If you are a trans person in the province on Ontario, I’ve provided a checklist at the end if you’re actually looking for help changing your name. The body of this post is going to largely be more narrative, and hopefully maybe even a little bit funny. So if you’re here ’cause you’re confused and want some facts–scroll wayyyyy down. Otherwise, strap yourself in, pour yourself a cup of coffee, and get ready for some cringe-worthy bureaucratic garbage.

  1. Spend at least six months agonizing over whether or not you really want to do this. Like, have you, the person who is best equipped to fully know and autonomously decide for themselves, really thought about this issue? Do you, the person who is going to have to live with this for the rest of your life, really want to change your name? Have you thought about how upset it’s going to make your family? Geez, do you ever think of anyone except yourself? How is this supposed to make other people feel?!
  2. Decide that it’s really nobody else’s damn business and you’re going to change your name to reflect the person you are, regardless of how upset it makes that one aunt who, until you came out as trans, couldn’t actually care less what you did with your time, except now she’s suddenly very interested in you and your future and your hypothetical job/partner/future children/choice of vacation destinations.
  3. Take a few deep breaths and prepare yourself for a bureaucractic nightmare.
  4. Download this form.
  5. In order to continue with the form, you will need a pen with blue or black ink, a cheque/credit card information in the amount of $137, and iron-clad determination because holy crap this process is long.
  6. Take another sip of your coffee and verify that you are indeed older than sixteen and that you have lived in Ontario for the past twelve months (as though you couldn’t more or less drive for twelve months and still be in this god-forsaken place)
  7. Marvel at our modern technology and begin filling out the 15 pages of form using your computer. You can also print it out and fill it in by hand, but penmanship is a dead art and the last thing you need is the Ontario government to mail you a misspelled name certificate because your ‘e’s are indistinguishable from your ‘a’s.
  8. Become so anxious that you forget your father’s middle name (why do they even NEED his middle name??) and take a break to play Robot Unicorn Attack until you calm down.
  9. Remember that your father’s middle name is your grandfather’s given name, as it has been in through generations of your incredibly-Britishly-named family since the dawn of time.
  10. Having dealt with this crisis, turn the page and immediately plunge into existential despair as the Government of Ontario asks you why you want to change your name.
  11. Contact your friends who have been through this before and be assured that the box is just a formality, write that you want to change your name for personal reasons, its not a big deal.
  12. Because you are pretentious and verbose, write, “I feel that my birth name does not reflect my identity and I would like to change it to something that better reflects the person I am.”
  13. Satisfied with your vaguely poetic description of yourself, continue boldly on with the form.
  14. Reassure yourself that, given that you don’t really understand most of the things in the next three pages, it is extremely unlikely that they apply to you.
  15. Look them up anyway and get sidetracked in the minutia of financial obligations to Ontario Court Orders.
  16. Finally get back on track and feel incredibly relieved that you are not married, as it will save you quite a lot of time and energy waiting for the government to inform your spouse that you are indeed changing your name and that yes, they were aware of that, as though the low but constant scream of anguish from the hypothetical bedroom as you try to figure out the legalese of all this forms could possibly have been, hypothetically, ignored.
  17. Find a guarantor.
  18. Did you think it was that simple? Of course not.
  19. Pour over the requirements of guarantors.
  20. Release that, as an adult living in the 21st century, it is incredibly unlikely that you can find a legal guarantor in your city who can honestly answer the questions required of them (most specifically, one particular question: How long has applicant lived in Ontario?)
  21. (Like seriously, how many people know a judge, the chief of a Native band, a priest, or a justice of the peace, who has known you your entire residency in Ontario? In my case–my entire life? In what official capacity would most of those people know such a personal detail about your life?)
  22. Set up an appointment with your parish priest and tell him how long you’ve lived in Ontario so that he can answer that question on the form and sign off that you’ve lived in Ontario your entire life.
  23. Print out the rest of the form as soon as you’ve finished filling out all the applicable parts.
  24. Print out a separate application form to keep the government from publishing your name change on the internet where everyone can see it until our sun dies or Skynet goes up and the internet finally falls.
    (No, seriously. You actually need to ask them not to publish that.)
  25. Check once, twice, three times, four times that you’ve completed everything in the application. Put the completed application as well as your original birth certificate in an Xpresspost envelope purchased for the occasion.
  26. Add a cheque for $137, because bureaucracy is nothing if not bizarrely specific and frankly, completely random.
  27. Promptly become overwhelmed with anxiety and let the whole thing sit on your desk for another two weeks.
  28. One sunny day in July, get out of bed and decide suddenly that today is the day and check the contents of your Xpress post envelope one more time.
  29. Take your envelope downtown, carrying it as though it’s made of glass.
  30. Wait in line with a bunch of people getting their driver’s licenses/health cards/boring government identification renewed.
  31. When called, hand your paperwork to a friendly and effeminate city worker with a shaved head and a nametag that says Michael.
  32. Bite your tongue almost clean in half when Michael quips, “Oh, one of these, eh? These always get sent back for mistakes.”
  33. After Michael has given your application a cursory glance, place your hand on the stack of paper and your birth certificate (no, really).
  34. Listen to Michael as he asks you if everything in this application process is, to the best of your knowledge, true and accurate.
  35. Awkwardly reply, “I, uh, I so swear,” because it feels official.
  36. Wait while Michael walks behind a partition and returns with a stamp, then pay the Government of Ontario forty dollars for the privilege of having a stranger stamp your paperwork with a claim that you weren’t lying.
  37. Re-evaluate the earlier moment of “I so swear” and decide that, no, that process was ridiculous, in fact this whole thing is ridiculous, and actually it’s vaguely insulting that you need to pay the government $40 to back up an essentially worthless statement that you are not lying on this paperwork, as if your statement will keep them from verifying everything on it anyway, a process which apparently costs them an additional $137.
  38. Walk to the nearest post office, though you could just put it in a mailbox, and collect your receipt and tracking number from the post person. Tap your fingers against your jeans to get rid of the bit of adhesive you got on your fingers shutting the envelope.
  39. Leave the post office in an okay state but veer into the Starbucks on the next block because guess what, you’re crying about this in public.
  40. Buy yourself the seasonal shaken tea thingy and sit outside scrolling through Instagram until your knees stop shaking.namechange2
  41. Go home and wait.
  42. Wait.
  43. Keep waiting.
  44. Boil water for tea.
  45. Wait.
  46. Try to go about your life like a regular person.
  47. Wait.
  48. Have bad brain days, and buy yourself a new pair of men’s jeans.
  49. Wait.
  50. tattoo1Finish the half-sleeve on your right shoulder, and cry when you realize the artistic freedom you gave your tattooist unknowingly resulted in two birds the same colour as the genderqueer pride flag.
  51. Four weeks into the six-to-eight-week window of document processing, get a letter in the mail from Thunder Bay.
  52. Promptly lose your shit in the dingy foyer of your walk-up apartment and run upstairs, heart pounding.
  53. Do not initially notice that this envelope is still addressed to your old name.
  54. Rip open the envelope, which is bigger than you expected–
  55. Do not even have time to finish the wondering as your original application falls onto your kitchen table, and, as you’ve probably guessed, it’s not because they returned it to you for posterity.
  56. Read the unarguably awful note, handwritten by some arm of the bureaucracy, which reads:
    It is not apparent that applicant is transgender. Please note that all name changes are published [here something is scribbled out] UnLess the applicant is transgender.
  57. Flip through the application and note that they returned your cheque, which was nice of them, except they also didn’t do you the courtesy of returning your goddamn birth certificate
  58. Try very, very hard to keep yourself from panicking as you read another administrative note that, despite the fact that your application was rejected, your birth certificate was still destroyed and you no longer have the single most important piece of identification issued by your government.
  59. When the shock wears off, go to bed.
  60. Even though it’s two o’clock in the afternoon, go to bed.
  61. Quietly wish that Michael from the city commissioners office steps on a really sharp piece of lego.
  62. Stay in bed for two days and brood about how dark the world seems.
  63. Two pieces of lego. Quietly wish that Michael from the city commissioner’s office steps on two pieces of sharp lego.
  64. sad1.png

    sometimes, this is what depression looks like


  65. In a haze, print out the seventeenth page of the application again and, biting your cheek to keep from being snarky, write
  66. I would like to change my name because I am transgender.
  67. Put everything into another Xpresspost envelope.
  68. Make an appointment with your doctor.
  69. Upon seeing your doctor, explain the bureaucractic garbage that you have been through and ask her to write you a letter, as your doctor, attesting to your trans-ness.
  70. Take the letter from her on the way out of the office.
  71. Return home and double check the contents of the Xpresspost envelope.
  72. Realize your doctor’s note uses the wrong pronouns and punch the wall in frustration.
  73. Count to one hundred. Slowly.
  74. Decide that fuck it, the office won’t understand that’s wrong anyway, and mail the whole thing off.
  75. namechange1.png

    the eyes of a person who is not taking bureaucracy particularly well

  76. Wait seven weeks.
  77. Start another semester of school. Continue working. Despite intense feelings of detachment, of being in government-induced stasis, do your best to meet earthly deadlines and conform to corporeal requests.
  78. Begin to hope (though you hate yourself for it) that maybe the forms will come back in time for your birthday.
  79. Continue your schoolwork, your work requirements, your social requirements.
  80. Negotiate a religious observance of your name change that will, in a personal sense, be much more important than those stupid pieces of paper you have cried for.
  81. Begin to wonder if they’ve lost it.
  82. See that they’ve cashed the cheque you mailed them and briefly become consumed with light and wonder that maybe this will actually be okay
  83. Immediate spiral back down off that cloud through a coal chute of anxiety and wonder if it’s possible for them to charge you for the changes and still have problems with the application.
  84. Call your incredibly patient partner a few nights before your birthday and wonder audibly if they’ve lost it and how you could follow up.
  85. Find yourself in tears for the twelveteenth time over this stupid issue when he says, so casually, “Well, it’s just a formality anyway, you know what your name is,” as if that’s a perfectly reasonable thing for someone to say, which it is, but also it isn’t, because as this entire process has attested over and over again, it is apparently not a reasonable thing for someone to recognize your identity properly
  86. Go downstairs the day before your birthday, on your way out to buy stamps, and stop at the mailbox. Lock you feelings behind a mental steel door and don’t allow yourself to hope that it came today, the last mail service day before your 23rd birthday.
  87. Pull two envelopes out of your mail slot, addressed to your legal name and briefly, sluggishly, wonder if they’re still chasing you about mistakes on your student income tax last year, or if OSAP is just kindly reminding you how in debt you are.

A sample of the new birth certificates.

Those of you who have read my other post on this topic know how this ends: one of those envelopes held a Certificate of Name Change and the other held a brand new (and kind of surreal-feeling) polymer birth certificate. For the record, it didn’t smell like maple syrup. It didn’t smell like victory, either. It didn’t smell like anything at all.

In the end, the two half-sheets of paper that I had waited a total of eleven weeks for and spent more than four months caught in bureaucratic cogs for cost me nearly $200 and came addressed to a name that was no longer legally my own. This didn’t surprise me in the slightest.

And while the changing of my name was an important milestone, it also isn’t the end. I’m now in the process of informing different various government agencies of my name change. I am responsible for contacting different provincial and federal agencies to change my name. *I* need to replace all my identification. I need to go to my banks. To my school. Negotiate a change of name with my payroll. Tell Elections Canada who will be voting next time an election comes.

And it may never be over. A dear friend of mine, who had informed all these agencies of her name change, still needed to bring her new birth certificate to the recent federal election to vote, because even though Elections Canada had confirmed her name change, at the polling station it still said her old name.

I don’t live in a country where any of my identification reflects the proper gender marker. I still spend most of my time being “she“d in social settings. At coffee shops. In classes. Even people that love me. Even people that never forget how I identify, I still get yeah she’ll be there later or That’s her–er, sorry —

That said, I’m still grateful. It’s not everything.

But, it’s still something.

Checklist for (First Time) Name Change in the Province of Ontario:

  • Original birth certificate. The government requires this to issue you a new certificate. If you do not have this, click here for info on how to replace it. This will cost you $35 dollars.
  • Application to change an adult’s name. This is the actual form you need to get your name legally changed. Click here to download the form. This will cost you $137 dollars.
    • Signed Guarantor’s Statement. This is part of the application where someone “guarantees” that you have lived in Ontario for at least the past twelve months. Read the form carefully; not everyone can be a legal guarantor. 
    • Statutory Declaration Form. This is the part of the application that you need stamped by a public notary. This will cost you $40, unless you can find a local LGBTQ-supportive organization that will waive the fee for you. If you’re in postsecondary education, check with your Pride organization. Alternatively, here’s another organization that helps with this in downtown Toronto.
  • Request for Non-Publication in the Ontario Gazette. This is the part that will help protect you from having your dead name published where anyone could see it for the rest of your life (!!). Click here to download the form.
  • An Xpresspost Letter Envelope. This isn’t required, but given that you have to send your birth certificate through our notoriously unreliable postal system, I’d highly recommend sending it Xpress. This means you don’t have to pay for “registered” mail, but it’s guaranteed to be at the office for the next business day (Monday-Friday) and they give you a tracking number, so the letter can’t be lost. This will cost you about $13.00.

I’m putting together another list of places you need to contact to have your various IDs changed. That link will be here when it’s ready.