Legal clinic offers free support to 2SLGBTQIA+ people with name and gender marker changes

GUELPH – Transgender people changing names or gender markers can get free support from the Legal Clinic of Guelph and Wellington County. 

Executive director Stephanie Clendenning said 2SLGBTQIA+ people face barriers while officially changing their names and gender markers. 

The process involves about 20 pages of paperwork and multiple signatures from commissioners of oaths or notaries. The pile of forms can feel overwhelming, Clendenning said, but the legal clinic helps break it down into manageable steps.

It also provides commissioning services for free. Local municipalities charge between $20 and $40 for commissioning. But Clendenning said the fee is often not what’s keeping people from accessing these services. 

She said people worry about facing stigma, stares, and preconceived notions while accessing the services, and that commissioners without 2SLBGTQIA+ informed practices may ask inappropriate questions about hormones or surgeries. 

But at the legal clinic, “no one here will ever misgender you, use the wrong name, or ask unnecessary questions,” Clendenning assured. Clinic staff are “knowledgeable about what’s required and treat people with dignity and respect.”

They worked with HIV/AIDS Resources and Community Health (ARCH), the University of Guelph’s sexual and gender diversity advisor, and Minto and Guelph Pride to ensure their services are offered in an inclusive way, legal clinic rural support worker Maddy Smith told the Advertiser in an email. 

Clinic representatives attended the Minto Pride festival on June 9 and a special Guelph Pride event for name and gender marker changes at the artBar on June 10. 

Significant impact 

When Clendenning started working at the clinic in March, setting up free support with name and gender marker changes was a top priority for her. 

She said it takes very little time and resources, but makes a significant impact.

Clendenning offered an example one of her clients shared. They were asked for ID while taking a train – which triggered instant anxiety. They hadn’t yet completed the legal name change process, so the name on their ID was different from the name on their ticket. 

Clendenning said the person at the ticket booth kept questioning them about why the name didn’t match up, until eventually her client had to disclose they were trans. When people are able to update their ID they can access spaces such as train stations, banks, and healthcare services without worrying about using an ID that does not reflect their identity. 

To access services from the Legal Clinic of Guelph and Wellington County, including name and gender marker change support, people can call 519-821-2100, email, visit the clinic at 176 Wyndham St. N., Guelph or the clinic’s Law Van in Mount Forest, Palmerston, Arthur or Harriston.

On June 19, the van will be behind the Mount Forest TD bank from 10am to 12:30pm and the Palmerston Foodland parking lot from 1:30 to 3:30pm. 

On June 26, the van will be in the Arthur library lot from 10am to 12:30pm and at the Harriston foodbank from 1:30 to 3:30pm.