Changing your gender marker within the Commonwealth of Virginia is not the easiest task.. especially when you don’t know where to start or where to find any information on how to do it. I was born and raised in Virginia and still currently reside there. And I have also recently finished changing my gender marker on all major documents, so I’ll break down the steps for you.
Step one - Court Order. You’ll need a court order for a change of gender. This is actually really easy if you have the necessary documents. You’ll need to file a petition, an order for the judge to sign off on, and you’ll need a letter from your surgeon stating that you’ve completed gender reassignment.
In most cases, the surgery that defines gender reassignment being complete is some sort of bottom surgery (such as a hysterectomy, metoidioplasty, or a phalloplasty). And in all honesty, I do believe that is what the Commonwealth of Virginia also has in mind, though they do not define what they call a change of sex.
Virginia Code 32.1-269 (E) Upon receipt of a certified copy of an order of a court of competent jurisdiction indicating that the sex of an individual has been changed by medical procedure and upon request of such person, the State Registrar shall amend such person’s certificate of birth to show the change of sex and, if a certified copy of a court order changing the person’s name is submitted, to show a new name.
In my case specifically, the only surgery I underwent was top surgery where I had my breasts removed. I had my procedure done by Dr. Garramone in Sunrise, Florida. After my surgery, he gave me five signed copies (which were notarized by his secretary who is a recognized notary for the State of Florida) stating that I had completed sex reassignment in accordance with appropriate medical procedures. In his letter, he did not describe what surgery he performed.. only that he performed sex reassignment surgery. This worked out to my benefit because it leads most places to believe that I had bottom surgery and so no further questions are ever asked. I do not know how other surgeons write their letters out, but I imagine that you could request how they phrase their letter. (That doesn’t mean they’ll oblige, but you can try.) And this might also be something you want to ask your potential surgeon while you’re still in the process of deciding.
As you can tell, I posted a blank copy for the order and petition to change your gender. Unfortunately, Virginia (or at least no one in my jurisdiction was aware of) does not have forms for changing your gender. Basically, I was told that I could create my own petition and order or I could enlist the help of a lawyer. Transitioning is expensive enough without the help of a lawyer, so I was determined to do it myself. I based some of mine off of the California gender change forms and I also used some of the information from the form I used to change my name. Luckily, the petition and the order that I drew up myself, worked just fine.
The petition is kind of like your cover letter where you’re stating what you’re doing and the order is what the judge will sign off on. Every county is different, so the process by which they go by and costs will all vary. In my county, it cost me $86 to file my petition with the court. I did not have to appear in court. And less than two weeks after I filed it at the courthouse with the county clerk, I received two signed copies of the order in the mail.
I posted pictures of both the order and the petition that I used, but I also have them saved as word documents on my computer and if anyone wants them, just shoot me a message and let me know with your email address, and I’ll be more than happy to send it your way.
Step Two - Birth Certificate. Getting your birth certificate changed can be a very time consuming ordeal. Not to mention a major pain in the ass. Depending on where you live within the state of Virginia, you can either drive to their office (2001 Maywill Street Richmond, Virginia 23230) or you can mail all your documents to them (P.O. Box 1000 Richmond, Virginia 23218). Their physical address is different from their mailing address. If you don’t care how long it takes, you might be fine with mailing all your documents in and waiting. However, if you’re impatient or just want things changed asap, you’re better off making the drive to Richmond and visiting with them yourself. I believe their hours are 8-5 Monday through Friday and most Saturdays from 8 am to noon. But for amending a birth certificate, you have to visit with them during the week because the State Registrar is not available on Saturdays.
When you mail your documents in to them, their processing time is 90 business days from the time they receive your documents/request. BUT “receive” means the time they start working on your request. They might physically get your request in their building in June, but not start working on it until September.. and in that case your 90 business days would start from when they see it in September. From my own conversations with various employees there, they are very overwhelmed and backed up by requests. I visited with them in September and they were just getting started on requests that they had physically received in May. But when you drive to the office and visit with them in person, you bypass the 90 business day processing time. (Or at least this is what I was told)
When I mailed my documents in, I sent in a photocopy of my driver’s license, a photocopy of my social security card (forms of ID), one of the signed and notarized letters from Dr. Garramone, my court order for my gender change, a court order for my name change (to get my name and gender all changed at one time on my birth certificate), along with a typed document stating exactly what I wanted done and what I had included in the package. You will also need to include a check for $34. This is the cost for amending a birth certificate.
Because I was doing everything by trial and error, I waited months and tried contacting them because I had not heard anything from them and I wasn’t even sure if they got my documents/request. I finally ended up gathering a new set of all my paperwork and driving to their office on a Saturday. I ended up not being able to do anything, but I at least found out that my request was being processed and was sitting on the desk of the State Registrar waiting to be approved.
I finally received my new birth certificate in the mail four months after I mailed them all of the paperwork. So count on a four to five month wait after mailing everything to them, unless you decide to visit with them at their office.
Step Three - Driver’s License. To change the gender marker on your driver’s license, you’ll need three documents, plus your current license. You’ll need the court order, the letter from your surgeon, and your new birth certificate.
You’ll have to fill out the standard form that you have to fill out whenever you’re applying for a license or renewing a license. Only this time for the gender box, you’ll select the gender you’re changing it to.. not what is currently reflected on your license. Once the form is filled out, they’ll look over, punch in some information, make sure you have the necessary documentation and sign off on it. They will have to make copies of all your documentation and fax it in to their medical department. You’ll then get your picture taken and you’ll have to pay a $10 reissue fee. They’ll print out a paper with all your information (as well as new gender marker) on it and tell you to keep it with your current license until your new one arrives in the mail within 7-10 business days at which point you can destroy both that paper and your old license.
For me, the whole process only took fifteen minutes. And this was even dealing with employees who had never dealt with changing a gender marker before.
Step Four - Social Security. Your social security card itself doesn’t have a gender listed on it. It has your name and your number. But the Social Security Administration still has your gender on file in their system and it’s important to change this so that everything matches up and doesn’t accidentally out your status as transgender. This can be really important where employment is concerned because transgender folk are not protected from discrimination within the Commonwealth of Virginia. They can easily be fired or not hired at all based on that little fact.
You will have to locate your nearest Social Security office building because you will have to visit them in person. If you have your new license, you can take that.. or if you don’t have your new license yet, you can take your old one with the paper the DMV printed out and gave to you. You’ll also need your court order and your birth certificate. I also took my letter from my surgeon, but he didn’t even look at it.
After the employee looked at all my documentation, he asked me for my social security number (I just gave him my card) and he asked me for my address and phone number and then he changed the gender marker in their system. He printed out a paper with all my information on it and asked me to verify that it was all correct. Once I did, he took the paper back and gave me a paper stating that I would receive a new card in the mail soon. I didn’t need a new card, but he couldn’t seem to find a way to bypass getting a new card sent to me.
That process took me about twelve minutes. And most Social Security offices are open 8-4 Monday through Friday.
And those are the major steps for changing your gender marker within the Commonwealth of Virginia.