“Identification documents are people’s gateway to access society,” says Bary Hausrath, clinical coordinator for the Virginia Equality Bar Association (VEBA). “When people don’t have identification that matches that, it can create major problems.
“If you can’t prove who you are, you’re probably going to have a pretty bad interaction with law enforcement if they pull you over to the side of the road, or if you’re an immigrant, with ICE. If you go to the bank and need to cash a check or withdraw money, how do you do that? How do you vote? All of these circumstances require identification that matches how a person presents and expresses themselves. So it’s a very big deal.”
Hausrath is one of several lawyers who, in 2014, helped start VEBA’s “ad hoc” name and gender marker change legal clinics, after attending Equality Virginia’s annual Transgender Information and Empowerment Summit (TIES) and realizing there were no clinics geared specifically toward Virginia residents, particularly those in the southern part of the state.
Since then, VEBA has held similar clinics at TIES conferences and at 16 other locations throughout Virginia, helping hundreds of transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals update their vital records and identification documents. The clinic will next be held in Arlington on Feb. 16. Clients are encouraged to pre-register in advance, as they will be seen in the order that they registered — though no one will be turned away.
“We have more than 50 attorneys participating,” notes Hausrath. “We have so many slots, there’s no way we will have too many clients turn up.”
In addition to providing a necessary service, Hausrath has gotten joy out of helping transgender people change their IDs and records to reflect who they are.
“These little pieces of paper, these little pieces of plastic, can be tremendously significant for individuals,” he says. “One client, when he finally got his updated birth certificate back, said he finally had hope for the future. For somebody to say that this little document that we helped him get was going to provide that level of optimism for the future, that’s really a powerful statement.”
The Virginia Equality Bar Association’s Northern Virginia Name and Gender Marker Change Legal Clinic is on Saturday, Feb. 16, from 2-5 p.m. at Hazel Hall, Room 120, at George Mason University’s Law School, 3301 Fairfax Dr., Arlington, Va.