With the recent revocation of the Obama Administration’s federal guidelines protecting transgendered students, the few other protections afforded to transgendered individuals under existing law seems more imperiled than ever. While certain legal issues involving discrimination against transgender people in the workplace and the use of public bathrooms in schools and other public facilities aren’t covered under the purview of family law, there are many issues that pertain to transgendered people, and transgendered youth in particular, that we can most certainly help with. I want to focus on the most basic but highly necessary thing our offices can help a transgendered person obtain: official legal recognition by the state and federal government of your correct gender identity.
NAME CHANGE AND LEGAL GENDER RECONITION
The most basic thing many transgendered individuals need help with is obtaining legal recognition of their correct gender identity, most commonly through a change of their name and gender marker on birth certificates, driver licenses, passports, and other documents used for government and bureaucratic purposes. Missouri has a particular legal process by which a person can have their gender identity recognized that can be divided into two steps, as follows:
–Name Change: First, you need to successfully have your name changed from your name on your original birth certificate with your sex assigned at birth. This is as simple as filing (with the appropriate fees) a petition for name change with the local circuit court and having a short hearing wherein the Court listens to your testimony on the nature of the name change and to make sure the name change is not detrimental to anyone’s interests. The Court will then enter a judgment changing the name that will be finalized after three weeks of publication in a local newspaper to publicize your name change for all interested parties. You can then use a certified copy of this judgment to change your name on all other legal documentation that shows or requires your legal name. For instance, it can be taken to your local DMV to have your name changed on your driver’s license or car title.
–Gender Recognition:Next, after obtaining a judgment legally changing your name, you can petition the circuit court in your county for a formal recognition of your correct gender identity. While the statute governing this process specifically mentions the need for “the sex of an individual … has been changed by a surgical procedure” (RSMO § 193.215(9), what the court will actually accept depends on rules and practices of the particular circuit or county in which you are seeking the gender recognition.
What is generally true across the state, however, is that, in addition to your petition for gender recognition, you need a signed and sworn statement from your doctor or other qualified medical professional requesting that the court recognize your gender, and that future medical intervention is unnecessary or even possibly harmful as you are already irrevocably living as your correct gender. Whether or not the medical procedures you’ve undertaken allow you to state that you are irrevocably living as your correct gender is ultimately a decision that needs to be made by you and your doctor, but whatever your final decision, for it to qualify for the purposes of the affidavit, it needs to be a diagnosis your doctor feels is an accurate and true statement when made under oath based on the procedures you’ve undergone and their own best medical judgment.
This also requires publication before becoming permanent, but you may be able to have this requirement waived with our help. Once you receive a final judgment recognizing your gender identity, you can then use a certified copy of the judgment to have your gender marker changed on all official and legal documents – again, like the name change, you can take the judgment to, for example, the social security office and have your social security card changed (as well as having your gender changed for all other official social security purposes.). Most importantly, this will allow you to contact the Missouri Bureau of Vital Statistics and obtain a new birth certificate with your correct gender marker, which will make the process of fixing all the other documents that indicate your gender and that you use in your day to day life much easier. This may also help protect against future legislation that singles out people for certain treatment based on the “biological sex indicated on their birth certificate”, but this point is less clear and won’t be resolved until the legislation in question is enacted and faces the scrutiny of the courts.
If you’re worried about this process going smoothly, we highly recommend that you seek out the advice of an attorney, and this is something our office has experience with and would gladly help you with. This is especially the case where the person seeking the gender recognition is a minor. This requires the consent of the child’s parent, and for the parent to act as a “next friend” or legal guardian for the purposes of litigation. This means the parent will be highly involved in the whole process and possibly face the scrutiny of the court hearing the petition for gender recognition.
Even though this process seems simple on paper, it’s still something that can be stressful and even highly upsetting depending on the possible pushback from the officials involved. Our attorneys can help make this process go smoother, and operate as a first point of contact with officials that might otherwise be hostile, for whatever reason, to individuals trying to go it on their own. Please feel free to call our office and schedule a consult with one of our attorneys who can help you with this sensitive topic.