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Transgender man denied name change by Virginia judge

Wednesday, April 17, 2013
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A transgender man from Louisa County, Virginia, has been denied a name change by Circuit Judge who, contrary to current Virginia law, said medical documentation was required for legal name changes.

Jacob Haley, 25, said he went to the Louisa County Courthouse in February of this year, and when he submitted the forms to change his legal name from his female birth name to his male identity, he was informed by the clerk that “more than likely (you’re) going to need a hearing, the judge is going to want to know the reasoning.”

Jacob Haley

He said he was told to bring to court “anything that would help explain the name change.”

Haley, whose healthcare coverage does not include gender reassignment-related services, hormone treatment or therapy, said he has been unable to afford treatment and has been working to raise funds independently.

Lacking direction from the clerk, and without any kind of therapy services, Haley said he went to court a few days after filing the paperwork, and explained to Judge Timothy Sanner that he was female-to-male transgender, and that he needed to change his name to help his mental health.

“I’ve been dealing with this for a very long time — it’s all I can really say; it’s just me being upfront and honest,” he said he told the judge.

According to Haley, Sanner explained that in previous name-change cases involving transgender individuals, a note from a doctor or some medical record was brought to help prove the need for the change.

“The prior case had been seen by a therapist for years, had been through hormone therapy, and had a letter and things to back their story up,” said Sanner, according to Haley.

Haley said that Sanner then told him he would need to see paperwork from a medical professional before approving the name change. “[The judge said] the courts would like to see something of that nature,” Haley said. “He didn’t say anything about the law.”

Name-changing laws in Virginia are more straight forward, according to Norfolk-based attorney Michael Hamar.

“Most of my clients, it’s so easy they do it themselves,” said Hamar. “They get the form, they fill it out, they get on the docket, and it gets entered.”

Nowhere on the name-change application does it specify that there are additional materials needed, said Hamer. The two page form asks for criminal history, current address, your parents’ full name.

According to Virginia law, “The order shall contain no identifying information other than the applicant’s former name or names, new name, and current address,” and medical documentation is only required for changing genders on a birth certificate, and similarly for Virginia state ID’s like driver’s licenses.

Hamar said the judge could have confused the two, but denying a simple name change because there is no doctor’s note is not in line with the law.

“The forms are standardized, you print them out and pay your money, and you may or may not have to appear. You usually don’t even have to show,” according to Hamar.

Haley has 60 days to return to court with a medical letter.

“It blows my mind that people can have their name changed to whatever they want,” said Haley, “but when it comes to someone needing their name changed for their mental health, they get roadblocked.”

© GayRVA.com. An LGBTQ Nation media partner.

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