Transgender man's name change denied by judge

Posted at 10:41 PM, Mar 28, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-29 12:55:39-04

A transgender man's petition for a name change was denied by a judge who said he needed to provide a letter from his doctor.

The letter from the judge said the man's "petition for change of name indicates that you wish to change your name from the female gender to the male gender."

Dr. Billy Huff is an assistant professor at FGCU who began his transition from female to male in June.

Huff said for the 20 years, he's known he wasn't a Kimberly, so he decided to go to the Lee County Clerk of Courts to make it official.

"The time was right for me finally, at 40-years-old. I want to be recognized as masculine. "Kimberly" doesn't do that for me, and so it's really important that I have that name, and I'm who I am in language," Huff said.

Even though Huff was born female, he said he's never liked wearing dresses or acting "ladylike," so he's been injecting testosterone since June as part of his transition to male.

"I'm more comfortable recognized by male as others, and in order to do that, I have to change my physical appearance," Huff said.

Huff filed his name-change petition along with one of his transgender students. A week later, the student's name change request was approved. Two weeks after that, Huff's was denied.

"I received a letter in the mail that said I needed to provide a letter from my endocrinologist in order for him to grant the name change from what he worded in the letter, from a female name to a male name," Huff told Four in Your Corner's Lisa Greenberg.

The letter says anyone wanting to change gender needed to provide the letter, but Huff isn't changing his gender on his driver's license, just his name.

When Attorney Mike Chionopoulos got wind of the situation, he took a look at Huff's case.

He said anyone can legally get their name changed with few exceptions. "You can't do it if you are doing it for fraud. If you were trying to avoid paying creditors, if you're trying to avoid being prosecuted for crime, you can't do it for any of those reasons, but it doesn't say a male can't choose a female name, or a female can't use a male's name," Chionopoulos said.

Flipping through Billy's petition, Chionopoulos said in his opinion, there's no legal reason why the judge denied the name change. "Never had any kind of criminal history. She's never filed bankruptcy, she verified under oath that she has no creditors seeking her," he said.

Since judges can't comment on pending cases, we reached out to the 20th Judicial Circuit Administrative Office of the Courts for information.

A spokesperson tells Fox 4 that these are matters of law and discretion are addressed on a case-by-case basis by the assigned judge.

Huff said he filed the letter from his endocrinologist to the Clerk of Courts, but is going public so people who can't provide such a letter don't have to deal with this hurdle.

He hopes to get approval soon because he's accepted a teaching job at USF in Tampa, and is ready for a fresh start.

"Its a chance for me to start at a place where no one has known me as "Kimberly." Where people don't mess up and call me that instead of "Billy." I want my employment records, I want my lease, and I want everything to be in "Billy," Huff said.

Chionopoulos made it clear he respects the Judge, but just doesn't understand his opinion in this particular case.

He also said this is bigger than the transgender community: it's about the constitutional rights of everyone.