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How I Changed My Name by Myself Without Even a Single Lawyer (1989)

How I Changed My Name by Myself Without Even a Single Lawyer (1989)

©1989, 2013 by Dallas Denny

 Source: Denny, Dallas. (1989, November-December). How I changed my name by myself without a single lawyer. Insight, 5(1), 2-3.





How I Changed My Name by Myself Without Even a Single Lawyer

By Dallas Denny


Most transsexuals must sooner or later get rid of their birth name and replace it with a name of their choosing—one which is in keeping with their chosen gender. It is possible to change one’s name without resorting to the legal system (by using the new name exclusively for a period of time), but most of us do go through the courts. I recently changed my name in this way, but without using a lawyer; it saved me about two hundred dollars. God knows I’ve spent money for everything else this year, but I didn’t want to give some attorney five or six hours worth of electrolysis money for a few minutes of his time. I decided to take on the legal system on my own, and it worked; a $62.50 filing fee was my sole cost. Several people have asked me to tell how I did it; hence, this article.

Since this is shaping up to be a how-to article, it’s time for the customary disclaimers. First, you may find that things work a little differently in your county or parish. The wording on the petition and the court order may vary from those of Greene County, Tennessee, where I live. You may be required to post a public notice in your local newspaper. The court clerks may be less friendly than were the ones I found. Play it by ear, and you’ll likely do okay.

A second word of caution is in order. Think long and hard about your new name, for you will be stuck with it for a long time. Flamboyant names can get your clocked. Avoid those drag queen names. They’re all right for the stage, but a liability when you must use them all the time. In fact, try your chosen name out for a while before you make it a legal reality. Be careful also to choose a name that is appropriate for your age.

You may find at least part of your given name will work—and even names which a decade or so ago were considered masculine are not now out of the ordinary for women—Shannon, Leslie, Shawn, Lee. If your parents gave you one of those wonderful names, do something nice for them this minute!

After test-flying the name for several months with good results, I decided the only change I would make would be to drop my masculine first name and keep my middle and last names—to be simply Dallas Denny. This was convenient in several ways. First, I have been called Dallas all my life, and I tend to just stare when I’s called anything else. Secondly, most of my legal documents were already in the name Dallas Denny. Third—well, I’ve always like the name Dallas Denny, and once I realized it worked as a woman’s name, I liked it even more.

The decision being made, I visited an attorney’s office. I winced when he told me a name change would cost about two hundred and fifty dollars (I later found that was a very good price). I went home and called Brother Dave, a friend who is an attorney but prefers to work on old cars. I picked his brains. This is what he told me to do: “First, go down to the county courthouse and find who handles name changes. It will be either the Circuit Court Clerk’s office or the County Court Clerk’s office. Sweet-talk the clerks there, and ask them for a copy of a petition and court order for a name change. If they like you, they’ll go to the trouble of giving you one. If they say no, you’ll be in trouble. Once you have the documents, just copy them in a typewriter or word processor, substituting your information, and turn them in. You’ll have to pay a filing fee, and probably a fee to run an ad announcing the name change in a local newspaper. They will schedule a court date— although in some counties, you just run down the judge. The judge may ask you some questions. She wants to be sure you’re not changing your name for fraudulent purposes. When she’s satisfied, she’ll sign the order, and that’ll be it.”

It worked just like Brother Dave said.

The document I copied was full of pronouns: “The Petitioner wishes to change his name, etc., etc.” I substituted gender-neutral terms for “he” and “his”: The Petitioner wishes to change the Petitioner’s name…” It sounded a bit awkward, but I didn’t want the document to reflect my former gender.

A sample petition and court order accompany this article so you can see just how simple it is and maybe try it yourself. Feel free to modify the forms to that of your state or province.

One final note, though: be sure you add a clause stating all records will be changed to reflect the new name. That way, anyone refusing to give you a document in your new name will be in contempt of court.


Sample Name Change Forms (PDF)

Sample Name Change Forms for MS Word (Right Click and Save Link)