Not every transgender or nonbinary person wants to change their legal name, but for those who do, it is often a critical step in their transition. It’s not only validating to have legal documents that reflect their identity and chosen name—it’s a matter of improving mental health and physical safety for trans people.
The Importance of Legal Name Changes for Trans People
A 2020 study published by Arjee Restar, assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Washington School of Public Health, explored how legal name changes affect the mental health of trans individuals. Those who were able to change their name had lower reports of depression, anxiety, and global psychiatric distress, among other negative mental health outcomes.
A legal name change can also lessen difficulties and dangers in everyday life that are unfortunately all too common for trans people, including applying for jobs, traveling, and accessing healthcare. Legal documents that do not reflect their identity can expose trans individuals to higher risks of discrimination, physical harm, and harassment, as shown in a 2015 survey. Trans Americans reported the following outcomes when they showed an ID with a gender or name that didn’t match their identity or presentation:
- 25% were verbally harassed
- 16% were refused services or benefits
- 9% were asked to leave the establishment
- 2% were assaulted or attacked
For many, navigating the name change process can be overwhelming, emotionally exhausting, and intimidating. However, there are several resources that can help ease the process for trans and nonbinary folks in Minnesota.
The Name Change Process
Meeting the Requirements
For a legal name change in Minnesota, applicants must:
- Have lived in the state for at least six months
- File the application in the county where they currently live
- Be at least 18 years old—legal guardians can apply for minors
- Pay the filing fee—or get a fee waiver
Filing the Paperwork
You can get the paperwork for a name change by visiting your courthouse and requesting the proper forms or by downloading them from the Minnesota Judicial Branch website. Fill the packet out carefully—there will be a section that needs to be signed in the presence of a notary, which you will likely do when you file the paperwork at the courthouse. Applicants will also need to pay the filing fee, which is $285 (as of 2/1/2023).
Attending the Court Hearing
After you file your paperwork, you’ll be given a time and date for a court hearing or instructions for scheduling it yourself. When you attend, you’ll need to be accompanied by two people who have known you for a year or more. These witnesses serve both to affirm your identity and confirm there is no fraudulent intent behind your request for a name change—avoiding debt, for instance.
Once the hearing is concluded, the judge will sign your court order.
Updating Important Documents
Upon presentation of your court order, you are entitled to an amended birth record that displays your new legal name. However, updating the name and sex marker on other documents—like your driver’s license, passport, birth certificate, voter registration, credit card, or Social Security card—have individual processes that will need to be completed.
Name Change Resources
In addition to the links above, there are several available resources for trans and nonbinary people looking to change their legal name in Minnesota:
Gender Justice Minnesota
Gender Justice Minnesota aims to advance gender equity through law and provides legal assistance for issues related to gender inequality.
Volunteer Lawyers Network Community Clinic
The Volunteer Lawyers Network provides 15–20 minutes of pro bono legal advice on name and sex marker changes via phone and Zoom calls.
Robins Kaplan LLP Transgender Name Change Clinic
Minnesota State Law Library
The online Minnesota State Law Library contains a directory of resources to get you started on your name change journey.
Changing Gender Markers and Preferred Names in Minnesota Colleges
Below are links to information on changing gender markers, pronouns, and preferred names at some of Minnesota’s top colleges:
- University of Minnesota
- Cloud State University
- Minnesota State University Mankato
- University of Minnesota Duluth
- Winona State University
At Unite Cloud, we provide education and action steps that aim to foster a more empathetic, supportive Central Minnesota. To learn more about what we do, visit our website, or find more educational resources on our blog.