We tend to minimize the importance of our first name. We have the right to simply adopt nicknames that we then use throughout our lives without a second thought. For instance, my husband is Robert, but he is called Bob.
But for transgender and non-binary persons, your first name goes to the very essence of your new identity. Unfortunately, changing one’s name legally presents huge hurdles for many in this community.
As Chair of the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s “Transgender Name Change Task Force” (TNCTF), I know all too well the problems faced by the trans and non-binary populations. The goal of this statewide task force is to write and have approved a new Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure minimizing burdens imposed by the Name Change Law.
The Name Change Law is intended to protect creditors from fraud so that a person cannot simply change his/her/their name to avoid debt.
To protect creditors, the law requires that all Petitions for Name Change be published in a newspaper of general circulation and in a legal newspaper. Once published, this is considered legal notice to creditors that you are changing your name.
But many trans and gender-neutral folks are not open about the fact of his/her/their transition/identity change, and publication puts it out there for all the world to see. Folks can file a Petition to Waive Publication, but there are 67 counties in Pennsylvania and each county has the right to interpret the law and the evidence needed to grant a waiver request. Some friendly counties waive publication as a matter of course, while other counties require a separate hearing to determine if sufficient evidence exists to grant the waiver request.
Stay tuned for updates on the workings of the TNCTF!