Local transgender and gender-nonbinary folks who can’t afford the cost of legally changing their names now will have legal services at their disposal.
In collaboration with Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, law firm Blank Rome and in-house lawyers at PECO — An Exelon Company, William Way LGBT Community Center will host a name-change clinic on July 24, with plans for more such forums.
“More than 65 percent of TLDEF’s name-change clients live below the federal poverty line and almost 60 percent of them are people of color,” said AC Dumlao, who co-facilitates The Name Change Project clinics.
The project, initiated by TLDEF founder Michael Silverman in 2007, partners with dozens of prominent law firms in several cities to facilitate pro-bono legal name-change services for trans and GNC folks.
For those who need it, having an accurate name on record is far more than just a convenience, Dumlao noted.
“A legal name change makes it possible for transgender and nonbinary individuals to align their identification documents with their lived identity,” they said. “It helps remove barriers to applying for jobs, schools and receiving health services and many other services and benefits they deserve.”
An official name change also eliminates complications with everyday occurrences, like showing photo identification to enter workplaces.
Through the TLDEF initiative, Blank Rome works with name-change clients in Houston, New York City and Pittsburgh, in addition to Philadelphia, where the firm’s attorneys have represented some 30 local clients so far.
“Just being able to have the name that you’ve chosen, the name that fits your identity, is so important because we go through our everyday lives and don’t have to think about the little pieces,” said Samar Aryani-Sabet, one of the Philadelphia Blank Rome lawyers representing name-change clients. “It’s an important piece of normalizing the everyday.”
To qualify for The Name Change Project, clients must meet established income-eligibility requirements and be residents of certain cities, including Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, New York City, Detroit, Chicago, Milwaukee, Atlanta or several counties in New Jersey.
Clinic attorneys also will screen participants — a process that includes drawing up an initial petition to carry out a criminal-background check plus a judgment search, which ensures a client isn’t seeking the change to avoid a legal judgment.
Petitioners also are required to publish their intended name change in two newspapers — though they can apply to have this requirement waived.
The William Way clinic will take place from 9:30 a.m.-1 p.m. July 24.
“We’re thrilled as an LGBT community center to support this important initiative to make name changes available to our community members who need them, for free,” said center executive director Chris Bartlett.