Legal Name Change in IL: Some Tips

So, last week I* went to the Daley center and filed some papers and paid a whole lot of money** to get a court date to have my name legally changed.

In Illinois, there are multiple legal-type forms to fill out, multiple steps to take, and the whole process is a little intimidating.  I’m a baby, and so I would have been pretty scared if it wasn’t for…drumroll please….The Transformative Justice Law Project of Illinois!

Yeah, for real: the last Friday of every month, there are FREE LAWYERS, courtesy of TJLP, hanging out in the Daley Center, just waiting to fill out all my paperwork and help me file it for free.


Well, I still had to pay the ridiculous filing costs, to the tune of multiple hundreds of dollars  (for both modesty and clarity sake, see the specifics here).  So if you have lived in Illinois for at least the last six consecutive months, and want to change your name for trans reasons, check this out!

My lawyer, Elizabeth (big thanks to her!), was really friendly: basically she just asked me all the necessary questions (name, SSN, felony status, birthdate, etc), filled out the forms for me, took me up to the counter to do all the filing, took me over to the other counter to publish the change, and all I had to do was shell out the dough.  Ouch.  It burns me up a bit that it costs straight people Target cashier money to change their name when they get married, but it costs me stripper weekend money to change mine to what it should have been in the first place.

Cest la vie.

So my court date is at the end of August, where I will appear and will hopefully have a judge that’s cool with it.  Elizabeth says some judges are hostile: in that case I would ask for a continuance and get another date with a different judge.  She also said some judges are great, and get a boner just thinking about how awesome they are to be so benevolent and understanding of our weird tranny shit.  I just hope mine is over it and bored and says, “whatever you want kid,” and signs my papers.   The best part is that I won’t be alone: TJLP will have a lawyer there waiting to go in with me, and if they notice trouble, will let me know.  I have never been in a court room, and am not sure I would know the difference between a hostile judge and a stuffy one.  I’m glad they are there to help us poor trans folks in Illinois.  I hope other states have similar organizations.

Happy 4th friends!

Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli

* Actually, it was me and K.

**Actually, I could not have paid these fees without a generous grant from my fiancee.


12 thoughts on “Legal Name Change in IL: Some Tips

  1. Firstly: Awesome! Congrats!!
    But secondly: why does this all sound like unnecessary and unfair bullshit? I personally know two men who changed their names because… well, for “artistic reasons” (read: shits and giggles) or something similar. I honestly don’t know the specifics in each case, but I do know it was just because they wanted a new name and it had nothing to do with trans
    or queer lifestyles. And the thing is, as far as I know, they didn’t have to go through this bullshit or these kinds of fees. I can ask one of them tomorrow; the other I don’t keep in contact with. If I am correct in how I remember their name-changing stories, I’m going to be furious, and even more confused. Do you know anything about stories like that? Or why that would be? Does it have to do with the birth certificate thing? (Also, is that optional, and if so, are you changing
    your birth certificate?)

    • Marie,

      First: Thanks.
      Second: Why? Because it is bogus. It is transphobic, but also I believe it is so because the state doesn’t want people changing their names to evade debts they may owe, and that, I think, is fair. And no, I don’t know anything about other people’s reasons or stories about cis- folks changing their names.

      Once I get my name change granted, from there I’ll consider what to do with my birth certificate. Likely I will change it. Right now I just want, first, for my state ID and employer to record my correct name. From there it is a giant shitstorm of going from one place to another, all the places I have had interactions with, and updating my name, which likely will take years to get right. And some places may never get it right. See my buddy Transman’s blog for myriad posts about the irritation it can be to update your identity with the world after having lived in it for at least three decades. You could start here, if so inclined:


      • E,
        Sorry, I think perhaps I didn’t make myself clear – what I was trying to say is that I know two people who have changed their names without all of this trouble, but they weren’t doing it for gender reasons: One you would recognize… he changed his name from something like “Joe Shmoe” to “Saint Joe”. Why? Because he felt like it. The other was a less obnoxious choice, and just from one regular dude name to another. Neither of them had to pay any exorbitant fees or any of the other stuff, to my knowledge. I was asking if you might know why that would be? Because it seems extremely wrong and unbalanced to me (but that would
        be nothing new for our legal system, I suppose.)

      • P.S. It seems maybe I also misunderstood stuff about your reply until I re-read it? I apologize, I just woke up. Anyway, what this post-script was really about us that I do know a little bit about what a pain it is to have changed your name (twice) and have the world not cooperate. I STILL get mail, phone calls, etc with the last
        name McCarty. I can’t even imagine how much harder that might be for a trans person or anyone who had changed their full name.

      • Marie,

        And I apologize if my response came off as curt: I was heading out to the gym when I saw your response and just wanted to give you a quick reply.

        I don’t know why I have to pay so much, but I do believe it is the same for cis and trans people: if you change your first name, you pay a lot so the gov’t can keep track of you. If you get married you pay a little, because straight people rock. 🙂

  2. I did the whole legal schmear last year, and still have a few little things left to do. In New York City it is pretty easy, probably because of all the immigration. You can fill out your forms on-line with a little video to walk you through it and then print them out on the official forms (still took me 4 tries before I had it all correct) and then it is just wait in line, pay, come back, wait for your court date, wait in line, pay, etc. The good thing is that in the end everyone gets seen by the “name change judge” and all he cared about was that you weren’t trying to change your name to get out of paying your debts or avoid jail.

    The other people waiting for name changes were divided up between divorced women changing their name back (they had to pay full price), immigrants Americanizing their names, children of immigrants re-ethnicizing their names, and a handful of various and sundry trans* people. Everyone got rubber stamped. My personal highlight was the Court Office calling out the names to get their papers “Mr Hom?”, “Ms. Smith?” and when he got to mine it was “Jamie Bauer?” he couldn’t figure it out and everyone laughed.

    Good luck with your court date in August. In NYC the Sylvia Rivera Law Project assists in name changes – important if you have an arrest record or other potenital hurdles to get over.

    • Jamie,

      I’m so glad to hear (and not surprised at all) that NYC has a good organization in place to help folks out. It sounds like the process there is similar to the one here: there is an online tutorial, lots of forms, and without the TJLP help, I probably would have taken a few tries to get it right.

      It’s cool that they have a specific “name change judge;” and yes, makes good sense considering all the immigration.

      I think (the rest of) my process will be uneventful, and I am glad for that.


  3. Its expensive in Canada too, but we don’t need to go in front of a judge (huge bonus). My spouse and I legally changed our names a while back, and it involved finger-printing and criminal record check (mostly to make sure your record follows you), and then a nightmare of updating ID cards. Fortunately birth certificates and marriage certificates are all run by the same agency that changes your name, so that part was included in the fees, but then getting a new social insurance card, and driver’s license, etc, all cost extra.

    • Thomas,

      Wow, no judge–that is huge.

      I would think the fingerprinting thing would be done here too, but nope–just the judge instead I suppose. And yes, after I get the ok to change it, my name will have to be changed separately on my social security card, birth certificate, state id (I don’t have a driver’s license), etc. And all that costs separate fees.

      Ugh. But ultimately, worth it. 🙂


      • Yup. And changing gender marker just needs a letter from an approved gender specialist to get your drivers updated. With that in hand, it opens the doors to update gender on most other ID’s.
        The more I read online, the happier I am to be in Canada 😉

  4. Here in Washington you also have to pay obnoxious fees (something like $200-ish), and see a judge. When I had my court date to change mine, I was ultra nervous, did NOT have an awesome free lawyer, and was nervous as hell about getting a hostile judge and having to explain things. Apparently my judge was out of fucks for the day though, because they just signed off on it in their quarters without even seeing me. Someone called me by my new name, handed me papers, and directed me to go shell out my cash.

    Also, love Target cashier money vs. weekend stripper money.

    • 200? Oh I wish! But hundreds of dollars is hundreds, no matter what. And hopefully my judge will also “be out of fucks” for the day and sign my little request in his private club house or whatever. I’m confident it will all work out in the end; I just don’t know how long it will take to get to that end. 🙂


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