Transcend Legal launches!

Transcend Legal incorporated as a nonprofit in New York State! We applied for tax-exempt status on November 1st!

Then came the election.

Fearing what the next administration might bring, trans people nationwide saw an urgent need to get their name and gender updated on their federal documents and began reaching out for help.

For trans people, changing the name and gender on identity documents is no small matter—it's an official recognition of who they are, and one that makes them more secure in their everyday lives.

Transcend Legal is a brand new organization, but we have stepped up to help meet this urgent need.

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Taking the initiative in Buffalo

Executive Director Noah Lewis ran a legal clinic in conjunction with the Pride Center of Western New York’s Annual Trans Wellness Conference in Buffalo, NY, where he had been invited to speak about “The State of Trans Rights in New York.” Noah talked about the power that trans communities have to create change, and advocated moving beyond a narrow focus on nondiscrimination laws when it comes to advancing legal protections.
Noah with Joella, name change clinic participant.When not speaking, Noah conducted a nonstop, free legal clinic, answering legal questions, seeing 21 people (like Joella, pictured) and drafting 14 name change petitions, most of which included filing fee waiver requests.

Attendees went on to file petitions on their own. Some will be granted their petitions, such as one participant who wrote to us, while others won't make it through without further assistance. Transcend Legal is working hard to build and train a volunteer attorney corps to provide comprehensive assistance.

Meeting unmet needs

Charlie & Noah filing name change petitions.We also reached out to the LGBT Network on Long Island about hosting a name & gender change clinic at The Center at Bay Shore. On December 8, Noah and Transcend Legal’s new attorney, Charlie Arrowood, met with 13 people and connected with others who could not make it that night.

We have already filed name change petitions for eight of them (pictured)! We are planning a training for volunteer attorneys on Long Island in January.

Creating precedent

Meanwhile, the very first name change petition that Transcend Legal filed in October resulted in a precedent-setting published opinion. Citing potential dangers to the safety of a transgender woman seeking a name-change order, the judge waived a requirement that the petitioner’s name be published.

The New York Law Journal reported that this is the first published decision regarding the waiver of the publication requirement for a transgender individual since a 2015 change in New York's name change law that allows for waivers of publication based on the “totality of the circumstances.”

Helping trans kids to be just kids

We also experienced an uptick in the number of parents of trans kids who are seeking a name change. Noah & Andy at the GCE legal clinicIn November, Noah participated in a legal clinic (pictured) at Gender Conference East where he provided information about name and gender changes to parents of trans kids.

And we can’t share it, but we can tell you about the cutest picture that Noah has of one of his former clients, a 10-year-old boy wearing a pinstriped suitcoat—with tie—grinning from ear to ear as he holds his name change in front of the courthouse.

His mom noted that his “smile is so alive and full of pride.” She explained that “more than a year ago he was very pensive and unusually quiet in a play date with a new friend. When this friend asked him what was wrong, he told him that he is thinking about a big problem he has with the government, that he was waiting for the government to give him his he did not have one yet. So young to feel that he needed to be recognized, it took us a year to try out different names and now we have [new full name].”

Another former client of Noah’s wrote to say “we received the new birth certificate last night (and want to frame it!).”

Using technology to expand our reach

Part of the way we can help so many people is by incorporating the latest technology to streamline the name-change process. We created a fun and user-friendly name-change intake form that gathers the information we need in order to draft name-change petitions. People who complete the form are rewarded at the end with a gif of Laverne Cox dancing!

We use Trello to keep track of the progress of our many name change clients:
Trello board showing 31 name change cases.

You can help spread the word!

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Yes, Transcend Legal accepts donations to support our work! Stay tuned to hear about our plans for the future and how you can be involved!