HARRISBURG, Pa. — Changing your name is a common practice, especially in marriage, but for folks in the LGBTQ+ community, it isn't as easy as just filling out the paperwork. That's why state officials announced a new package of bills to help Pennsylvanians make that change.
Several Pennsylvania House and Senate members gathered at the capitol in Harrisburg Monday to talk about the flaws in the name-changing process and the negative impact the legal process can have.
"The current system needs a complete overhaul. It takes a prohibitively long time, is extremely expensive, and opens transgender individuals to public exposure through outdated publication requirements," said State Sen. Lindsey Williams, (D) Allegheny County.
Anyone who wants to receive a name change in Pennsylvania must fill out a publication notice form. This form is sent out to two newspapers in the county where you reside, giving notice of your name change.
Many in the LGBTQ+ community say a name is extremely important; it is who they are. But by putting it in the newspaper, they say it also opens the door to criticism or worse.
"The number one thing that we hear from our clients is that publishing their intent to do so in the newspaper and that outs them as a transgender person to their neighbors, to their landlords, to their employers, and the perfect strangers who might have ill intent. And what's even worse is that transgender people have to pay hundreds of dollars for the privilege of doing that," said Corrine Goodman, the executive director of Eastern PA Trans Equity Project.
Goodman is proudly open about being a transgender woman and says the process of changing your name must change.
"Imagine what it must be like to have to out yourself as a person of trans experience when these things happen to you. Beyond the stigma and the potential for violence, we need to know that these things make it so people cannot get jobs. These things make it so that people are assaulted."
But the physical assault isn't the only potential obstacle.
Rony Lopez says it's been a long journey, and that journey is still ongoing.
"It's been over two years, and I'm still running into barriers that have caused delays, such as buying a house."
But a name change can also be for other reasons, to protect yourself.
"I also want to make a note that we have also helped dozens of abused cisgender women change their names when their abusers have stalked them. And we're going to continue to do that as well," Goodwin added.
The new package of bills will be studied and, if released in Harrisburg, will be amended, debated, or voted on.
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