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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 23, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 52
New York Trans man gets OK to change name without doctor's note
Section One
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New York Trans man gets OK to change name without doctor's note

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

A Transgender man in New York has won the legal right to change his name without providing 'medical evidence' of his gender transition.

In a December 19 ruling, a New York state appeals court granted Ben Stanford's petition for a legal name change and reversed a lower court decision that denied his name change because he declined to provide a doctor's note detailing his gender transition.

Stanford was represented by attorney Laurie Styka Bloom of the law firm Nixon Peabody, working as pro bono counsel for the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund (TLDEF).

In a statement, Stanford expressed relief that his name change has been granted.

'I have worked hard to be who I am and live my life authentically,' he said.

'Having a name that did not match my identity caused me great difficulty in my daily life, particularly when forced to present inaccurate identification. Thankfully I finally have a name that accurately reflects my true self. I am grateful to TLDEF and Nixon Peabody for helping me through this ordeal. I can now move forward with my life as myself.'

'It is critical for trans persons to align their legal names with who they are to help them challenge the discrimination they already face in education, health care, housing, and public accommodations,' said TLDEF staff attorney Ezra Young.

'Navigating the legal system can be expensive, time consuming, and intimidating. We are committed to providing our clients with legal assistance that brings positive outcomes and helps them lead happier, healthier lives. We are thrilled to see Ben's name change come through once and for all.'

Stanford's attorneys argued that nobody should be forced to provide medical evidence, especially since other name change petitions do not require such evidence.

Washington state law
Washington state law is similar to New York's. While anyone who has the $171 fee can change their name, making your name match the gender markers on your birth certificate and driver's license or ID is more complicated.

The Department of Health, which issues birth certificates, requires either a doctor's letter 'stating that you have had the appropriate clinical treatment' or 'a certified copy of a court order that states your name, date of birth, gender currently listed on birth record, and new gender.'

The Department of Licensing requires that a doctor fill out a section of the official request form in order to change gender markers.

Washington state's process, then, requires access to a regular doctor or an attorney who can help get a certified court order.

It also requires some out-of-pocket money, which could be an additional obstacle for low-income people. In addition to the $171 fee for a name change, it costs $20 to get King County to issue a new birth certificate. If you were not born in King County, getting a new birth certificate may be very difficult. Some states - Texas, for example - will not change gender markers on birth certificates.

New passports cost $135 and require some proof of identity plus passport photos, which may cost $20 or more. New state IDs cost $54 and driver's licenses cost $89. If you already have Washington state ID, there is an additional $20 to change gender markers.

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