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PCC Courier: What’s In a Name Change? Pride Center Clinic Helps Students Legalize Identity

Read the PCC Courier article here.

Article features Bet Tzedek’s Legal Name and Gender Marker Change Clinic and Transgender Rights Attorney Steven Friday.


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On Monday, April 8, at Pasadena City College, as many students are contemplating what their plans are during their spring break, other students, specifically trans and non-binary, have plans that are beyond spring break and more personal in nature. It is day one for them to change their name and also their gender marker. Trans and Nonbinary students are at the Pride Center to take the first steps of participating in a workshop to go over just how laboring the process is in changing one’s name. Meeting new people and attorneys may be daunting, but it’s also worth it.

“It’s something we do every year with where we bring attorneys to campus specifically through the Bet Tzedek organization,” said Bryce Simon, resource advocate at the Pride Center. “It’s really great to provide an opportunity for them to learn how to do it legally so that you know their name is correct everywhere else, not just on campus.”

The Pride Center initiated its annual and essential workshop, “Name Change Clinic.” This event is for trans youth who desire to change their assigned name. They are collaborating with Bet Tzedek, an esteemed L.A.-based civil rights organization, to do a two-month-long workshop. This is the second time the Pride Center and Bet Tzedek have joined forces, following a successful collaboration last year.

“Part one, which is today, was just the overview, you know the big picture of what it takes to change your name,” Simon said. “To May 1, students have those couple of weeks to meet with their attorneys virtually and go through all of the paperwork.”

Bet Tzedek is known for its legal advice, counseling, and court representation. It offers a range of services for the LGBTQ community, including legal name and gender marker changes for transgender individuals.

“This is a regular thing that we have at Bet Tzedek, so this is kind of a special one that we’re doing with PCC, which is really exciting,” said Steven Friday, a transgender rights attorney with Bet Tzedek.

During the workshop, Bet Tzedek lawyers were in attendance, like Friday. They gave an overview with a PowerPoint presentation covering the legal process of changing the name and gender marker and understanding California law.

According to the Bet Tzedek PowerPoint, “the first step is to file a petition to get a court order with the California Superior Court stating your intention to legally change your name. Afterward, you need to update your Birth Certificate, State ID, and other documentation related to someone’s name.”

“Basically, you complete this paperwork, petition. The court has forms set up to do it,” Friday said. “There’s actually kind of a few different versions; you can do a name change, gender marker change, or kinda both.”

The Bet Tzedek PowerPoint said, “The state filing fee is $435-$450 plus an additional $41 for certification plus copies.” Because it is not cheap, the Pride Center this year is facilitating the financial costs through a special scholarship given through the Community Excellence Grant.

Under California law, a person can change their gender marker on state records, including a driver’s license and birth certificate, to Male (M), Female (F), or Nonbinary (X). For any name change, the court still does background checks for the person involved, plus it still takes weeks to complete and up to six weeks for the court order to be available.

Also not all states recognize the X marker on a person’s document. Only 22 states recognize and select the “X” marker on a Driver’s License, and only 17 states recognize and select it on a Birth Certificate.

Gender markers are important for the transgender and nonbinary communities to show they are not abiding by the gender duopoly and want to show they fit into other genders.

“Naturally, we’re assigned a sex at birth, either male or female…there’s a lot of people who identify as many genders out there,” Simon said. “Your driver’s license, your passport, your birth certificate can be updated with an X to signify, you know, you don’t identify directly with the gender norms.”

Although day one on April 8 lasted for an hour, dozens of individuals will take the next giant leap to change their names and become more of who they really are. Once the attorneys from Bet Tzedek assist the students and update the personal documents, they still need to deliver them to the courthouse. A group outing was originally planned for May 24, but had to be canceled. The paperwork must now be filed individually at the courthouse, but a group effort is still encouraged by Friday to counter how intimidating this step can be.

“I feel like a lot of times people will prepare the paperwork but then not feel ready to go and actually file it,” Friday said. “So it’s a good idea on their part to kind of make it a group trip so that you know everybody is a little more motivated to go and do it together.”

Simon is excited for the second time and hopes for a better outcome with a high turnout, knowing that the center is helping financially through the name change clinic event.

“This is my second time doing this. It means a lot specifically because we do the PCC name change where every semester we change over 100 plus students names on campus who identify as trans, nonbinary,” said Simon. “ We’re covering all those fees for every student who’s going to go through this process. So, yeah, very excited.”

More updates and information about the clinic will be on the PCC Pride Center website.

Update: An earlier version of this story reported that a field trip to the courthouse would happen on May 24. This story has been changed to reflect that this trip was canceled due to delays.