Post submitted by Krystopher Stephens, Arkansas Transgender Equality Coalition Board Member
Earlier this month, HRC joined Arkansas Transgender Equality Coalition's (ArTec) as a presenting sponsor for a legal clinic at the William H. Bowen School of Law at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. The clinic was comprised of volunteer lawyers, law students, notaries and various community partners. We were able to help approximately 25 people start the process of changing their names and/or gender markers on government documents such as birth certificates and driver’s licenses.
After a successful clinic in 2015, people were still asking for help with their names and gender markers. Therefore, we reached out to previous partners and to new prospects to help us make the clinic happen again. ArTec and HRC helped tremendously with the food and space to host and so many people and organizations, such as Amy Dunn Johnson and Suzane Overgaard and folks from Planned Parenthood, Lucie's place, Chenal Family Therapy and UAMS, generously volunteered to help make this clinic a success.
From my own experience as a transgender person, I know that these clinics are critical for transgender people living in states that sometimes have few to no services.
While I started to publicly transition and come out a year ago, I knew I needed to get my legal name changed. I attended the first legal clinic and was very impressed by the amount of outreach and effort that went into the process. At that point, I was very new to the community and didn’t really know anyone. This event was one of the first steps I took towards reclaiming my identity and discovering the transgender community in Little Rock.
Transgender people with incongruent identity documents frequently experience violence and discrimination. For example, the National Transgender Discrimination Survey found that 40 percent of transgender people with incongruent documents experienced harassment. Additionally, 15 percent reported being asked to leave an establishment and 3 percent reported being assaulted.
In addition to answering questions about this complicated process, the clinic also helped people navigate the cost and nuts and bolts of the process. We also hope that we can identify offices and organizations that are involved in the process so we can provide competency training if needed. We ended the day with a birthday cake to welcome everyone into the community with their new, legal names.
Going forward, we hope to develop a traveling clinic that can reach all parts of the Natural State.
HRC believes that transgender people should be able to receive appropriate identification and documentation that reflects the way they live their lives. To learn more, visit www.hrc.org/Transgender.