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What do we call transgender person in our documents?

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What do we call transgender person in our documents?

I am the secretary of a nonprofit group. We have a transgender person on our board who would like to use their new name (which isn't legally registered) on all documents. Is this acceptable or should I use their legally given name until the name has been legally changed? I know that the minutes of our meetings constitute a legal document. I'm concerned about the law in this matter.

I don’t think there is any clear legal requirement on this question.  I would recommend that you use the name the person uses and wants to be called.  Name changes are not unusual in our society.  If a woman marries and wants to be called by her “married name,” even though it is not a “legally registered” name or a legally required name, most people don’t have any problem calling her what she wants to be called.  If she doesn’t want to “change” her name, most people don’t have a problem calling her by her name before the marriage. If the couple wants to use a hyphenated name, no problem.  If a woman gets divorced and wants to be called by her pre-marriage name, even if that is not a part of a divorce decree, most people have no problem going back to using the pre-marriage name.  Name changes may take a little time to get used to, but most people accept and use the name the person uses.

Transgender issues often evoke a much greater emotional reaction than these marriage or divorce situations, but I think you ought to react the same way.  Use the name the person wants you to use.  As long as you use it consistently, your minutes will be fine and everyone will know who you are talking about.  And your board colleague will feel significantly more accepted and respected. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015


Very well said!!! I’ve been getting your emails for many years and alway find them helpful. I’m a healthcare attorney with mostly non-profit hospital clients.  I don’t specialize necessarily in the nonprofit law aspects of my clients’ businesses; focusing instead on fraud and abuse, peer review and transactional matters. But I wanted particularly to laud your sensitive, reasonable and well-articulated answer to this one.  People sometimes just need to be reminded that a particular situation that seems very strange is really not much different from many other life issues.  

Well said.
A voice of practicality, logic, and tolerance all combined.

This was beautifully answered.

Another point to add that supports this approach is that in some states people may legally change their names through usage and without having to go through a formal legal process. They may simply declare their name change and begin to use their new name. As long as they are not trying to change their name to perpetrate a fraud, that may be all that needs to be done, and so your board member may have already legally changed his or her name. Often financial institutions and other companies will require a court decree in order to change the name on an account but this is a policy or procedural requirement of such companies/institutions, rather than a legal requirement.

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