what’s in a name
For Shakespeare’s Juliet, a name was but a convention. For individuals who are transgender, however, a name can be the start of a long-awaited- for life.
The Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF), a civil rights organization dedicated to ending discrimination based on gender identity and expression, has recently launched The Name Change Project to help transgender individuals navigate the legal process involved in a name change. Shearman & Sterling is among a handful of law firms advising name-change petitioners on a pro bono basis.
New York Antitrust partner Beau Buer, Finance associate Alexandro Padrés, summer associates Geoff Rawle and Dave Kokell, and pro bono specialist Jorge Escobedo have been working on the firm’s three name- change cases.
a first step “A legal name change is the first step for these clients as they move toward fully adopting their identities, but it is only the beginning of a complicated course,” says fifth-year associate Alexandro Padrés. “Once the court issues the order granting leave to change their name, clients must then go about conforming all of their other documents, including Social Security, pass- port, driver’s license, educational documents, and other identity papers. This can be a lengthy and time-consuming process.”
Moreover, Padrés adds, a name change does not result in a gender marker–that is, male or female identification–change. “That’s a separate, much more complicated legal procedure that varies from state to state,” he says.
Despite the legal and administrative challenges, the outcome is well worth the eort. A name change can have a profound impact on many aspects of a transgender individual’s life, from personal safety to self-confi- dence. Simply passing a building’s security desk is no longer the minefield it once was, as one is able to show identification with a name matching one’s gender presentation.
making a difference “Many transgender individuals are vulnerable to discrimination, and even violence, just for being who they are,” notes Padrés. “Helping our clients conform their legal identities to the way they live their lives has been a great opportunity to witness how a basic legal procedure like a name change can make a huge dierence in someone’s life.”
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