(CN) – In the days following President Donald Trump’s political upset in the November election, social media blew up with hashtags and crowdsourced guides for women, immigrants and LGBTQ people concerned with how their rights could change under Trump’s administration.
LGBTQ suicide hotlines saw sharp spikes in calls for help in the hours after Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton conceded. The Trevor Project reported their average call intake more than doubled the morning after the election.
On Twitter, attorneys and people who’ve filed petitions in court for name and gender-marker changes used #TransLawHelp to connect transgender people with free legal help and guidance for navigating what many fear be even more difficult under the Trump administration. Courthouse News talked to legal experts and transgender people about going through the petition process following the election.
Changing Political Agendas
For a transgender person going through the transition process, filing a petition in court to change their name and gender marker so it accurately reflects their identity is a major step toward living fully as themselves. While most identity documents such as driver’s licenses and birth certificates are issued through the states, many in the transgender community are concerned how federal procedures implemented under now-former President Barack Obama could change.
In 2010, the requirement for switching gender marker on one’s passport changed from requiring proof of sex-reassignment surgery to a letter from one’s physician stating they had received appropriate medical treatment related to their transition.
The same standard applies for changing other federal documents such as social security and Medicare cards and immigration documents.
Despite changes at the federal and local level under Obama, only 11 percent of 28,000 transgender-identifying respondents in the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey stated they had their preferred name and gender on all IDs and records.
More than two-thirds of respondents reported that none of their IDs or records had both the name and gender they preferred.
As some attorneys and transgender people Courthouse News interviewed attested to, having an ID that matches one’s gender presentation is a matter of safety: Nearly one-third of survey respondents who showed an ID that did not match their gender presentation reported negative experiences, including being harassed, denied services or attacked.
While changing one’s name almost always requires a court order, changing one’s gender marker on IDs and legal documents varies greatly.
Kyle Rapinan, director of survival and self-determination for the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, said the petition process in New York City can even vary depending on which neighborhood the court is in. Rapinan said they and other attorneys at Sylvia Rivera encourage their clients to file their petitions in Manhattan since it’s friendlier to transgender people.
Because Rapinan works with mostly transgender people of color and low incomes, they said many of their clients don’t have any sort of identification and the petition process takes longer.
The legal fees and costs associated with the name-change process is also a major deterrent: 35 percent of respondents in the U.S. Transgender Survey said they did not try to legally change their name because they can’t afford it.