San Diego LGBT Community Center To Host Transgender Legal Clinic
Law students from the University of San Diego are starting a free legal clinic Tuesday to help transgender people change their names and gender markers on official documents.
The San Diego LGBT Community Center will be hosting the clinic at 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 6, and the first Tuesday of every following month. Robert Gleason, president and CEO of Evans Hotels and the clinic's supervising attorney, said the need for transgender legal aid is growing as the community gains visibility and as more people come out as transgender.
"Up until now, that assistance has been provided by community nonprofits and community members, medical providers and therapists, and they're simply just overwhelmed with requests," Gleason said. "So this was an opportunity for the legal community to come together and to provide legal assistance."
A. T. Furuya, the center's transgender youth services navigator, won recognition from a judge last year as being nonbinary — neither male nor female. Furuya, who uses the gender-neutral pronouns "they," "them" and "their," received a new birth certificate last month with nonbinary as the gender descriptor.
"It's not just a phase, and it's not just something that people are kind of making up," Furuya said. "My identity is real."
The process of legally changing one's name and gender on official documents is expected to get easier as California implements the Gender Recognition Act, which was authored by Sen. Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last year. The law will soon allow nonbinary people to choose "NB" as a gender option on their driver's licenses.
The law also removes a requirement that an individual obtain a doctor's note stating the person has undergone medical treatment before legally changing their gender. Individuals will instead be allowed to self-attest to their own gender identity.
Government recognition of a person's gender identity can carry symbolic power, Furuya said, but it can also extend legal protections against discrimination and violence, which trans and gender non-conforming people experience at higher rates than the general population.
"If I were to report something — say it's abuse, say it's any kind of violation against my personhood — and I talk about my gender identity ... if (the police) don't understand something as simple as what my identity is, I might not be taken seriously," Furuya said.
The legal clinic asks people to schedule appointments by calling (619) 606-2692 or emailing email@example.com.