TLDEF Launches Name Change Project in Michigan

Michigan mapWe are excited to announce that the Name Change Project has launched in the Detroit metro area after a six-month pilot program there. The project provides legal assistance to community members who are seeking to change their names to reflect their true identities.

It is often intimidating and difficult to navigate the legal system for a name change. With pro bono support from attorneys at Michigan law firms including Dykema Gossett PLLC, Miller, Canfield, Paddock, and Stone, P.L.C., Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn LLP, Dickinson Wright PLLC, and Bodman PLC, TLDEF is helping transgender community members in southeastern Michigan through the name change process. On September 24, TLDEF and Dykema, our anchor firm for the pilot project, held a training in Detroit for other Michigan attorneys who wish to volunteer.

“We’re excited to expand the Name Change Project to southeastern Michigan,” said TLDEF Executive Director Michael Silverman. “It is important for transgender people to be able to match their legal names with who they are. Doing so makes it easier for them to live their lives free from discrimination in things like employment, housing, and health care and other public accommodations. We’re tremendously grateful to all of our volunteer lawyers for making this effort possible.”

“We are thrilled to help improve the lives of transgender people in Michigan through this Name Change Project collaboration with TLDEF,” said Heidi A. Naasko, Dykema’s Pro Bono and Diversity Counsel. “This firm is dedicated to serving communities in need. Assisting transgender people through the legal process of a name change to become their authentic selves illustrates that commitment.”

Clients participating in our pilot project explained the importance of aligning their legal names with their true selves:

“Without the correct legal name I feared for my safety. As a transgender woman, being called by the wrong name in public made me a target for transphobic violence,” said 28-year-old TLDEF Name Change Project Client Racquelle Trammell. “The project helped me with something I couldn't do alone. Trust me I tried. When I attempted to do this by myself I walked away disheartened, having been talked down to by officials and misunderstood. With this program I had someone who knew the ins and outs of the courtroom and legal system and how to file the paperwork precisely. I truly recommend this program to anyone who has had a hard time going through the name change process. I was able to walk across the stage with associate of arts in June as my authentic self and that was the most affirming thing that has ever happened to me.”

“Exploring a legal name change felt very daunting,” said 52-year-old TLDEF Name Change Client Kara Marie Ramsey. “TLDEF along with Dykema compassionately and respectfully eased that burden, walking beside me every step of the way and navigating the legal logistics for which I had no comprehension. Prior to completing my legal name change I had to present a driver's license with my birth name. It was quite humiliating and embarrassing having to explain to various officials why both the picture and name weren't reflective of the woman standing before them. Now, with my legal name change, I have peace of mind, having updated my birth certificate, driver’s license, credit cards, voter registration, health insurance cards and many more vital documents. The Name Change Project truly saved my life.”

“Not having a legal name that reflected who I am as a transgender man created major challenges including lost job opportunities and being outed and shamed in public places. It took an emotional toll and made me feel incomplete,” said 25-year-old Jay Eric Theden, who recently changed his name through the Name Change Project. “I believe that my life will be a lot easier now that my name is officially changed. I am finally be able to begin a new chapter as my true self.”

Since the program began as a pilot project in 2007, TLDEF’s Name Change Project has helped more than 2,000 people in more than a dozen cities around the country.