Changing your name and gender marker in the UK

Trans people can update their personal records so that they reflect their preferred name and legal gender.  Officially, UK law currently only recognises two gender options: male and female, which unfortunately excludes non-binary identities from being recorded on official documents like passports and birth certificates.  However a third or other gender option is increasingly recognised in more informal ways (including in the last UK census).

If you are trans and want to change your name and/or gender marker with organisations or on your official documents, you can do so without having undertaken medical steps, such as hormones or surgery, to transition.

You can also change your name and gender marker on most of your official documents relatively straightforwardly in practice, although will need a Gender Recognition Certificate if you wish to change your birth certificate.

Changing your name

No formal process is required to change your name or title under English law (anyone can begin calling themselves a new name whenever they wish), but in practical terms most organisations will require a document confirming a name change in order to update your records (for example with your bank, local council or GP).

A deed poll is the most well known document used to do this. This a written document in which you declare that you are abandoning use of your former name and will, from the date of the deed poll, adopt your new name. A change of name deed (or deed poll) must be signed in the presence of one or more independent adult witnesses. If you wish, it is also possible to “enrol” your deed poll at the Royal Courts of Justice so that copies can be retrieved in future from a public record, and your old and new names are connected. However, this requires payment of a fee and the publication of your former name in the London Gazette, and many trans people prefer to minimise public records of their former name.

The other document which is sometimes used evidence of a change of name is a statutory declaration. This is a written document which includes a specific form of words confirming that you have abandoned your former name and will require others to address you by your new name going forward. Instead of your signature being witnessed by an ordinary adult, statutory declarations must be declared to and countersigned by a “commissioner for oaths” (such as a solicitor).

It is always sensible to ask for several “certified copies” of your deed poll or statutory declaration, or to create multiple originals so that you can send them away to different organisations simultaneously and there is less risk of your document being lost in the post.

Transgender and non-binary children can also change their names. If all parents with parental responsibility agree, documents can be signed with their consent; if not it may be necessary to get a court order.  Find out more about the family court and applications relating to trans children

Changing your name and gender marker on your passport

In order to change the gender marker on your passport you will need to complete an application form and submit a copy of your name change document, a letter from a doctor confirming that your gender change is likely to be permanent, and proof that you are using your new name (such as a utility bill). The Post Office offers a “Check and Send” service, which can be useful to ensure that everything is in order before you send off the application and pay the fee.  

Changing your name and gender on your driving licence

Driving licences contain two subtle gender indicators: one is the title (omitted for men) and the other is in the form of the seventh and eighth characters of the licence number (for men these two digits reflect the birth month, such as “04” for April, and for women the seventh digit is replaced with a “5”). You can ask the DVLA to change this for you by sending the relevant application form to the DVLA, along with a copy of your name change document. Name changes are free, but there is a small charge to update photographs.  

Changing your name and gender marker on your NHS records

When you change gender with the NHS you are given a new NHS number and are registered as a “new” patient at your GP practice. The information from your old record is copied across from your original medical record, but leaving out information which relates to your previous identity. Your GP will then update Primary Care Support England to inform them of the change.  If your medical records are being changed from male to female, PCSE will contact your GP practice to confirm that you do not have a cervix. If your medical records are being changed from female to male, cervical screening becomes the responsibility of your GP practice.

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