Southern Legal Counsel attorney Simone Chriss presented about SLC’s innovative transgender services delivery model, FloridaNameChange.org, at the July 24-27 Mazzoni Trans Wellness Conference in Philadelphia, the largest trans-specific conference in the world. Developed by SLC and the Florida Justice Technology Center, FloridaNameChange.org provides online access to the legal name change process in each of Florida’s 67 counties, as well as the process for updating the name and gender marker on all government-issued identification documents.
Trans individuals experience disproportionally high rates of discrimination, including in employment, housing, access to public accommodations, and, for trans youth, in educational settings. For example, 77 percent of transgender students experience harassment, assault and other mistreatment in school. Accurate identification documents decrease the likelihood of discrimination and even violence against transgender individuals.
“Our goal is to provide protection from discrimination, harassment, and violence to all trans individuals in Florida,” Chriss said.
FloridaNameChange.org had 39,072 unique visitors between its March 2018 launch and July 2019. More than 2,110 legal packets have been completed, including packets for court-ordered name changes, Social Security record updates, birth certificate amendments, updating U.S. passports, and more.
Chriss shared with attorneys and other professionals who work with trans individuals throughout the country how SLC has developed and promoted its transgender identification initiative, including through statewide in-person clinics and workshops. SLC is encouraging attorneys and advocates nationwide to develop a similar model in their respective states to ensure that trans individuals in all states have access to the name and gender marker change processes so that they can live authentically and without fear of discrimination from incorrect identification documents.
In Florida, Chriss has also presented at several recent events on LGBTQ youth in the foster care system for statewide Guardian ad Litem (GAL) volunteers, attorneys and staff. She presented on and encouraged the implementation of best practices in representing and advocating for LGBTQ foster youth at the annual 2019 GAL Specialized Advocacy Symposium in May and a GAL LGBTQ training in July.
“I went to law school with the goal of trying to improve the lives of our most vulnerable populations, and having grown up with dozens of foster siblings in a family that did foster care, I have always sought to improve the lives of youth in our dependency system,” Chriss said. “When it comes to marginalized and vulnerable youth, I can't imagine a more vulnerable population than LGBTQ youth in the foster care system.”
In addition, she has presented directly to the transgender community through events such as the Melbourne PFLAG Day of Transformation in August and the ALSO Youth Sarasota Youth Clinic in March, where she educated trans youth and their parents on the minor name change and gender marker update processes, as well as their rights to a safe and affirming educational environment.