Changing Your Name as a… | Counseling | Therapy

Changing Your Name as a Trans/Nonbinary Person

Sid Treaster , LCSW, MED — Associate therapist

Changing Your Name as a Trans/Nonbinary Person image

Changing Your Name as a Trans/Nonbinary Person

The choice of changing your name as a trans/nonbinary person is a deeply personal decision for individuals seeking a name that better reflects their true identity. Names are a fundamental aspect of our identity, yet they are often constrained by societal norms and expectations, particularly when it comes to gender. The concept of gendered names perpetuates the restrictive idea of the gender binary. However, gender is a spectrum, and individuals may identify beyond these binary categories.


The truth is that names shouldn't be gendered in the first place, but as a society, we’re not quite there yet. Ultimately, names should be a reflection of who we truly are, regardless of societal constructs. Changing your name to more socially align with your gender identity can be an empowering and gender-euphoric experience. The change can be affirming of your authenticity and serve to reclaim your sense of self. Embracing your authentic self is a courageous journey, and changing your name can be a powerful step towards self-affirmation and acceptance. However, this journey is not without its challenges. The process can also come with a lot of anxiety, uncertainty, and discomfort. From self-reflection and legal considerations to navigating social settings and internal discomfort, the process of changing your name requires courage, resilience, and self-compassion.

Where To Start?

The journey often begins with self-reflection. Consider how your current name aligns with your gender identity and sense of self. What qualities or characteristics do you seek in a new name? Discuss your feelings with trusted friends, family, therapists, or members of the LGBTQ+ community as you embark on this journey of self-discovery and affirmation.

Here are some questions that one might ask themselves when considering changing their name as a gender-expansive individual:

  • How does my current name align with my gender identity and sense of self?

  • What does my ideal name look and feel like? What characteristics or qualities am I seeking in a new name?

  • Are there specific cultural or linguistic considerations I want to incorporate into my new name?

  • How do I envision others responding to my new name? Am I prepared to educate and advocate for my chosen name and pronouns?

  • What significance does changing my name hold for me personally? How do I hope it will impact my journey of self-discovery and affirmation?

  • Have I discussed my feelings about my name with trusted friends, family members, or members of the LGBTQ+ community?

  • What are my expectations and concerns regarding the legal process of changing my name? Am I prepared to navigate any potential challenges or obstacles that may arise?

  • How do I plan to communicate my name change to others, including family, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances?

  • What self-care strategies can I implement to support myself emotionally, mentally, and physically throughout the process of changing my name?

  • How do I envision celebrating and embracing my new name as a symbol of my authentic identity?

By reflecting on these questions, individuals can gain clarity and insight into their motivations, desires, and expectations surrounding the process of changing their name as a trans/nonbinary person.

Facing Uncertainty

Internally, changing your name may evoke a range of emotions, including discomfort, uncertainty, and vulnerability. Allow yourself space to process these feelings and practice self-compassion along the way. Engage in self-care activities that nurture your mental, emotional, and physical well-being. Surround yourself with supportive individuals who validate and affirm your identity, providing encouragement and reassurance when needed. Here are some steps to help with internal reflection about your potential name change:

1. Processing Emotions: It's normal to experience a range of emotions when changing your name, including excitement, anxiety, uncertainty, and vulnerability. Take time to acknowledge and process these emotions, allowing yourself to feel them without judgment. Journaling or talking to a therapist can be helpful in exploring and processing your feelings.

2. Practicing Self-Compassion: Be kind and compassionate with yourself as you navigate the discomfort of changing your name. Remind yourself that it's okay to feel uncertain or vulnerable during this transition. Practice self-care activities that nurture your mental, emotional, and physical well-being, such as mindfulness, meditation, or spending time in nature.

3. Embracing Identity: Embracing your new name is a journey of self-discovery and affirmation. Celebrate each milestone and moment of growth along the way, recognizing the courage and resilience it takes to live authentically. Surround yourself with positivity and affirmations that reinforce your sense of self-worth and identity.

By navigating the discomfort of adjusting to your new name with patience and grace, both in social settings and internally, you can embrace your true identity authentically and with confidence. Remember that you are valid, worthy, and deserving of respect and acceptance, and that your journey of self-discovery is a beautiful and empowering process. Plus, you can always change your name again! Humans are ever-changing creatures; gender and sexuality are fluid, names can (and do) reflect that fluidity as you move through your life.

What Next?

Research different naming options and explore a variety of sources for inspiration. Explore different naming options, drawing inspiration from literature, mythology, nature, cultures around the world, even simple google searches can lead you to a long list of potential names. There are countless possibilities to consider. Take note of names that resonate with you and reflect your identity authentically. Seek support from allies who will encourage and uplift you throughout the process.

Navigating social settings can be daunting as you introduce your new name to family, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances. There is a chance you may encounter resistance or confusion from family, friends, or society at large. However, it's essential to remember that your identity is valid, and you have the right to define yourself on your own terms. Communicate openly and honestly about your name change if you feel safe doing so. Be patient and compassionate with yourself as you navigate conversations and reactions from others. Remember, your identity is valid, and you deserve to be seen and respected for who you are.

It can be challenging to correct others when they use your old name or misgender you. Remember that it's okay to gently remind people of your chosen name and pronouns. Educating others about the importance of respecting your chosen name and pronouns can be tiring but rewarding. In a perfect world, you shouldn’t have to carry the burden of educating others about gender identity, but in this world, that’s the way it often happens. Take note of your mental and emotional capacity when it comes to educating others. Remember to take care of your overall wellbeing and safety above all else.

If you encounter resistance or negativity from others, it's essential to set boundaries to protect your emotional well-being. Surround yourself with supportive individuals who validate and affirm your identity, and don't be afraid to distance yourself from those who refuse to respect your name and pronouns.

Assertiveness is key when asserting your identity in social settings. Practice assertive communication techniques, such as using "I" statements and maintaining confident body language, to assert your chosen name and pronouns with clarity and conviction.

If you are considering legally changing your name, understanding the legal process of changing your name is essential. Research the requirements and procedures in your jurisdiction, and consult with a legal professional if needed. Gather the necessary documentation and prepare for potential challenges or obstacles along the way. Changing your name as a trans/nonbinary person is a courageous step towards embracing your true identity. However, it's natural to experience discomfort and uncertainty as you adjust to this significant change, both in social settings and internally.

What are the Legal Steps?

Here is a list of the basic steps for legally changing your name:

  • Research the legal requirements for changing your name in your jurisdiction.

  • Obtain and fill out the necessary name change forms.

  • Gather supporting documentation, such as a birth certificate and government-issued identification.

  • Submit the completed forms and supporting documentation to the appropriate government authority.

  • Pay any required filing fees.

  • Publish a notice of your name change in a local newspaper (if required).

  • Attend a court hearing (if required) where a judge will review your petition for a name change.

  • Receive a court order officially granting the name change.

  • Update your identification documents and records to reflect your new name.

  • Notify relevant parties, such as employers and financial institutions, of your name change.

It can be extremely helpful to find affirming resources to support you in the confusing process of legally changing your name. The following resources can help you navigate this process with more ease (and sometimes financial assistance!):

  • Local LGBTQ+ Organizations: Community centers and organizations that offer resources and support for name changes, including guidance on the legal process and assistance with paperwork.

  • Legal Aid Organizations: Entities providing free or low-cost legal assistance to LGBTQ+ individuals, often offering legal clinics, workshops, or direct representation for name changes.

  • Online Guides and Toolkits: Various online resources providing step-by-step instructions, sample forms, and tips for completing name change paperwork.

  • Transgender Legal Advocacy Groups: Organizations focused on advancing the rights of transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals, offering legal support and resources tailored to name changes.

  • Government Websites: Official government websites providing information, downloadable forms, and guidance on the legal process of changing your name.

  • Online Communities and Forums: Online platforms where LGBTQ+ individuals can find peer-to-peer advice, personal experiences, and recommendations for navigating the name change process.

  • Supportive Professionals: Legal professionals, therapists, healthcare providers, and other professionals knowledgeable about LGBTQ+ issues and supportive of identity changes, who can offer guidance and referrals.

Remember, you are valid, you are worthy, and you deserve to live authentically and unapologetically as your true self.

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