There are many different reasons why people decide to change their name. For some, a name change is related to marriage. For others, a name change is about protecting themselves from a violent past. And for the transgender community, a name change often signifies gender affirmation, among other things.
What are the steps to getting your name legally changed? I am putting off getting my driver’s license changed because it’s difficult to look at my dead name on my permanent ID.
Answered by James Wilkie, LSW and counselor at the LGBT Center of Greater Reading: Pennsylvania is one of the easier states to make this kind of name change. Some states require a physician’s letter to begin the process. PA does not. After completing a “Request for Gender Change” form, you submit a petition to the court and publish notice of the hearing in two newspapers. In some cases, publication requirements can be waived, and records sealed for the applicant’s safety. Forms can be found on the PA DMV website.
This can still be a confusing process for many people, so The Mazzoni Center and Eastern PA Trans Equity provide resources to help people with their name change processes. Visit each of their websites for forms and more information—you may even be eligible for a mentor or financial aid to help you navigate the name change process.
Your reaction to seeing your dead name will be as unique as you are. Some people experience trauma when referred to by their dead name, while others may see themselves in a growth phase and not experience the same reaction. As a counselor I work with people in various stages of transition. One client very specifically uses she/her pronouns and answers only to her chosen name. Referring to her by her dead name would be very upsetting. Another just began hormones and is still more comfortable with her birth name. Both of these reactions are appropriate, and your reaction to feeling traumatized at seeing your dead name is appropriate to you. You may want to consider that updating your government ID—while forcing you to see that name in print several more times—will help you create the environment you need longer-term by eliminating your dead name on your identification card. Mentors at Eastern PA Trans Equity can help you through some of these feelings, and the counselors at the LGBT Center are always available to you.
Need an expert answer to your own question? You may email: firstname.lastname@example.org and our team of experts will answer!