What is a “gender marker”?
The “male” (“M”) or “female” (“F”) on your birth certificate, ID, or passport is called a “gender marker.”
Why would someone want to change their gender marker?
When we are born, we are typically labelled as “male” or “female” according to what our bodies look like. For trans* people, the label they were given at birth (their “biological sex”) doesn’t fit with how they feel or identify (their “gender identity.”) Usually, we are assigned a gender marker according to our biological sex at birth.
This can be changed!
Imagine a baby named Riley has just been born. The doctor looks at Riley and says, “Riley has a penis. Riley is male.” The doctor has just identified Riley’s “sex.” Riley is given a birth certificate with a male gender marker. When Riley is older, Riley also gets an ID card from the MVA with a male gender marker.
Riley now realizes that even though Riley is biologically male, Riley identifies as female. Riley may (but not necessarily!) want to do traditionally “female’ things. Riley prefers to have friends and family treat her as female. Anyone who sees Riley identifies her as female.
Since Riley feels, acts, and looks female, she would like to change the gender marker on all of her documents from “male’ to “female.”
What does it mean to get a legal gender change?
Getting a legal gender change means that a court has given you a document that states that for all legal (official) purposes, you should be considered to be your preferred gender. If Riley, from the section above, got a legal gender change, the court would give Riley a document saying that Riley’s gender has been changed from male to female on her records. Schools, workplaces, and agencies like Social Security or the MVA now have to change their records to show that Riley is female.
Legal gender change is not necessarily the same thing as having surgery to change your gender.
A legal gender change just refers to how your gender appears on official documents. Someone could get gender reassignment surgery and never change their gender on their official documents. In some states, you can get a legal gender change without having had any surgeries to change your gender.
In Maryland, in order to get a legal gender change, you must have surgery related to your transition.
However, even if you can’t get a legal gender change, you can still change your gender marker on many of your official documents.
You are not required to have surgery, or to get a court order, to change your gender marker with the Social Security Administration, MVA, and U.S. passport office. Schools, employers, and other places that keep records might also agree to change your gender marker on their records at your request. (See below for more information about changing your gender marker on official documents.)