I am writing to thank Angela Giampolo for bringing the issue of the name-change process for transgender individuals to light in her most recent column (Out Law, “What’s in a name?” June 1-7). This is obviously an important part of assisting trans individuals with securing documentation that reflects their gender identity and can assist them in avoiding legal complications and unnecessary run-ins with law enforcement or other folks in positions of authority. I do want to point out that while the column accurately reflected the potential costs associated with such a process, many of these can actually be addressed or waived for lower-income clients. For example, at Mazzoni Center Legal Services, we regularly file “in forma pauperis” petitions to have all of the filing fees waived based on our clients’ income levels. Such a designation often also waives the fees associated with judgment searches. Similarly, while the statute requires that people publish notice of their name changes in the newspaper, this can also be waived in certain situations where such publication would jeopardize the safety of the individual seeking the name change. Such actions can be undertaken whether clients have legal representation or choose to represent themselves in court. So, while it is indeed true that the name-change process, like all laws, should be examined to see if they can be amended to best serve the public, there are plenty of ways that already exist to cut down on most, if not all, of the costs identified in the column. For more information, interested individuals can contact Mazzoni Center’s legal hotline at 215-563-0657.
— David M. Rosenblum
Legal director, Mazzoni Center