(San Diego) Assembly Bill 1121, authored by Assembly Majority Leader Toni Atkins, was passed by the California State Assembly today. The bill provides transgender people seeking legal name changes to reflect their gender identity with a streamlined and inexpensive process that protects their privacy. Current law requires a transgender person to obtain a court order and to publish the name change application in the newspaper. This process can be expensive and also publicly exposes the person to potential discrimination, harassment or even violence because of being transgender.

“Transgender people are entitled to have their official documents and their legal name reflect their true identity without a burdensome and expensive process that endangers their personal safety,” says Atkins.

Transgender people’s understanding of themselves as male or female is different from the sex they were assigned at birth. Medical science recognizes this condition as Gender Dysphoria and prescribes specific treatments to help the transgender person transition physically, so their bodies match their gender identity. This often includes surgery, medication, and mental health support. Being transgender is not a choice. A person’s gender identity is set at an early age and cannot be changed at will.

The transition to living in accord with one’s gender identity also involves a legal process because birth certificates and a person’s name usually reflect the sex they were assigned at birth. In California, a person seeking a court-ordered name change has to publish a notice in a newspaper for four weeks. They are also required to have a public hearing before a judge, the record of which is also public. The process is lengthy and can be expensive.

Forty-four percent of transgender people experience discrimination, harassment and assault. A public name change process heightens the likelihood of these occurring. AB 1121 allows the transgender person to avoid the public notice and court process by applying directly to the state Office of Vital Records for a name change.

AB 1121 is sponsored by Equality California and the Transgender Law Center. It will now move to the California State Senate for consideration.