Written by Nova R.R. Gardner, a TeenSource Intern
Yesterday, April 9, was Name Yourself Day! You have the opportunity to name YOURSELF. Sometimes people do not feel that their name fits them. Transgender people may want to change to better fit their gender identity. Some people want a name that is more androgynous or unisex. Whether you are a transgender person interested in changing your name or just want a name that fits YOU better, this blog is for you!
When it comes to name change- there are options!
Changing a name is a process. And not everyone is ready for a legal change. But there are options that may fit your needs:
- Social Transitioning: You can change your name socially, meaning you ask friends, relatives, employers, teachers, etc. to refer to you with a different name without having official documentation (much like a cisgender person using a nickname). When you introduce yourself to someone new, you can use your preferred name.
- Legal Name Change: When you follow the legal process and change your name with the court. You will receive legal documentation that your name has been changed.
Why would someone choose social transitioning?
You may not be able to change your name legally. If you are a minor who is affected by homelessness or live in a group home and do not have adoptive or foster parents, you are unable to legally change your name until you become an adult. But you can still use “social transitioning!
You may also not be ready to make the change legally or you may want to try out a new name. You can use social transitioning until you decide you would like to change your name legally.
Remember: Before you legally change your name or if you are choosing only social transitioning, you still need to use your birth name sometimes, like on legal or professional documents. For instance, if you are applying to a job, applying to college, or opening a bank account, you need to let them know your deadname (or legal name) and your real name.
I am ready! What are the steps to legally changing my name?
If you’re a minor and both of your biological parents agree to change your name, you must fill out a specific form and file it with the court. You also may have to publish your name change in the newspaper and attend a court hearing. If only one biological parent is filing for the name change, you may also have to give notice to your other parent.
If the name change is to conform to your gender identity (if someone is transgender and wants to change their name to fit their gender) then the process is simpler and does not require publishing in a newspaper. However it may still require a court date and notifying a parent who did not sign.
If a legal guardian and not biological parent (adoptive/foster parents, for example) has agreed to help you change your name, your biological parents will still need to be notified.
Once your name has been legally changed, if you have a driver’s license, you will need to take your court documents to your state Department of Motor Vehicles to change the name on your license. If you need help or have questions, check out Trans resource centers in your area and check out The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) for an easy tool where you can search the legal requirements by state.
Great! I know how to get a legal name change, but what name do I choose?!
Your name is the first thing people are introduced to – they may form assumptions about you based on that name. Different names give different impressions and some are very gendered (boys names v. girls names) so it can be hard to decide which one represents you the best.
Check out this Teenvogue article to learn from some teens who have changed their names and what felt best for them! If you want to try how your name fits with your pronouns, use this pronoun/name tool so you can see them written together to help you decide if they fit you!
Changing your name can be difficult at times, but it certainly has its joys! Just remember, those who support you are willing to walk this journey with you and want to see you flourish and succeed!