and should be completed first. 

FINGERPRINTS

You have to send two sets of fingerprints out – one to the SBI and one to the FBI. These can be done at the police department. As many queer folk are cautious of that, keep in mind that fingerprinting appointments are very short and are limited interaction with law enforcement. You may also go to a private fingerprinting company, do your fingerprints yourself, or have someone do them for you. I look forward to offering fingerprinting in the near future for name changes. 

Name Change Timeline

  1. Determine your new name. Do you want a middle name? Do you know the spelling you want? 
  2. Start your background checks. Background checks have to be sent to both the SBI and FBI and have to be completed before the notice and filing of the petition. Since these can take anywhere from weeks to months, it’s best to start with this step and get it out of the way. 
  3. Ask your friends for affidavits of good character. Whoever is doing the affidavit must also be a resident of the same county as you and the county you are filing in. These affidavits must also be notarized. Most banks and UPS stores have notaries, though it’s best to call to confirm before showing up. Notarizing is generally $10 per signature. I offer my notary services free of charge in name change representations. 
  4. Complete your documents. These are your petition, your notice, and your personal affidavit. This can also wait until the next step, but since you’re waiting for #2 to complete, you can work on these documents. 
  5. Once your background checks have come back, you should file as soon as possible. Bring all of your documents, including extra copies. Before you “file” formally, you have to have your notice file-stamped and then posted. It’s a good idea to bring your full filing documentation so the clerk can review that you have all of your items before you post your notice. 
  6. Wait your 10 days while the notice is posted.
  7. Return to the courthouse with your filing. The clerk may grant it without a hearing, may require a simple hearing, or may require a lengthy hearing depending on the circumstances. These vary depending on your specific facts and the county you are filing in. 

Gender and Sex Changes

YES, THEY ARE DIFFERENT!

Some states allow you to designate a gender separate from your sex, even on birth certificates. North Carolina is not one of those states. If your birth certificate was issued in another state, check that state’s birth certificate paperwork (usually located with the Vital Records Office) to determine that process. 

In North Carolina, you can only change your sex designation. If you would like to change your gender but not your sex, I recommend not moving forward with the sex change process at this time. I hope that North Carolina will allow for gender designations separate from sex in the future. 

DMV

You can change your sex designation on your DMV paperwork. This process does require documentation that your sex designation matches your identity and is not done for an unjust purpose, but the process can be done without surgery.