Transgender Persons

Transgender Persons and the Law

A host of issues face transgender persons when trying to obtain fair access to the legal system.  Some of the most important concerns are:

  • Cost
  • Inexperienced legal counsel due to lack of education or familiarity with transgender issues
  • Distrust of those unfamiliar with transgender issues
  • Attorneys who reject transgender cases
  • Unfriendly or hostile court or law enforcement environments
  • Unacceptable paperwork or administrative hurdles
  • Some services may require the disclosure of the transgender status

How can attorneys make their offices a safe place for transgender persons.  Here are a few ideas:  Make sure your office is a non-discriminatory environment.  Make sure to include gender identity and sexual orientation in your official non-discrimination policy.  Be careful with pronouns and issues surrounding transition.

Make sure your restroom are non-gendered and available to your transgender clients but do not “require” that transgender persons use them.  Have a policy that allows trans people to use the gendered bathroom of their choice and educate staff and about your restroom policies.   Be accommodating but don’t make assumptions when providing directions or keys to restrooms.

It’s important to include complete training for all staff such that your office is a welcoming environment.  Try to hire trans people, conduct cultural competency training and get to know trans people by attending community events and watch “I am” videos.

Here are some tips for interviewing a transgender person:

  • Don’t assume that you know someone’s gender identity or transgender identity. Be respectful when enquiring how to address your potential client and what pronouns they prefer.
  • Try to avoid “gendered” language. People unfamiliar with trans people may struggle with this at first but with practice it can become second nature.
  • As always, ask opened-ended questions to elicit genuine and complete answers from potential clients.
  • Respect a client’s privacy in all matters, but particularly when it comes to their trans status or gender preferences.
  • It’s okay to ask for help. Asking shows that you respect your client and care about what they care about.
  • Forms: look at the forms used in your office and consider altering them to accommodate your tans clients.

Here are ten more tips for becoming an ally for your transgender clients

  • Be willing to learn. It’s important to always be educating yourself about inclusiveness and the great variety in our culture.
  • Avoid invasive personal questions
  • Avoid “outing” a transgender person
  • Understand that there is no “right” or “wrong” way to transition
  • Avoid backhanded compliments, gendered comments or “tips” for passing such as: “you look just like a real woman”, or “You’re so handsome, I would have never guessed that you were transgender.”
  • Challenge anti-transgender remarks or jokes
  • Support private and public initiatives to make our world more inclusive for transgender persons.

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