A dead name is called that for a reason. Hearing your dead names every time you open a tab at a bar, walk into a bank, pay a credit card bill, or go to a doctor’s appointment really sucks.
(Dead name is the term given to a trans person’s birth name, after they’ve began going by a new, more appropriate one. It is highly disrespectful to use that name if you know better).
Getting your name changed (legally) is a huge milestone as a trans person. A name means so much, and to have it (correct) in writing, on formal identification, eliminating that dead name, is so reassuring to someone who is fighting a seemingly never-ending battle.
An Uphill Battle
It sounds so simple, but getting my name changed was way more complicated than getting started on testosterone in the first place. There are so many forms and so many steps in the process, and there is a serious lack of resources available to guide you through the process.
As someone with a college degree, I spent hours researching online only to find contradicting answers. In the end, I went in blind and barely fumbled through it. I felt like I was fighting the uphill battle every step of the way. (There’s also the financial burden of this process. All together, it cost me over $400.)
Your 14-step guide for a Michigan name change
**I should note that this only covers the name change (not the gender market). Without bottom surgery, the name change is the first phase in the process. From here, I’ll be using the completed name change to get a passport, and the passport to change the gender marker. More posts on that coming soon.
- Find your local probate court office. It’s going to be your home base (you’ll be on a first name basis by the end of this).
- At the probate court, buy the $10-12 informational packet if they offer it. It’s worth it.
- Pick up a petition to change your legal name. Fill it out, and bring it back to the probate court along with the filing fee ($190). They’ll give you a copy of the petition once it’s filed, along with a case number.
- Take the copy of the petition to a local police station to get fingerprinted. Again, pay the fee ($20).
- Mail the fingerprint card and the copy of the petition for the background check. Send this along with a money order ($44.75). Be sure to check both boxes, for state and federal, or it won’t get filed. They don’t tell you this anywhere, and I had to call 4 different places to get an answer.
- If everything comes back okay and you’re not committing fraud, you’ll get a letter in the mail with your court date on it. This step is free! And also super exciting.
- Go to the local legal news and pay the fee ($80.25). (Grand Rapids Legal News if you’re in Kent County)
- Your court date is super exciting. Just kidding, actually it takes about 3 minutes. While you’re standing in front of the judge though, it’ll feel like an eternity. You wait for her to call you out on what it says under “reason for requesting a formal name change”. And you’ll wait for her to deny your request.
- Once the judge signs the court order, take it back to probate court (right downstairs if you’re in Kent County) to get a certified copy. Pay the fee ($12).
- Take the certified copy of the court order to the social security office to file for a new social security card. Don’t say you need a New card, just a replacement (the automated computer system is misleading and can easily have you in line for a completely new social security card and number, which is typically a 1-2 hour wait). This step is free! It’ll arrive in the mail in 7-10 days.
- Go to secretary of state to get a new license, but wait until the next day. You can do this step before your new SS card arrives in the mail, but it has to be at least the next business day so that their computer system can sync with the SSA office. Take your court order with you. Pay the fee ($9).
- Mail the form that you got from probate court to obtain a new birth certificate. Send a money order along with it ($50).
- Once your new social security card, license, and birth certificate arrive in the mail, you can start getting EVERYTHING updated. Start with the most significant ones – your W2 and employment information at work, your bank accounts and credit cards, etc. Then, move onto the utility companies, phone bill, and Starbucks cards.
- Celebrate. Even though there’s still work to do and a gender marker to change, enjoy this victory.