Chris Craig's Blog

6 Questions You Have About Transgender Rights in North Carolina

Over the last year, conversations around transgender rights in North Carolina have been occurring more frequently and amongst a greater audience. Attention has been largely focused on the controversial “Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act,” commonly known as HB2 or the bathroom bill—and it has opened the door for confusion and fear around the legal rights of transgender individuals in our state.

To help clear a few things up, we are answering some of the most common questions we receive.

What is the North Carolina bathroom bill?

The Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, signed into law by former Governor Pat McCrory, states that individuals in government buildings can only use bathrooms that correspond to the sex listed on their birth certificates. The reason this law is so concerning is that it directly infringes on the rights of transgender individuals who have not yet had, or have chosen not to have, gender affirmation surgery, and who thus have not obtained an amended birth certificate.

In March 2017, sitting Governor Roy Cooper signed legislation to partially repeal HB2 and remove the restrictions on bathroom use by transgender men and women, while leaving most of the rest of the act in place.

Which bathroom can I safely use as a transgender person?

While North Carolina HB2 specifically focuses on government buildings, and the transgender bathroom use restrictions contained in it were repealed in March 2017, many transgender individuals still feel nervous going into public bathrooms in North Carolina for fear of being confronted or even attacked.

While you do once again have the legal right to use the restroom matching your gender identity, sadly, it’s still important to gauge your specific surroundings to judge whether or not you’ll be able to use a business’s bathroom without comment or harassment. If you prefer to be cautious or plan ahead, consider checking out the Safe Bathrooms Map, created by Emily Waggoner to highlight North Carolina businesses that have publicly stated their bathrooms are safe for all.

Can I change my gender on my birth certificate in NC?

In short, yes. However, North Carolina requires certain conditions be met and proof furnished to change your gender on your birth certificate or driver’s license. It is important to note that, currently, North Carolina will only issue a gender change on your birth certificate or driver’s license if you have completed “gender reassignment” surgery.

To change your name and gender on your birth certificate, you must submit a written request to the North Carolina state registrar that is accompanied by proof of your transition. Here is what is needed:

  • Handwritten request that lists the changes you would like to be made to your birth certificate;
  • Completed section 2 of the Application for a Birth Certificate, filling out the “other” section as “gender change”;
  • If you have changed your name, you must include a certified copy of the court ordered name change;
  • A notarized letter from your physician stating that you have completed surgical gender affirmation procedures or a certified copy of a court ordered gender change;
  • A check to cover the applicable fees for name change, gender change, and issuance of new birth certificate; the fees are listed on the application.  

Once these conditions have been met, you will be issued a new birth certificate.

Changing your name on your driver’s license only requires that you’ve legally changed your name with the Social Security Administration (SSA) prior and that the name you request perfectly matches the name used by the SSA. Documented proof from the courts or Register of Deeds that the name change was officially accomplished is required to complete a name change on your driver’s license.

To change your gender on your driver’s license, you must furnish a notarized letter from your physician stating that you have completed surgical gender affirmation procedures or a certified copy of a court ordered gender change.

How do I legally change my name?

In North Carolina, you must petition the court to change your name and follow a specific filing process. This process can take a while and does include a fair amount of paperwork.

The process begins when you fill out the Notice of Intent to File Name Change form and submit it to the Clerk of Court. This Notice of Intent will be posted in the courthouse for 10 consecutive days.

While you are waiting, there are a few additional items you need to obtain before you can move forward. First, you’ll need to have your fingerprints taken at the Sheriff’s Department, which will need to be submitted with your request for background checks.

Next, you will need to obtain a copy of your criminal history record through the State Bureau of Investigations (SBI) and request your criminal record check, also known as an Identity History Summary Check, from the FBI.

After your notice has been up for the full 10 days, find the posting (check with your local courthouse) and take it to the Clerk of Court with the following documents:

  • Your SBI & FBI criminal record check summaries;
  • Notarized Petition for Name Change;
  • Two notarized Affidavits of Character from residents of your county who are not related to you;
  • Notarized Affidavit Regarding Outstanding Tax or Child Support Obligation;
  • Certified copy of your birth certificate;
  • Proof of identification, such as a driver’s license, state ID card, or passport;
  • Proof of residency, which may be any official documents with your name and current address (utilities bills, etc.);
  • Filing fee payment.

How does legally changing my name impact other legal documents?

Once you have obtained a legal name change, you will need to also change your name on both public and private records. This includes everything from your social security card and driver’s license to your medical information and car insurance. Here are a few examples of items to adjust and agencies you will need to notify of your name change:

  • Social Security card
  • Passport
  • Driver’s license
  • Post office / mailing address
  • IRS
  • Physicians
  • Voter registration
  • Personal and business bank accounts
  • Credit cards
  • Insurance companies
  • Retirement plans
  • State Tax Authority

You will also need to consider any estate planning documents you may have—such as your will, power of attorney, guardianship, healthcare directives, and trusts—to ensure that nothing becomes void when your name is changed.  The best way to ensure all of your bases are covered is to work closely with your estate planning attorney. If you’re in the Asheville or WNC area, our experienced estate planning attorneys can help you keep your documents up-to-date through all of life’s changes.

Will my ability to receive inheritance from my parents be affected by the name change on a birth certificate?

When you legally change your name on your birth certificate, you are not altering the legally recognized identity of your parents or your relationship to them. There is an official “paper trail” of your name change, which means that your rights to your inheritance are not invalidated.

If you have any questions about your rights of inheritance, your best option is to speak to your attorney or the attorney who prepared your parents’ documents.

For additional questions, we recommend browsing Equality NC’s list of local LGBT organizations and advocacy groups. There are a number of resources available for support and information.

Asheville attorney Chris Craig and his team are available to help and support you as you consider the legal logistics of your transition. We have many years of experience working with the Asheville LGBTQ community, with a focus on estate planning, adoption, and family law. We would love to meet with you to discuss your needs and any questions you may have. Contact us today for more information.

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