Identity for transgender community a physical, emotional and legal process

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For people going through transgender transition, it’s more than physical and emotional.  There’s also the legal transition.

It usually includes cutting through red tape so  IDs and other  common, but critical documents match the person inside and out.

The process just got a little easier with the help of some students in the Loop.

Fernando Guerrero, 28, has always felt like a woman. And this week, Fernando  Guerrero - soon to be Gia Guerrero - is making one significant change legal: Her name.

She was having trouble changing her name by herself. So the pro bono clinic at John Marhshall Law School is representing Gia and other  transgender individuals to help them navigate the legal channels  to officially change their driver's licenses, their passports, their social security cards and their birth certificates. Easing the process eases the pain for a population of people who feel so little support in society that the attempted suicide rate is over 40%.

Roughly 30 students work in the pro bono clinic and three are focusing on transgender law.

Students like Declan Cleary are filing paperwork, publishing the name change in periodicals like the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, as required by Illinois law, and walking someone like Gia into court and to the Dept of Motor Vehicles to make sure the process is a smooth one.

"They are fantastically brave to go through this process,” Declan says.

Making the change legal for transgender individuals makes renting an apartment, landing a job, booking a flight and going through security with male and female lines possible again.

In Illinois, changing Fernando's name to Gia requires a court order and comes with a fee. A new passport, social security card and birth certificate are all done by mail and a doctor's letter is sometimes required.

But if a person has had a felony conviction in the past 10 years, there is no making a change of this sort legal quite yet.

For Gia, all of it is the handholding she needed with no attorney’s fees. The process was complete in 6 months or less.

Gia is on track to become the first in the program to get all her documents updated with her new identity. The name change was a big first step, tackling the rest of the documents comes next.

It can mark the end of the process and the end of the pain for people who are trying to transition to the life they've always dreamed of.

More information at:


John Marshall's Pro Bono clinic 

Equality Illinois Transgender Outreach


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