A person’s name and gender are important parts of their identity. When someone doesn’t identify with the name and/or gender that they were assigned at birth, they may find that the process to remedy the situation by legally changing their name or gender marker is confusing and stressful. SixFifty has created Identity 650, a free tool to guide individuals through the process of changing their name and/or gender marker in the state of Utah.
Why Are Accurate Names and Gender Markers Important?
Many studies have shown that transgender and gender diverse (trans) adults face consistent gender-based mistreatment, causing high levels of psychological distress. One thing individuals can do to protect their physical and mental health is to take steps to achieve private and public recognition of their gender identity (White Hughto, Rood, Gunn, & Pantalone, 2020). This may include social steps like changing their dress and mannerisms or telling friends and family about their name and pronouns. It may also include medical steps like hormone replacement therapy, surgery, and psychiatric treatment.
For many trans Americans, an important element of social gender affirmation is acquiring a legal adjustment to their name and/or gender marker on identification documents. This step can have psychological and tangible benefits for trans individuals. Possessing an accurate government ID is often necessary to access healthcare, housing, education and employment (Byrne, 2014). In a 2015 study, respondents who had taken steps to update their IDs had lower prevalence of serious psychological distress, suicidal ideation, and suicide planning than those who had not (Scheim, Perez-Brumer, & Bauer, 2020).
The Current System is Complicated
The current system to change a person’s name or gender marker is complicated—requiring petitioners to fill out 15 pages of complex legal documents which need to be completed at different times, and submitted in different ways. According to Utah law, a person can not change their name “to something bizarre, unduly lengthy, ridiculous, or offensive to common decency and good taste.” In order to change their gender marker, a person needs “evidence of appropriate clinical care or treatment for gender transitioning or change by a licensed medical professional (for example, a letter from a doctor).” So, just considering eligibility requirements is confusing. What does “good taste” mean? And what kind of evidence of gender transition do they need? Does the doctor’s note have to include personal details like specific treatment?
Sixfifty Pro Bono Makes It Easy
SixFifty’s questionnaire and instructions add examples, guidelines, and a template for a doctor’s letter based on feedback from the Utah Legal Clinic and Utah Attorney Chris Wharton, all created to make the process streamlined by generating the necessary paperwork and petitioning Utah’s courts for a change to their name and/or gender marker.
Once an individual has used SixFifty’s intuitive questionnaire to confirm their eligibility, the next step is to request a certification from the Department of Corrections. The form to request the letter is pretty simple, but it’s also fraught with potential issues. Some sections must be left blank, others must be completed. Unlike other court paperwork, this form must be delivered by mail. It also needs to include a pre-stamped, self-addressed return envelope. Missing any of these steps can derail the whole process. SixFifty’s tool helps generate the form exactly as it needs to be, and gives step-by-step instructions for submission.
The documents that petitioners need to file are:
- Department of Corrections certification
- Petition for Sex Change (or name change, if only changing their name)
- Order on Petition for Sex Change (or name change, if only changing their name)
- Cover Letter for Probate Cases
After the user completes the questionnaire, SixFifty emails their completed documents to them, as well as instructions for completing the process. For example, the petition will need to be signed and dated with ink. The other documents don’t need to be signed or dated—they’re ready for filing at this point.
After the paperwork is filed, the court will contact the individual to schedule a hearing, which they must attend.
If the user doesn’t want their old name or gender to appear on documents like birth certificates, they need to ask the court to indicate that in their court order. SixFifty asks users for their preference, and adds the necessary language to their court order paperwork.
Identity 650 generates the necessary paperwork required by Utah’s courts. It also guides users through the petition process. SixFifty is based in Utah, and Utah has recently changed the gender marker process, making it available to more Utahns. The process to change a name or gender marker is different in every state. In some states, it can even be different from one city to another. SixFifty hopes to partner with organizations in other states to automate their processes as well.
“The law is for everyone,” said Ransom Wydner, VP of Pro Bono of SixFifty. “And Utahns have the right to change their name and gender marker. Identity is personal, and we should all feel in control of ours. For most people, though, the process of changing their name or gender marker is too complex and they don’t know how to get help. SixFifty built these free tools to make the process more accessible.”
SixFifty’s system asks users a series of questions, and provides helpful explanations about what those questions mean. Based on the user’s responses, SixFifty’s automated system fills out the legal documents and emails a copy to the user with instructions on how to proceed. These forms include a letter to the Department of Corrections, court documents, and more.
“The law in Utah gives people the right to self-identify and to have their government documents reflect their true identity,” said attorney Chris Wharton, whose 2021 case before the Utah Supreme Court helped more Utahns change their gender marker. “We should embrace efforts to educate people on these basic rights while working to overcome barriers that may have prevented individuals from accessing them in the past.”
SixFifty’s Pro Bono Toolsets
Identity 650 is the latest Pro Bono tool released by SixFifty. Earlier this year, SixFifty released a free tool to help Ukrainians in the US apply for Temporary Protected Status and Asylum. SixFifty’s free tools Hello Landlord and Hello Lender have helped over ten thousand users stay in their homes during and after the COVID pandemic.