Introductory Primer to Name and Gender Marker Changes in Ontario

  • November 17, 2023
  • Amy Chen (she/her), Rachel Allen (she/her)

Important Note: This article does not contain legal advice. This article is only meant to provide a basic starting point for lawyers looking to include gender marker and name changes on provincial identification into their practice.


Lawyers have become increasingly interested in participating in “Trans ID” clinics. Trans ID clinics are intended to assist individuals with changing their name and gender markers on their identification. Ontario’s stated policy is to recognize and respect trans identities in Ontario, ensuring all Ontario residents can access identification matching their identity.[1] Individuals may apply through the Ontario government to change the markers on their birth certificate (if born in Ontario), drivers’ license, OHIP health card, and photo card. Documents such as passports, immigration documents, and Certificate of Indian Status are under the purview of the federal government and requires different processes.

While individuals should theoretically be able to go through these applications alone, in practice, those looking to change their name and gender markers often face hurdles that cannot be navigated without lawyers. Each application has detailed requirements and could take months to process. While lawyers are technically only required for certain parts of the application, lawyers who assist Trans ID clinic clients are often entrusted with a high degree of responsibility. A lawyer’s role can go beyond facilitating the necessary forms and affidavits – lawyers should be prepared to explain potential consequences and setbacks that may arise during, or as a result of, the complicated processes.

Trans ID clinics generally have a focus on working with trans individuals experiencing poverty and/or housing insecurity. Given the high costs of each application, lawyers must be sensitive to their client’s socioeconomic situation. In many cases, clients who most need a lawyer are those who are missing crucial documentation and in the most financial need. are missing crucial documentation, and who are in the most financial need, are those who most need the help of a lawyer.

Name Changes

Name changes can be done in Ontario without the consent of a legal guardian for individuals who are 16 years of age or older.  Individuals must have lived in Ontario for the past twelve months prior to changing their name on provincial documentation. A change of name application currently costs $137.[2]

A name change application’s complexity depends on the presence or absence of certain factors, including whether the client: is under 17 years old; was born in Ontario; was born in Canada; has all previously issued original copies of their birth certificate; has changed their name in the past; has previous criminal convictions; or has a guarantor from an enumerated list of professions who can attest to whether the client has lived in Ontario for the past twelve months.

Lawyers must become involved at the final stages of the change of name application by commissioning it for the client. Lawyers can, however, take certain steps throughout the process to assist and ameliorate the stress of the applications. If the client is unable to access information or documents that are required for the change of name application, lawyers can provide support by helping the client swear or affirm an affidavit to attest to their circumstances. For instance, a client may swear or affirm an affidavit attesting that they cannot access certain documents because they are not in contact with their birth parents. 

Lawyers should alert clients that the Ontario Gazette will automatically post name changes. Trans individuals can request that their name change not be announced in the Gazette, but they must do so when filing their application.

Once a name change is complete, lawyers may also assist their client with changing their names on other types of identifications and in other databases. In particular, lawyers should be aware that the Canadian Revenue Agency must be alerted of the name change through an original copy or a notarized and certified true copy of the change of name certificate. Likewise, clients should update their Social Insurance Number record after a name change.