(Information on this page is not legal advice, and should not be taken as legally accurate or current information. It is based on research and personal experiences.)
Legally Changing Your Name
You Can Do It Yourself
In most cases a name change is a fairly simple legal process. You can do the paperwork yourself and do not need to pay a lot of money to an online name change service or an attorney.
Many people in Portland also get help through the TIRC’s Identity Project. They can provide a support person to go with you to the courthouse, help walk you through the process, and give financial assistance with fees. Contact Marc Lejeune for more details: firstname.lastname@example.org
Forms and Processes
Legal name changes are done through a local circuit court. Some Oregon counties have name change forms available at the courthouse or on their website. If the county does not provide forms, you can get a change of name kit at a legal publishing store (like Stevens Ness).
(Name change kits that you see online for $30-$40 include more forms for changing your name with federal agencies, banks, credit cards, etc. Any of these forms can be obtained for free, either online or in person.)
The exact procedure for a name change varies from county to county, so you need to get instructions from the court that will be issuing the change. In Multnomah County, you can get a name change packet in the Family Court office (Room 211 in the courthouse). It contains all the forms you need and detailed step-by-step instructions that walk you through the whole process.
Changing Your Name in Multnomah County
On your first visit to the courthouse you will fill out and post a petition to change your name. This is when you pay the cashier the fees for filing ($99), for a copy of the decree ($5), and for the forms ($1.25). You will also schedule a court date (usually 2-4 weeks out). Remember to bring valid photo ID both times you come to the courthouse.
On the second visit to the courthouse (your court date), you file your posted petition with the clerk, then appear before the judge, who will sign your name change decree. You then have to return to the family court office and file the rest of the paperwork. They’ll mail you a copy of your name change decree in a few days.
Common Law Name Change
In theory, you can change your name simply by using a new one consistently and keeping documents that show you have used it over time. However, you can run into difficulties in proving your identity without a legal name change decree.
Legally Changing Your Gender/Sex
This is the Oregon statute pertaining to a legal change of sex:
CHANGE OF SEX
33.460 Jurisdiction; grounds; procedure. (1) A court that has jurisdiction to determine an application for change of name of a person under ORS 33.410 and 33.420 may order a legal change of sex and enter a judgment indicating the change of sex of a person whose sex has been changed by surgical procedure.
(2) The court may order a legal change of sex and enter the judgment in the same manner as that provided for change of name of a person under ORS 33.410 and 33.420.
(3) If a person applies for a change of name under ORS 33.410 and 33.420 at the time the person applies for a legal change of sex under this section, the court may order change of name and legal change of sex at the same time and in the same proceeding. [1981 c.221 §1; 1997 c.872 §23; 2003 c.576 §309]
In Multnomah County, the process for legally changing your sex is identical to that for changing your name. In fact, since the state has no official forms for changing sex, you use the name change forms and adapt them by replacing the word “Name” with the word “Sex”, then fill in your name and old sex/new sex in the appropriate blanks.
It is important to use the word Sex on the forms and not Gender. In Oregon, the wording of the law specifies change of Sex. Laws may be worded differently in other states.
Change of name and change of sex can be done simultaneously. Ask the court clerk for details.
In general, a legal change of sex or gender requires some proof of sex reassignment surgery, such as a surgeon’s letter. Since the definition of SRS is a little fuzzy, especially with regard to genital surgery, a very generally worded surgeon’s letter may be sufficient, simply stating that you have had complete and successful SRS, without going into the details of the type of surgery.
Depending on the court and the judge, other supporting documents may be useful, including letters from therapists, a name change decree, evidence documenting how long you have been living as your present gender, and a written statement explaining why you wish to have your sex legally changed.
It is also possible that the judge will not ask to see any supporting documents at all. But it is probably better to err on the side of caution and bring all your documentation with you.
Since a change of sex/gender is more of a legal gray area, you may want to get legal advice if you have questions.