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What Would You Do? The case of the transgender signer

The NNA asks the Notary community what they would do if asked to notarize the signature of a transgender signer

The NNA Hotline receives hundreds of calls daily from Notaries nationwide who find themselves in challenging situations. To boost your knowledge of Notary Best Practices, we’ve created a series of scenarios based on actual situations and ask a simple question: What would you do?    

You have just started the day when a middle-aged woman comes in for a notarization. She places her ID and documents on the counter then taps her driver’s license with one long, well-manicured fingernail. “You’ll notice this is a bit outdated, but it’s still valid.”

Puzzled, you look at the date, and see that the driver’s license doesn’t expire for another year. You then look a little closer and become more puzzled.

While your signer has long, wavy brunette hair, the person in the license photo sports not only a crew cut, but also a goatee! The gender is clearly marked, “Male” and the name — Jonathan — is decidedly male. She (or he) explains that she is in the middle of gender reassignment, going from male to female, but she has not yet made the full transgender transition so she has not yet changed her legal name or taken the other steps to update her identification.

While the ID does bear some resemblance to the signer (hair and eye color, height and a hint of a similar smile), you still have concerns. What if it’s the signer’s twin sister, for example? Or someone else entirely who just bears a slight resemblance to the ID? 

What would you do?

Do you place your concerns aside and perform the notarization, or do you refuse the notarization based on what you consider an inability to properly ensure the identity of the signer?

To participate in this week’s “What Would You Do?” scenario, share your answer with the NNA Facebook Community. We may mention your response in next week’s Bulletin, when we offer the best possible answer(s) to this notarial challenge.

Related Articles:

The Notary Challenge: Matching faces to ID harder than you think

What Would You Do: A signer with no hands

How do I notarize for an Amish signer with no ID?

View All: Best Practices


Add your comment


19 Mar 2015

If the picture doesnt match then it cannot be notarized. A peek into gender reassignment will show you they have to live a full year as the other sex before surgery is performed. A legal name change would have already occurred though the gender would still say male they woul have their new legal female name. And would have updated photo to reflect their new appearance.

Marie Riggs

23 Mar 2015

I'd defer this situation to an attorney.


23 Mar 2015

Regardless of what he or she looks like, the identification card is what is being used. I would have him or her sign what is on card. I am not the judge of the decisions.

Linda B Wade

23 Mar 2015

I would call the local office of County Tax Collector, or local Sheriff's office, and ask their policy for mis-matched drivers licenses. These offices should already have a policy, or state statute, because THEY issue or depend upon legal and useable drivers licenses: (A) rules to allow special need to obtain NEW license or photo ID; and (B) would know any state law enforcement rule for transgender ID -- e.g., when a police makes a stop he needs a true license photo ID. I think I will call my Sheriff's lieutenant son-in-law and check policy! This is an excellent question, NNA.

Donna Schweiger

23 Mar 2015

I would ask for a second ID, Social Security Card would be good. Many Drivers License are out of date, my photo was 20 years old

Jill Bogen

23 Mar 2015

It's weird that a notary would even have to deal with a situation like this, but unfortunately it's becoming more common in our society. But no, I would not notarize the document because the ID does not match the person and you cannot verify this just based upon the signer's statement.


23 Mar 2015

Someone in the middle of a gender reassignment could still obtain an ID (doesn't have to be a license) with their new 'look'. I would recommend that option to them if they do not look anything like their photo.

gloria prusakowski

23 Mar 2015

If the signature on the id and the current signature match i would notarize the document. Who are we to say that we know what a boy or girl look like?


23 Mar 2015

I would allow it. I would also ask for a second form of ID/SSN card. Thumb prints do not change.


23 Mar 2015

Ctedible witness

Miguel Campos

23 Mar 2015

I would require documentation to prove her sex/name change or two credible witnesses

Lana McBroom

23 Mar 2015

If they are signing as a male and you can determine the ID matches, then it can be done. If they are signing a different name (as a female), then the ID would not match and the notarization must be refused.

Michael Gilman

23 Mar 2015

I certainly would err on the side of caution.. secondary or more id proofs... if still not comfortable with the proofs then I would end up refusing. Just remember close your eyes and envision yourself standing on the witness stand in court... did you screen the client thoroughly and did you except the id as satisfactory evidence... if you are comfortable with what your response would be ... will help you decide to accept the id or not... it truly has nothing to do with the person being a male or female or inbetween... but does have everything to do with satisfactory evidence being presented to you.


23 Mar 2015

I would politely decline the notarization. Even if there is a process to that person becoming a different gender, changing your ID to reflect who you are now should be a part of that process. It is a part of that process when a woman gets married, she needs a new license if she decides to change her last name and use it legally.

Brenda Miller

23 Mar 2015

I would call my national notary hotline for specific guidelines seeing how every state differs in their guidelines.

Dana Rosser

23 Mar 2015

I've dealt with it once only in 30 years of asking for identification. My person had a letter from her doctor and a secondary ID. But, in this case, the "well manicured nail" would seal the deal for me. Kidding..on that part..

Joanne Dziedzic

23 Mar 2015

The answer is no. I would not notorises the signature because do no prior Id. Rember its your notary granted by your state is it worth the risk?


23 Mar 2015

Like another person commented, I would probably ask for a second ID, just to cover my own butt. Failing that, I'd go with my gut. Transgendered people go through enough problems and judgement in this world, and I would be more than happy to help at least one thing so smoothly for them.


23 Mar 2015

It is unclear from the information provided how the name is stipulated on the document to be notarized. If the name on the document to be notarized is the (male) name on the ID, then I would perform the notarization. If the name on the document is that of a female, and the ID does not match, then I would not perform the notarization. Hair styles & color, facial hair, weight changes, even tattoos may change within the parameters of the stipulated time periods for official photo ID. Passports are good for 10 years--think of how many physical changes anyone may experience in that period of time. I would however request an additional form of ID


23 Mar 2015

You could proceed as if they had no ID and get two credible identifying witnesses who are acquaintances of the signer who knows of the gender reassignment and knew them before and after their appearance change.


23 Mar 2015

Many Transgender individuals do not go through "gender reassignment" surgery, and it's enough to change certain documents (depending on state) with simply a doctor affirming that the person is undergoing treatment/transitioning. Many transgender individuals cannot even afford this, some cannot afford or cannot yet change the gender markers on their ID for various reasons. It isn't "weird"; many people are going through this and experience a lot of harrasment and discrimination. I would ask for more ID in the case that they look very different than their picture, or other documentation to prove they are indeed going through transition if it's of concern to the notary. Otherwise, I think a different gender marker should not prevent a notary from notarizing, as many people going through transition may not change their gender marker for various reasons. A person's appearance can change for a multitude of reasons, especially if the picture is older.

Kevin M. Brown

23 Mar 2015

Blood test for DNA is the only leg and expensive!

Phil F

23 Mar 2015

It seems by the comments, a creditable witness is the answer. By definition, a Creditable Witness HAS TO BE KNOWN BY THE NOTARY as well as knowing the signer.

Tony A

23 Mar 2015

The document has a name that needs to be signed by the person being notarized. What if this was a burn victim? The signature on the ID will need to match the signature on the document and subsequent journal entry. I would not do the notarization if the document was asserting the new gender and the ID/name did not match.

Konnie S. Williams-Roth

23 Mar 2015

Have the person bring 2 credible witnesses with their ID's and proceed.


23 Mar 2015

I agree the person would need to obtain a current state ID indicating an up to date picture and gender identity.


23 Mar 2015

I'm upset that this website didn't give us the proper answer!

Larry G. Clark

23 Mar 2015

The individual might bring a credible witness.


23 Mar 2015

I would ask the person to provide documentation about the transition which would prove they are the person on the ID. An official document which gives both their new name and their old name would suffice. However, if the person says they're in the middle of transition, but they only have ID which identifies them during their born sex but NOT who they are now, then I would refuse to notarize on the grounds that I really am not able to make a positive ID on them.


23 Mar 2015

No, I would not notarize the document. Once the transgender legally changes his/her name and obtains a new government issued ID card/driver's license/passport, I'd be more than happy to assist with the acknowledgment of the subject document.


23 Mar 2015

Someone who is going through such a transformation should have some medical documentation to verify the validity of such a claim and further more should have no issue with providing said documentation along with a valid ID in order to execute any document that required a notary.

mike baker

23 Mar 2015

first, id must be up to date and pretty much that is the case and not only in the gender arena, second if your unsure that this is the same person (ie doesn't look like this person) you need to explain that they may get two credible witnesses to verify that this person is who they say they are. If they are unable to do the witnesses they will need to correct the personal id, id needs to be gov't issued, pictured and not altered (ssn card does not qualify in Californi), and for me as well. id needs to be something other than temporary (no paper copies)


23 Mar 2015

Have a credible identifying witness with ID vouch for the signer.


23 Mar 2015

Person has to match the picture ID and signature. The doctors performing such surgeries should have some knowledge on how this is handled. Surely they have a form that is completed and the patient submits that for all identification records to be changed to the new name. In the end, the photo ID has to match the person needing the notarization.


23 Mar 2015

Person has to match the picture ID and signature. The doctors performing such surgeries should have some knowledge on how this is handled. Surely they have a form that is completed and the patient submits that for all identification records to be changed to the new name. In the end, the photo ID has to match the person needing the notarization.


23 Mar 2015

I wouldn't treat it any different than if someone got married or divorced and their legal papers had not been changed.

Patricia Roman

23 Mar 2015

I would not notarize the document until Jonathan had the correct ID along with documentation stating that he is now a she.

Alma Chavez

23 Mar 2015

I will ask for two credible wittnesses issue a jurat and ask to both sign the journal


23 Mar 2015

Based on the information given, I would not notarize anything for this person, unless they brought in a creditable witness to verify them. With a creditable witness, I would notarize and make a side note with detail.

Ruby Gonzalez

23 Mar 2015

Will NNA publish responses to these concerns at your website? I am not a member of the Facebook Community by choice and need to know how to address these issues. Thank you,

Lenora Marquez

23 Mar 2015

I had a similar situation recently. The client had a name that could have been either for a male or a female. The picture on the valid state drivers license was of a male but the gender said female. Everyone in the real estate office personally knew the person as "she". "Her" family called "her" by a given name that was strictly a female name. I accepted the ID.


23 Mar 2015

It's surprising to me that this is up for debate. I am a notary and I work for a non-profit that serves LGBTQI youth with a high proportion of transgender youth. Many of these youth have been kicked out of their homes because they were not accepted by their families. Transgender women are particularly subject to discrimination, and there are many reasons why they may not have yet changed their picture on their ID: the cost of doing so, a lack of access to the medical professionals who could verify their gender identity (a necessity for changing ID in some states), or the fear that they would be subject to discrimination at the DMV. I have notarized for many people whose gender presentation does not match their ID. In many cases, by notarizing a document for them, I was doing a small part to help them get the resources they need to change the information on their ID in the future. And no person would risk this kind of discrimination by using a sibling or stranger's ID. If her gender presentation wasn't important to her, would she really risk being declined by presenting to a notary as female? When transgender people are at risk of being further marginalized by professionals in all fields, notaries have an opportunity to be accepting and inclusive. Absolutely approve the notarization, refer to the signer as "she" because she is a woman, and be a supportive presence during this brief interaction. It could make all the difference for her. For more about transgender ID documentation issues, you can go to:


23 Mar 2015

People change their appearance all the time. If this person signs the doc as Jonathon, it matches, then what's the problem? This person is still a "he" until all is legally changed.

Warren Brewer

23 Mar 2015

First, ID must be up to date and generally look like the person. That is the case and not only in the gender arena to be able to rely on it in any form. That means that they MUST get two credible witnesses to verify that this person is who they say they are. This is not the only instance that medical conditions would and/or could require additional verification(s). I have known people that have had drastic weight lose and if they were not “personally known” to me, I would have had a difficult time with their ID. Therefore, there are only two possible responses when dealing with insufficient ID.


23 Mar 2015

The scenario does not tell us what name he/she is using to sign the document. Anyway, in CA when the doc signer is unable to present a reliable ID, the signer may be identified on the oath of two credible witnesses unknown to the Notary or one witness known by the notary. So I would ask for two credible identifying witnesses and upon their oath, notarize the signature.

Khalid Rana

23 Mar 2015

I will notariz according to updated ID matching ID picture, Signatures and sex. Changes when documented are accepted by law.


24 Mar 2015

When in doubt, tis better to remain in doubt. The couple of bucks I may make is not worth the damage that could be done. My response would be that I appreciate their dilemma , but just unable to assist them at this time.

24 Mar 2015

if the person cannot produce a valid government issued photo ID containing his or her current likeness i would not notarize the documents. this has nothing to do with being transgendered. the sole issue or question is does the person standing in front of you look like the person in the photo on the ID's furnished.


24 Mar 2015

Would it be out of order to explain the dilemma -- that her current look doesn't match her picture -- and ask her to lift her hair back so that you can compare her face with the picture? Or is makeup that obscuring that we can't compare facial features?


24 Mar 2015

I agree with Virginia Greene if ID is proper I would do my duty.

Nicole Power

25 Mar 2015

If there was concern it might be a sibling, I would ask for a secondary form of ID or a witness. I would want to notarize for them but I would of course want to be sure. I would also compare their signature to the one on their ID.

Mikayla Combs

15 Aug 2023

As long as some features of the picture match such as eye color and such and they can put down the right signature then it should be fine

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