Please be aware that the following information is just a guide, not legal advice.
If you feel that you have been wrongfully denied a name or gender marker change contact GLAD or the RI Chapter of the ACLU for assistance.
If you are looking for guidance on Name and Gender Marker changes in other states or on federal documents, you can find a comprehensive resource here.
Rhode Island Name Change
This process is slightly different for each city/town, including cost. The reason is that some municipalities require public notice in a local newspaper and some do not.
You will generally have to complete the steps listed below:
Download, print out, and fill out this form.
There is a line on this form asking for reason for the name change with instructions to “be specific”. You do not have to disclose your gender identity or say that you are changing your sex to change your name. It is within your rights to answer with “preferred name” or “common usage”.
Be aware that this form and your answers will become part of public record.
Obtain a certified copy of your birth certificate.
If you were born in Rhode Island, you can get it from the Vital Records Office or through the Clerk’s Office in the city/town in which you were born.
If you were not born in Rhode Island, this can usually be done by mail by contacting your state's Vital Records Office or the Clerk's Office in the city or town in which you were born.
Get a BCI check.
It is recommended to go through the Attorney General’s office by following the instructions that are listed here. You might also be able to do this at your local Rhode Island police department.
It costs $5 for a state background check through the Attorney General's Office but they DO NOT take cash. If you go in person (recommended), you will need a credit/debit card. If you choose to do the BCI by mail, you will need a check or money order.
Some towns will include acquiring the BCI check as a part of their name change procedure and some require you to do it on your own. Be sure to ask the Probate Court in the city or town in which you reside. The cost should be the same either way.
Ask them for clear instructions for their legal name change process including all fees involved, acceptable payment methods and when probate court is in session. Some are only in session once a month, others 1-2 days a week.
You will typically need to bring them your paperwork prior to getting an appointment to go before the probate judge so they are sure it is all in order.
Appear before the Probate Judge.
You may want to bring a friend for support and as a witness.
When complete, be sure to get multiple copies of your name change document. You will need at least 2 copies to complete the other document changes. It is usually less expensive to get an extra copy while you are there than to have to go back again later.
It is also possible to take the one official copy, make photocopies and get the photocopies notarized as official/true copies of the original.
Name Change next steps
Once your name change is final, you'll want to get it changed on all of your other documents as soon as you can.
You should change it with Social Security first (if you are also planning to change your gender marker, its possible to change both at the same time. See the Gender Marker Change with Social Security section below) then wait 24 hours before going on to do your RI Driver’s Liscence/ID, car registration, US Passport, credit/debt cards, etc…
Don't forget about changing your health insurance! In most cases, you will need to update your insurance before you can update the name on your medical records. If you have insurance through the insurance exchange, you will have to change it with them first. A health insurance navigator may be able to help you with this process.
Name Change on Rhode Island Birth Certificate
You must submit to The Registrar of Vital Records a certified copy of the probate court order changing the name, including applicant’s name at birth, date and place of birth, and new name. You will receive an affidavit in the mail that must be signed in a notary’s presence. It is not clear if this is to be done at the main office, by mail or if you can do it at your local clerk's office. If you have more info about this please let us know.
Gender Marker Change with Social Security
Effective October 2022, you can self-select your sex on your Social Security record. You no longer need to provide medical or legal documentation of your sex designation. Currently, you can only select male or female as their systems are unable to include a non-binary or unspecified sex designation. However, they are exploring possible future policy and systems updates to support an "X" sex designation.
You will need to apply in person at your local Social Security office for a replacement SSN card in order to update your sex marker in your record. You will need to show a current unexpired document to prove your identity such as a passport, a state-issued driver's license, or a state-issued identity card, etc. Social Security will accept your self-identified sex designation even if it is different than the sex designation shown on identity documents.
Related Important Information
As of May 2012 it is no longer necessary to change your gender with social security before changing it on your RI driver’s license. You also do not have to do this to change it on your US passport.
In 2011, Social Security stopped the practice of sending “No Match” letters to employers when a person’s stated gender does not match the gender SSA has on file.
Gender Marker Change on Rhode Island Driver’s License or ID Card
In an effort to stream line this process the RI DMV updated this policy and created a form in May of 2012. Print out and complete the top section of this form the bottom half must be completed by a physician, licensed therapist or case/social worker. Follow the instructions listed on the form carefully.
Gender Marker Change on Rhode Island Birth Certificate
As of October 1, 2019, individuals may self-attest to change the sex on their birth certificate. The Health Department will create an affidavit that must be signed by the person whose birth certificate will change. Minors (under the age of 18) will need parental or guardian consent to do so. The affidavit is a written statement about the applicant's wishes to change their birth certificate. It will also be signed and notarized by a Health Department staff member.
Individuals will be able to choose to change their sex from 'M' to 'F' or 'F' to 'M'. There is now also a nonbinary 'X' option for those who identify as nonbinary.
From the Department of Health regarding choosing the nonbinary 'X' designation:
"If you choose to change the designation in the sex field of your birth certificate to 'X' the Rhode Island Department of Health cannot determine whether the 'X' designation will be accepted by any other city/town, state, quasi-public, or federal authority. Therefore, you should be aware that choosing the 'X' designation to reflect your identity may result in conflicts in how you are registered with different governmental agencies. These conflicts could have ramifications for you in the future that are unknown and impossible to predict, and will vary depending on your personal situation."
The new certificates will not be marked as amended on the gender marker line, but will be marked as amended on the name line if your name has been legally changed.
It costs $10 to update the certificate and $22 for a certified copy for walk-in customers or $25 if ordered through the mail.
They accept cash, check or money order if you go in person. And will only accept check or money order if you do it by mail. The check/money order should be made out to "General Treasurer, State of Rhode Island".
An appointment is needed if you are going to the Office of Vital Records in person to change the information on a RI Birth Certificate.