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Sacklow v. Betts

Sacklow v. Betts (J. Silva, Middlesex) - This trial court decision was published this week. It involves parents who initially disagreed about whether a 17 year old could have a name change from Veronica to Trevor. The youth had been transitioning with medical assistance from female to male for a period of about 5 years and had used the name Trevor since the age of 12 (by everyone except is his father, step-mother, and step-siblings). Although the father consented to the name change at the conclusion of the youth’s testimony, the parents asked the judge to go forward with the adjudication of whether the name change is in the best interest of the child. Judge Silva considered the factors articulated in both the Gubernat and Emma decisions of the Supreme Court as well as public policy permitting name change to transgender individuals regardless of whether they have undergone surgical procedures. The judge articulated a set of factors for consideration of a name change to a transgender youth. Those factors include: 1)the age of the child; 2) history of the child’s use of the proposed name; 3) negative consequences of not being granted the name change (anxiety, embarrassment, discomfort); 4) history medical or mental health treatment (for gender dysphoria); 5) name child is known by in the family and community; 6) child’s preference and motivations; 7) consent of both parents consent – or reason for withholding consent.

Comment: This decision treats the transition of a transgender youth with respect and dignity.  It makes numerous references to literature on the difficulties faced by transgender youth in terms of risks of bullying and violence.  The factors raise a few questions, such as how age will be used.  In this case the youth was 17, so it is easy to say, he can do this on his own in a few months anyway.  But, many children are being diagnosed and treated for gender dysphoria in early elementary school, will age be used to deny a name change?

See the National Center for Transgender Equality New Jersey ID Document Center page for more information on the legal standards in NJ for changing name and gender markers on formal identification.