This guide is designed to help transgender individuals understand their legal rights in Washington State. The current legal system assumes individuals identify as one gender, either male or female. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit became the first federal court to recognize that discrimination on the basis of transgender identity violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Supreme Court has not ruled on this issue, it is the ACLU’s position that the U. Constitution’s guarantee of equality protects individuals from being treated differently (i.e., discriminated against or mistreated) because of their gender expression or identity. Department of Justice has also filed a lawsuit against North Carolina asserting that a state law that requires public agencies to deny transgender people access to gender-segregated facilities based on their gender identity violates federal civil rights laws, including Title VII and Title IX.
While this guide provides an understanding of the current legal system, the ACLU recognizes that many people do not identify as male or female. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a lawsuit against North Carolina asserting that a state law that requires public agencies to deny transgender people access to gender-segregated facilities based on their gender identity violates federal civil rights laws, including Title VII and Title IX. Department of Education (ED) affirmed in 2014 that public and private schools receiving federal funding may not discriminate against transgender students. In this ruling the court stated that sex discrimination encompasses discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression. The First Amendment, which bars the government from censoring speech or expression, protects people’s right to dress (an important form of personal expression) in a way that is consistent with their gender identity. Department of Education issued a joint guidance letter reiterating that Title IX protects transgender people from discrimination and requires schools to allow transgender students to access sex-segregated facilities consistent with their gender identity. Additional support for the rights of transgender students in public schools to use restrooms consistent with their gender identity may be found in the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) guidelines to school districts.
A person may identify or express as a specific gender, both genders, or neither gender. Our state anti-discrimination law, known as the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD), clearly prohibits discrimination because of “gender expression or identity.” Charged with enforcing the WLAD, the Washington State Human Rights Commission (HRC) works to prevent and eliminate discrimination by investigating civil rights complaints and providing education and training opportunities throughout Washington. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has held that transgender people are protected from sexual harassment and discrimination based on their gender expression or identity under the federal Title IX law, which prohibits discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive federal funding. Several federal agencies have expanded protections for transgender people across the nation. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) declared in 2012 that housing discrimination based on gender nonconformity violates the federal Fair Housing Act and adopted regulations prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender expression or identity in federally funded housing programs. In May 2016, DOJ and ED issued a joint guidance letter reiterating that Title IX protects transgender people from discrimination. And the Due Process Clause recognizes and protects individuals’ interests in determining and expressing their gender through personal appearance and mannerisms. The WLAD specifically protects against discrimination in employment and places of public accommodation, including public schools, based on one’s gender expression or identity. These guidelines, which relate to the elimination of discrimination in public schools, state that school districts should allow students to use the restrooms consistent with their gender identity consistently asserted at school.
In addition, federal civil rights laws such as Title VII, which prohibits discrimination based on sex in employment, and Title IX, which prohibits discrimination based on sex in educational programs that receive federal funding, have been applied to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity. In 2014, DOJ also announced that Title VII protects people from discrimination based on gender identity, including transgender status. Federal agencies have determined that federal civil rights law protect a transgender person’s right to use restrooms and other gender-segregated facilities consistent with their gender identity. A federal appeals court has also held that schools that bar students from using gender identity-appropriate restrooms discriminate based on sex in violation of Title IX. Since provisions of the WLAD took effect in 2006, the nondiscrimination policies of Washington public schools have included gender expression and identity. Department of Education issued a joint guidance letter reiterating that Title IX protects transgender people from discrimination and requires schools to allow transgender students to access sex-segregated facilities consistent with their gender identity. It is the ACLU’s position that discrimination or harassment directed at transgender students in public schools may violate the Equal Protection Clause of the federal Constitution, under which we think schools should be held responsible for protecting transgender students from harassment on an equal basis with all other students; the First Amendment, which we think should protect the right of students to dress in accordance with their gender expression or identity; and the Due Process Clause, which we think should protect students’ liberty interest in their personal appearance. In Washington, any person over the age of 18 can choose and use any name they wish, as long as the purpose of the name change is not to commit fraud.
As defined in the WLAD, “gender expression or identity” means “having or being perceived as having a gender identity, self-image, appearance, behavior, or expression, whether or not that gender identity, self-image, appearance, behavior, or expression is different from that traditionally associated with the sex assigned to that person at birth.”  Under this definition, transgender individuals are protected by the WLAD from discrimination based on their transgender status. In 2010, the Washington Legislature passed a law requiring that public school policies protect transgender students from bullying and harassment. Through what is called a “common law name change,” a person may simply change their name by using a new name consistently and exclusively for all purposes. But because many government institutions require documentation proving that a valid name change has been made, it may not create the kind of paper trail needed to change important identification documents.
If you are being harassed, intimidated, or bullied in school, keep a record of each incident and report them to your principal or counselor. Department of Education determined that an Illinois school district violated the federal Title IX law by denying a transgender student access to a gender-appropriate locker room. The other way a person can change their name is by court order, which requires the filing of a Petition for Name Change by the requesting individual and the signing of an Order for Name Change by a judge.
To talk to someone outside of your school or to get more information on strategies to stop harassment, call the Safe Schools Coalition at 1-877-723-3723 or visit Additionally, the WLAD and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) require public school officials to allow transgender students to wear clothing that matches their gender identity (including at proms), call transgender students by the appropriate name and pronoun, provide transgender students with access to safe and appropriate restrooms and locker rooms (or appropriate alternative places in which to change for gym class), and accommodate transgender athletes. Department of Education clarified in 2014 that under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, public schools and private schools that receive federal funding may not discriminate against transgender students on the basis of their gender expression or identity. A federal appeals court has also held that schools that bar students from using gender identity-appropriate restrooms discriminate based on sex in violation of Title IX. While the process is uniform across Washington counties, counties may charge different fee amounts for a name change.
For transgender students participating in interscholastic athletics in public schools, OSPI regulations direct school districts to follow policies set forth by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA), which state that students should be allowed to participate in physical education and athletic activities in a manner that is consistent with their gender identity.  Low-income individuals, however, may qualify for a fee waiver.
An individual must contact the District Court in the county where they reside to obtain the needed forms for a name change.
After a Petition for Name Change has been filed, the court clerk will schedule a date when the person seeking the name change can appear before a judge or a court commissioner.
Most judges will allow a name change as long as they are convinced that the purpose of the change is not to evade debts or the authorities.
After the judge signs the Order, the individual must pay a recording fee to record the name change with the county auditor. To change the name on a birth certificate issued in Washington state, a person must submit to the Washington State Department of Health (DOH): (1) a copy of the current birth certificate; (2) a certified copy of a name change court order; (3) a completed Court Order Legal Name Change Request Form (available for download on the Washington DOH website); and (4) a letter from the requestor stating the following information, as listed on the current birth certificate: name, date of birth, place of birth, and names of parents, and contact information.
To change the gender marker on a birth certificate issued in Washington state, a person must submit the following documents to the Washington DOH: Name and gender marker changes may be requested together (a certified copy of a court-ordered name change is required in these cases).
To obtain certified copies of the amended birth certificate, a person must also submit a personal check or money order of for each certified copy, and either a completed Birth Certificate Mail Order Form or a certified copy of the birth certificate for replacement.