Transgender, non-binary, and gender-nonconforming people can now receive legal name change assistance through the Identity Affirmation Project
BOSTON—A new student-led project has officially launched under the Center for Law and Social Responsibility at New England Law | Boston: The Identity Affirmation Project.
Founded by law students Katharine Nakaue (she/they) and Greg Newman-Martinez (he/him), both in the evening program at New England Law, the Identity Affirmation Project aims to assist transgender, non-binary, and gender-nonconforming people in the process of legally changing their name or gender marker in Massachusetts, including probate court filings.
When a person identifies by a name or gender other than what was assigned at birth, they may seek to legally change their name or gender marker so official documents match their identity. The project’s mission is to guide people through often overwhelming legal steps at no cost.
After months of research, building community connections, and securing final approval from the Law Center’s Director, Professor David Siegel (he/him), the Identity Affirmation Project (IAP) is officially accepting participant inquiry forms from individuals who wish to start the legal name change process. For now, participants must be U.S. citizens, Massachusetts’ residents, and at least 18 years of age.
Co-founder Newman-Martinez said they hope to expand services as the project grows.
“We are so excited to be able to fill this need and provide some peace of mind for trans, non-binary, and gender-nonconforming adults in Massachusetts,” they said. “During the pilot phase, we successfully assisted several clients and also discovered that we would be able to take on more clients than originally anticipated. My hope, in addition to seeing this project continue to grow, is that similar services will be available across the country, and ultimately that these processes will become less burdensome.”
The probate filing process is often the most difficult to navigate. IAP participants receive assistance filing in probate court, and with name or gender marker changes on the following documentation:
- Social Security Card
- MA Driver’s License
- U.S. Passport
- MA Birth Certificate
- Other documents as needed
Fees associated with these documents may apply. Services through the Identity Affirmation Project are provided at no cost to the participant and volunteers can assist with seeking a waiver for court fees. Student volunteers guide participants through the probate and documentation processes with oversight from the project’s faculty advisor, Director of the Center for Law and Social Responsibility at the institution, Professor Siegel.
Siegel explained the importance of such work for the students as well as the individuals receiving assistance.
“Fostering student-initiated, student-driven, and student-led projects like this is exactly why we created the Center for Law and Social Responsibility,” he said. “Students who recognize critical legal needs and develop ways to meet them become lawyers who have [an] impact.”
For more details, contact information, and an inquiry form for interested participants, visit www.nesl.edu/IAP.
ABOUT NEW ENGLAND LAW | BOSTON
New England Law | Boston was founded in 1908 as Portia Law School, the first and only law school established exclusively for the education of women. Today, New England Law offers its co-ed student body flexible, convenient programs that combine rigorous academics, dynamic community, and early access to practical experience, as well as a diverse, global alumni network spanning 29 countries, 50 states, and 99 practice areas. For more information, visit www.nesl.edu.
[This story was originally published in the Nov. 11, 2021, issue of The Rainbow Times.]
What a great initiative! One thing is certain, Katharine and Greg are the kind of professionals we need in law and in so many other areas, humanized professionals, who are empathetic and committed to minorities.
For many people, changing the name may seem like something irrelevant, but for trans, non-binary, and gender-nonconforming people, changing their name represents their true self and is a “gateway pass” to a dignified and discrimination-free life.