location: Transition > Sex Marker Change > Birth Certificate
In November 2004 I set out to gather the necessary materials to change the sex designation on my birth certificate. I used Equality Florida's Name and Gender Change Kit as a baseline reference for what I needed to have, which includes:
I got items #1 and #2 by calling the Florida Department of Health and requesting them to be sent to me. They were very respectful and helpful on the phone for this request. I had item #3 as a Vermont Name Change Court Order. The obvious problem with item #4 is that there is not one "sex reassignment" surgery so I didn't know what surgeon (chest or hysterectomy) I should use for this affidavit. I already had a letter from my chest surgeon saying he performed "Female to Male Gender Reassignment surgery," but this letter was not notarized, and I wasn't sure how him being a Canadian surgeon was going to affect getting a notarized letter, let alone getting the state of Florida to recognize it. I therefore decided to ask my local ob/gyn surgeon to do it, in hopes the state of Florida either wouldn't read the fine print of what she did (LAVH+BSO), or if they did, actually accept this essentially "sterilization" procedure as an acceptable form of sex reassignment (as opposed to genital surgery). I also sent a check for $40 for item #5.
- Completed Application for Amended Birth Certificate
- Notarized Affidavit of Amendment to Certificate of Live Birth, form DH430. You must complete this form and then sign it in front of a notary public
- Certified copy of the court order granting your name change under Florida law or a substantially similar law from another state
- Sworn affidavit from the physician who performed your sex reassignment surgery. The physician must include his/her medical license number in the affidavit. The physician’s affidavit must state that you have completed sex reassignment in accordance with appropriate medical procedures and that you are now considered to be a member of the reassigned gender. The medical records must be signed by the physician who performed the sex reassignment surgery.
- Required amendment fees, $20 per amendment (so if you are changing both name and sex you have to pay $40)
In December 2004, I set up an appointment with my surgeon and a friend who was a notary. My surgeon is absolutely amazing, and after some low-key informal chatting, she filled out the papers, signed them, and that was it. It was the least painful visit to a Planned Parenthood yet! Check out the photos (click to view them larger in a new window):
I had modified the sample one from Equality Florida's Name and Gender Change Kit to fit my situation. The final copy (click to view large in a new window):
With items #1-5 prepared, I sent them out in early January 2005. About two weeks later I received a letter in the mail from the Florida Department of Health stating, in part
This is in reference to your request to this office regarding a court ordered name change granted outside the state of Florida, for which we have received a fee of $40.00.
So I called the phone number at the bottom of the letter to find out exactly what "getting it domesticated" means. Unlike my first call to them, they were very unhelpful, curt, and rude, and would not tell me what I needed to do to further my cause. She eventually just gave me the number of the Florida Bar and told me to "get a lawyer." After getting entirely frustrated with her, I told her I also wanted to make sure it was in the record that I was also trying to change the sex on my birth certificate (i.e. my check was for $40, not $20) and if they needed anything else for that change. Her response was, "Oooh, I'm going to have to talk to my supervisor about that one, let me call you back." About 10 minutes later, she called back and told me that everything seemed to be in order for the sex change, and they would hold off on amending my birth certificate until the name change was worked out.
Please be advised this office only has legislative authority to amend a birth record when the name change has been granted in Florida unless the out-of-state order meets the same requirements as those in Florida.
Effective July 1, 2004, Florida requires the petitioners fingerprints to be furnished to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for filing as part of the name change process. Thus the majority of out-of-state court orders will not meet Florida requirements.
In order for this office to be able to use your court order from Vermont, it wil be necessary for you to have this court order domesticated in Florida. You may wish to seek legal assistance in regards to this matter.
Upon calling the Florida Bar, they gave me the name of a lawyer in the county where I was born, and told me to call her, informing me she would probably be willing to help me for only a $30 consult fee for 30 minutes on the phone. Seeing as that could easily lead down a complicated and expensive path, I didn't call her.
Ironically, Lisa Mottet, the Legislative Lawyer for the Transgender Civil Rights Project (as part of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force) was in the area to lead a Queer Summit on legislative organizing, and I got a chance to talk to her about what was happening with my name change. She suggested I contact Karen Doering, a staff attorney at the St. Pete/Tampa office of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, who she thought would be able to help me. Karen Doering gave me two names of central Florida attorney's: Marty Chapman and Michael Morris. She said I should contact Marty Chapman, who "would probably be willing to cut me a good deal." However, the phone number Karen gave me, which matches the number I found online, was not in service when I called it.
Michael Morris was helpful in explaining what getting my name change "domesticated" actually means: I basically have to hire a lawyer to represent me in court and convince a Florida judge that my name change is valid (that is, after getting my fingerprints taken and fulfilling all the other necessary state differences). He offered to represent me and take care of all the paperwork for $750, which would not include any fees that would come up in terms of hiring a notary or sending paperwork back and forth, etc. When I asked him if this was something I could do myself, he said yes, I could do it myself, but it would take much longer and I would have to pay a $250 filing fee and probably $600-700 in court challenges. Obviously, he might have said all of this to get me to hire him, but I suppose there is no way to ever tell. What was clear was that changing my name on my birth certificate was going to cost a lot of money and time, one of which I don't have and the other I'm not willing to give up if I don't have to.
I waited around for a couple weeks, weighing my (limited) options. In early March 2005, I decided to call and ask if I could just forget the name change part and go ahead with the sex change part. Again, she said, "Oooh, I have to talk to my supervisor about that," and a couple minutes later told me, "Yep, we can do that." I was initially concerned that the $20 non-refundable fee I already paid for the name change would simply dissolve, but she said I could eitehr use that $20 to pay to"expedite" the sex change order or they could keep it on record as having already been paid so I wouldn't have to pay the fee again when I eventually pursue the name change. I told her that, if in order to change my name I'm going to have to hire a lawyer and pay them over $700 just to get my already-legal name change domesticated in Florida, that $20 probably wouldn't make that much of a difference; go ahead and just "expedite" my order.
The most interesting part of this experience was when I asked her the following question: If my birth name had been something traditionally feminine [as opposed to my tradionally-male birth name Justin], would you still be able to change the sex without changing my name? Her response was, "Oh no, that's the only reason we are now able to change the sex on birth certificates, to prevent any inconsistencies like that." Take from it what you want, but that is clearly messed up. And thank you mom, thank you dad, for thinking I was going to be a boy.
All she needed from me was a signed statement saying that I wanted them to postpone changing my name and proceed with changing the sex on my birth certificate and to use the money appropriately. I finally got around to faxing it in late March 2005, and about a week and a half later I received my new birth certificate -- it has my birth name and the male sex designation. I will eventually pursue changing my name on my birth certificate, once I save enough money to hire a lawyer to do so or come across another way. I was most concerned with getting the sex changed, because that will enable me to get a new passport, which can then be used to change the sex designation on my social security card.
And, of course, the final product (click to view larger in a new window):