Many transgender people run into the problem of their name, whether it is on an application for a job, credit or even for opening a banking account. It becomes a problem when your gender presentation doesn't match your name. It makes you stick out, and not in a good way, bringing unwanted attention. So what do you do? You don't have a lot of money, and you have heard that name changes can be expensive.
I have heard the excuse, "I don't have a job right now," or, "They won't let me change my name. They will call me a freak or something." Many times I have heard this cry from the trans community. There are some states that will make it a headache for you to get this done, but it all boils down to how badly you want it. No one is stopping you but yourself.
The first thing is to do your own research. There are many resources you can find online that will explain your state's laws on name changes. You don't have to hire someone to do it for you all the time, either. This is what causes it to get expensive. Lawyers will charge you a good price for something that in many states you can do yourself.
You say you don't have a lot of money? That you cannot afford it? What if I told you that it can happen for under $50? You can do it, but you have to do the legwork. The system is there to work for you; you just have to be willing to apply yourself. In many states you can file as an indigent, meaning you are at a poverty level where you cannot afford the filing fees. This is one of the first ways to lower the costs besides doing this yourself without a lawyer.
I will explain to you how easy it is in the state where I live, North Carolina. I know not all states are as easy, but this information could help you live life more easily as yourself.
First off, go to your local courthouse. Ask them for the name-change packet. Some states have these ready; others will refer you to an online site to get them. As for North Carolina, there is a packet, but it just explains the process and what you must do. You just took the first step, and you spent no money on this.
So you take the packet home and read it over. It says you need background checks done, both federal and state. Now it's time to go to the sheriff's office. For $5 to $10, they will take your fingerprints and give you two copies to send off. From there you get a money order for the amount your state requires, and 18 for your federal check. Fill out the forms that are in the packet and send them in. Then it's a waiting game. This could take up to two months before you see the reports come back to you. During this time, make sure you go ahead and post your intentions of your name change on the bulletin board at the courthouse stating the date, your intentions and the name you wish to change to.
Once they get there, go file. But wait, you still want to say you have no money? This is where you tell the clerk you are indigent. They will give you a form to fill out. Fill this out accurately. Don't lie; they can find out and revoke it. Once you fill it out, hand it back to the clerk. They will look over it and decide right then and there. There's no cost if it's approved. Now tell her you wish to file for the change. In North Carolina, the clerk of the court can approve the name change, and you're done. However, if your state doesn't operate in this fashion, then you will have to wait till your court date.
You have just changed your name. This was not as hard as you thought, was it? That's right, it's not. Do not let the system intimidate you. Remember, the legal system is there to work for you just as much as the next person. Transgender individuals deserve to be able to have their name and gender identity match. The only person who is truly stopping you is you. It's time to be strong and do something to better your life for yourself in a way that you can control.