Pennsylvania, make name changes more accessible

Two students argue that Pennsylvania should lower the cost of name changes for all.


Changing their name was a “nightmare” for Sinh Taylor, a senior gender, sexuality and women’s studies and English major.

Taylor has identified with their chosen name since they were 19, but their associate’s degree from the Community College of Philadelphia hanging on their office wall is a painful reminder of their dead name. As a non-binary person, they spent $500 just to change their name to reflect their identity.

“That’s my rent payment per month,” Taylor said. “It’s not exactly a disposable income kind of thing.”

Just this week, Taylor received the corrected version of their degree after a 13-year long name change process.

Transgender and non-binary individuals face many hurdles with changing their name, including high costs and publication requirements. Pennsylvania lawmakers must work to reduce the price of obtaining a name change, and not require individuals to publish the name change in a newspaper.

In Pennsylvania, it can cost $20 for someone to change their name because of marriage or divorce. However, transgender people pay between $400 to $900 for a name change with fees for the publication of the change, the correction of identifying documents and court charges.

Having the correct name listed on legal documents is affirming for transgender and non-binary people because it validates their gender identity to themselves and society. 

The LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus, a caucus composed of members of the state’s General Assembly that advocates for LGBTQ+ Pennsylvanians, presented a series of bills in Pennsylvania to make the name change process easier for transgender and non-binary individuals, Philly Voice reported. However, the legislation has not yet reached the House floor.

Senate Bill 1146 would give grants to transgender individuals and organizations so they can provide financial assistance to access and update documentation with their correct names.

Senate Bill 1154, referred to the Judiciary on March 29, would remove the requirement to publish a name change in a newspaper, Philly Voice reported

Pennsylvania representatives must vote in favor of these bills to demonstrate concern for transgender and non-binary residents who struggle to change their names. 

Names represent who we are to the world and ourselves, said Brad Windhauser, a gender, sexuality and women’s studies professor.

Transgender and non-binary youth who changed their name on legal documents reported lower rates of attempting suicide, according to The Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ+ youth.

Roughly 10 percent of transgender and gender non-conforming people have all their legal documents corresponding with their gender identity, according to Lone Star Legal Aid, a legal service provider in the United States.

It’s important for Pennsylvania’s government to support transgender and non-binary people by making name changes more accessible so they don’t suffer the mental health consequences of using their dead name.

The Beasley School of Law offers the Name Change Project, a pro bono project that assists transgender students, faculty members and community residents in legally changing their names for free. 

Even with the Name Change Project, the legal process still has obstacles because it only includes a legal name change order. There’s still a separate submission process to change names on ID, which involves a $29.50 fee, social security card and other forms of identification that must be approved by a court, according to Eastern PA Trans Equity Project. 

State lawmakers shouldn’t rely on organizations to provide transgender and non-binary people with more ease in name changes, but instead lower the cost and not require publication of the change.

The project is a good step in the process, but it shouldn’t be the end goal, said Katie Brennan, a  philosophy professor.

Reducing the cost of name changes for transgender and non-binary residents would improve their well-being through the affirmation they’d get from seeing their correct name on documents.

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