Content warning: this Article discusses suicidality.

For transgender and some nonbinary youth, living under a chosen name is a first step toward becoming their authentic selves. For these youth, a name change is powerful; it allows them to choose a name that matches their gender identity. They consider their birth name to be a distressing “dead” name—one that they cannot relate to and need to bury.

Using one’s chosen name decreases suicidality among transgender youth who face many challenges, including family rejection and other severe mental health stressors. Transgender and nonbinary youth can only require others to use their chosen names after obtaining a legal name change. But only two states in the nation currently allow minors to change their name legally without their parents’ consent and active assistance. Parental consent requirements are problematic because youth whose parents do not support their gender identity must wait, exposed to harm and distress. Thus, we deny them this first step towards correcting their gender and the accompanying mental health relief—delaying youth who have otherwise transitioned years before adulthood.

In the meantime, with identification cards that do not match their gender identity, transgender and nonbinary youth are at risk of discrimination and other harm. They may drop out of school and avoid seeking employment for fear of bias and rejection. Our laws must change to protect our transgender and nonbinary youth by allowing them to change their legal name independently. Their mental health and well-being depend on these crucial reforms.