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A victory 50 years in the making

Sample Social Security card

In 1967, a Social Security clerk thought she was helping out a young trans man named William, then 19 years old, by giving him a Social Security card under his male name and gender. William lived for years with just this common-law name change, but he was never able to get his NYC birth certificate corrected without proof of surgery and a court-ordered name change.

After 9/11, it became increasingly difficult for William to participate in a society that had stricter ID requirements for everyday transactions. After his birth certificate was destroyed in a house fire, he had no way to prove who he was. Since he had no ID with the name on his birth certificate, he was unable to get a copy of his birth certificate, and without that, he was unable to do to basic things like open a bank account or drive since he couldn’t get a license.

William contacted Transcend Legal last year after trying for years to get a legal name change on his own, which he could not do without having his birth certificate. He was living on Social Security disability, unable to prove who he was for employment purposes. It took 5 months of advocacy and battling bureaucracy, but eventually we were able to get both a copy of the old birth certificate and a court-ordered name change!

William’s first stop is the DMV. And then what he really wants is to get a passport so that he can go on a cruise with his domestic partner of 49 years.


Standing up for trans youth

Tal and Naomi at the rally for trans youth

One of the most basic ways to ensure that trans youth do not experience discrimination and harassment is to have their legal name match who they are. One mother wanted to do just that when she tried to get her 8-year-old son’s name changed in Nassau County. Without explanation, the judge simply wrote “Decline to Sign” on the order, despite the fact that the child and both parents were in favor of the name change.

That’s when Naomi and Tal (pictured above at Equality New York’s rally for trans youth) came to Transcend Legal. We filed a motion to reargue, explaining to the judge that the name change would substantially advance the interests of the child -- the requirement for name changes for minors -- and that there was no legal basis to deny it. After our intervention, the judge agreed not only to grant the name change, but to waive publication and seal the records.


Ensuring equality in Long Island

Noah Lewis at the Appellate Division

Trans people shouldn’t have to go to a court of appeals just to get a name change. But when they need to, Transcend Legal is there.

A Nassau County judge denied a name change petition we filed on behalf of our client, Jackson. The judge wrote in her denial that there were not “sufficient facts” set forth to determine whether the name change “would be a source of or instrumentality for fraud, evasion or interference with the rights of others and whether the proposed name would confuse or mislead the general public.”

This is an obstacle that trans people face a lot -- the perception that they are trying to defraud or trick other people. In reality, confusion is caused by denying people name changes and forcing them to use a name that doesn’t match who they are.

The judge’s outdated reasoning is no longer good law in New York. We wanted to send a message that this unlawful denial is unacceptable, so we went straight to the Appellate Division, which ordered the lower court to grant the name change. Jackson is now able to move forward in life without the confusion and embarrassment caused by having a name that doesn’t match who he is.

In these and other cases, Transcend Legal aims to help our individual clients and also change the way courts see trans people.

Special thanks to Paul Kremer, an attorney at Gibson Dunn, who is dealing with a similar denial on behalf of the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund. He shared with us his invaluable insight and experience on how best to proceed.


Grateful for our new look!

Transcend Legal email logo

Huge thanks to Michelle Arrowood for a new identity design! Michelle generously donated her time and talent to give us a beautiful identity package complete with logos, a color scheme, business cards and more! We love the professional and welcoming tone that Michelle helps us to convey! Thanks, Michelle!


Spotlight on trans attorneys


Transcend Legal staff Charlie and Noah were among those profiled in a Law360 piece on transgender attorneys that is worth signing up for the free trial to view! Transgender Attorneys Blaze Trail To Equality


Upcoming community events


TONIGHT! Thursday, March 23, 7 p.m. Center Talk Presents: Pioneering surgeon Marci Bowers at the LGBT Community Center in NYC. Free registration.

Sunday, March 26, 1 p.m. NY LGBT Coalition Rally for Trans Women of Color at Jackie Robinson Park 85 Bradhurst Ave, New York, New York 10039 RSVP

Tuesday, March 28, 8:30 a.m. - 2 p.m. LI LGBT Conference at Stony Brook University. Charlie will be assisting people with name & gender changes at the conference!


How you can get involved


Know your rights. If you are experiencing discrimination, need access to health care or a legal name and gender change, contact us to find out what your rights are.

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Donate to support our work! All of the cases described above were pro bono cases. Your donations enable us to continue to serve clients who cannot afford legal representation.

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