After several years of saving funds for electrolysis, HRT, and hair replacement, I was finally ready to begin my legal transition. I had a new appearance that matched what I felt I should have been, but did not match the name my parents had given me. I feared that if I lost my job at the chicken plant for whatever reason, finding work would be almost impossible unless I had my name change. TG/TS sisters who had seen me in recent days were sometimes amazed that I hadn’t yet transitioned. It was definitely time to make my dreams come true.
On Friday, November 22nd, 2002, I had decided that it was time to go for it. Some of my friends had told me that the court order would not be that important, and that I could just change my Social Security and driver’s license. But another friend strongly advised me to get a court order, because she had and it had kept her out of legal trouble on one occasion. My decision to get the court order would also save me from a predicament that would threaten to undo my transition just six months from now in another state.
I drove over to the county courthouse shortly after getting off of work, and asked where I needed to go for a legal name change. I was directed to go to a new building, but when I got there they were closing. I would have to return on Monday.
Monday, November 25th – I finally found the right room in the right building. But when I asked for the name change forms, I was told that I would need to get a lawyer for this. When I asked where I could get the forms for name change, they said that they couldn’t even tell me that because it would be considered ‘legal advice’.
Now that was really discouraging. Didn’t some sisters in my area get a legal name change on their own without a lawyer? After wrecking my car two weekends ago, I was not in the mood for spending several hundred dollars on a lawyer. I called a friend for help and advice, and I visited her on Saturday morning. Meanwhile a couple of friends sent me E-Mails with several examples of name change petitions. I learned that Arkansas has no specific name change form. It is up to the person seeking a name change to compose their petition, although that petition must contain certain elements.
For more information, go to http://www.namechangelaw.com/ and then click on your state for more information. The elements that you will need for your name change petition include:
Over the holiday weekend I compared the several examples of successful name change petitions, and from these I composed my own.
I have shaded the petition in turquoise, the verification (to be notarized) in yellow, and the court order in rose. My former male name is listed as Yyyyy Yyyyy Yyyyy because I do not wish to disclose that on the web, and I have also concealed my new last name by listing it as Xxxxx on these documents.
IN THE CIRCUIT COURT OF _Benton______ COUNTY, ARKANSAS
IN RE: _Yyyyy Yyyyy Yyyyy____
The petitioner, _Yyyyy Yyyyy Yyyyy__, hereby states:
1. Petitioner is over the age of twenty-one (21) years and is a resident of _Benton____________________ County, Arkansas.
2. Petitioner wishes to change his/her name because Petitioner is currently undergoing the process of a gender change. Petitioner has been diagnosed as a transsexual by a licensed psychologist, has had an orchiectomy (castration) operation, has been taking feminizing hormones to alter petitioner’s appearance to that of a female, and plans to continue taking feminizing hormones and commence living a female. _______.
3. Petitioner states and affirms that this request for a name change is not for the purpose of fraud, of violating any law, and is not and will not be detrimental to the interest of any other reason.
4. The petitioner, by his/her own affidavit, submits to the court that upon first being duly sworn under oath before a Notary Public, all relevant facts as to why he/she desires a name change have been revealed herein.
_Sherry Joanne Xxxxx_.
WHEREFORE, petitioner requests that this court allow his/her name to be legally changed from _Yyyyy Yyyyy Yyyyy_ _ to _Sherry Joanne Xxxxx , and for this Court to order such a change in accordance with the laws of Arkansas.
Yyyyy Yyyyy Yyyyy, Petitioner
STATE OF ARKANSAS )
COUNTY OF Benton ___ )
On this _____day of ______________ , 20 , Yyyyy Yyyyy Yyyyy personally appeared before me, a Notary Public for the above county, who stated that the statements contained in the foregoing Petition were true and correct to the best of his/her knowledge, information and belief.
SUBSCRIBED AND SWORN TO before me this _______day of ______________, 20 .
My Commission Expires:
( S E A L )
IN THE CIRCUIT COURT OF _Benton_________________COUNTY, ARKANSAS
IN RE: _Yyyyy Yyyyy Yyyyy___________
On this date, the petition of _Yyyyy Yyyyy Yyyyy___________ is presented, the petitioner appearing in person, pro se, and the Court, from the petition filed herein, the testimony given, and other proof before the Court, finds:
The petitioner has shown reasonable cause for changing his/her name.
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that petitioner’s name be changed from
_Yyyyy Yyyyy Yyyyy _________ to _Sherry Joanne Xxxxx________ and that petitioner shall hereinafter be known as
_Sherry Joanne Xxxxx________________, and IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that he/she shall sue and be sued, plead and be impleaded, by the name
_Sherry Joanne Xxxxx______________.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the petition filed here in and this order be entered by the Clerk upon the record of this Court.
Monday, December 2nd – I had the verification sheet notarized by the teller at the bank. Since I was a customer at the bank, this cost me nothing. Then I took all three forms to the circuit clerk’s office to be filed. I was able to file these forms without an attorney, but I did have to pay the court $100 for the filing. The clerk told me the judge would look at these forms in a day or a week, depending on his schedule.
Now I waited, and hoped that this would go through without too much trouble. A TS friend told me that she thought I might have more trouble in my more conservative county. I hoped that I would not have to take time off work to change my name, or worse yet have to get a lawyer.
I did not have to wait long. On December 9th, exactly one week after I had filed the forms, I received two pieces of mail from the court. One envelope was addressed to my male name, and the other addressed to Sherry. Now that’s a very good indication! Sure enough, the judge had signed the court order to legally change my name and sent back the other two forms. The envelope addressed to the name of Sherry contained two certified copies of the name change. The clerk had initially said I would need a lawyer, but I did it pro se.
Now what I needed was to get off of work early just once so I could go to the Social Security office to get a new card, the motor vehicle department for a new license, and then really get my transition going. It was too late today. I looked over the kill schedule at the chicken plant. Tuesday would be a full workday, but there was some chance on Wednesday if we didn’t break down. But Wednesday was bad from the start. We had extra birds that the night shift didn’t finish from Tuesday night, and then we had slowdowns of our own. Full workdays were scheduled for Thursday and Friday. Maybe next week?
The 13th fell on a Friday, and I expected to have an uneventful Friday the 13th. But at first break I heard rumors that some of the birds had been cancelled, and we might get out early. The rumors turned out to be true, and we ran near full speed until we got off early. I stopped at home only long enough to get the court order, and then drove straight to the Social Security office in Fayetteville.
Social Security had recently established the policy that they would not change the gender marker on their records until one has had complete genital surgery, but I could still change my name by showing them my court order. The gender marker at Social Security is less consequential because there is no gender designation on the Social Security Card that I would be showing to future potential employers. They told me my card should arrive in a couple of weeks, and until then I had a temporary form I could display to an employer if necessary.
After I changed my name there, I went to a DMV office which would be open until 6PM. I would have both my Social Security and Drivers License changed on the same day! This time I showed the letter from the Social Security office with the court order. I was the first transitioner that my clerk had ever served, so she called a superior to see if she could grant me an ‘F’ for sex designation. She went to a back office to protect my privacy while making the phone call, and then she returned and told me she could do it. Soon I had a license with my new picture, new name, and an ‘F’ marker for sex.
The process seemed to be initially difficult, but once I learned how to do it, I found that changing one’s name is not very difficult in Arkansas. I was not required to publish a notice of name change in any publication. Just file the forms with the correct elements, wait for them to be processed, and then show the forms to Social Security and the DMV. Things seem more simplified here than in some nearby states such as Missouri and Texas.
My chicken plant processed my transition once my new Social Security card arrived in the mail and the correct secretary was present. Her absence and a snowstorm delayed my transition past Christmas, but I got my badge before the end of the year. I began to investigate the process on November 22nd, and went full time as of December 30th.
How much did this cost you?
Of the seven phases of my transition, this was easily the least expensive. The court order cost me $100 (would have cost around $300 with an attorney), the Social Security cost nothing, and the new drivers license was less than ten dollars. There were a few other minor expenses such as getting new checkbooks in the name of Sherry, but overall this only cost me around $150. I spent around a hundred times as much to get facial electrolysis.
Do I really need a court order to change my name?
Some friends had told me they did not bother getting the court order, or they started without one and then came back to get it at some future date. But I know for sure that many transitioners will need the court order to change ID and documents, and simply to succeed with their transition. Although I lived where I could apparently have started my transition without the court order, it turns out that I did need it later on and I was very fortunate that I had obtained the court order. Even if you currently live in a state where a court ordered name change would not be required for transition, who knows that you won’t end up in a jurisdiction where one would be required, which is what happened to me.
A friend in Arkansas had strongly advised me to get a court order. She told me that she had once been in an auto accident, which had caused her wig to fly off and reveal her transition to the police. She stayed out of legal trouble by referring the police to the Arkansas county where she had obtained a legal name change through the court there, and proved to the officers’ satisfaction that she was not committing fraud. When the time came for my own transition, she helped me put a document together.
Just five months after my transition I ended up moving to Missouri. The DMV clerk typed my Social Security number into the computer and discovered that I had a Missouri license ten years ago in a male name. She then told me she would not issue the Missouri license in my name unless I showed a court order. If she issued the license in my former name, finding a job here would have been practically impossible. Very fortunately I had taken my friend’s advice and got the court order, so I returned to the DMV a while later with a court document stating that I was to be known as Sherry Joanne Xxxxx. I was able to sustain my transition.
Arkansas will grant an F for sex designation on your license (or M if you are FtM), but Missouri will not do this for pre-ops, and orchiectomy is insufficient there. Missouri DMVs will require a surgeon’s letter stating that you had complete sex change surgery.