First Caitlyn, now you? What to know when you’re transitioning
These are some common legal issues faced by people when they come out as transgender
Caitlyn Jenner (formerly known as Bruce Jenner) made headlines earlier this year when she publicly came out as transgender and announced she would be living full-time as a woman. By and large, her announcement was received kindly, and it marked another step forward in the decades-long campaign for transgender acceptance and equality.
It is important to remember, though, that most transgender people aren’t coming from the same place Caitlyn Jenner was. Very few have access to an entourage of lawyers, physicians, stylists and public relations consultants to smooth the path ahead. You are likely going to have to figure out a lot of things on your own. While you may be aware of some of the basic legal issues like changing your name and gender markers on your identity documents, here are some other issues to keep in mind:
With the Supreme Court having recently legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states, there’s little risk that changing your legal gender will affect the validity of a current or future marriage. However, if your marriage is ending, it is important to hire an attorney who is familiar with transgender issues, so that you can ensure you are treated fairly.
Similarly, child custody arrangements may be impacted, especially if the other parent is not supportive of your transition. Child custody cases are decided based on what is in the best interests of the child. You should hire an attorney who is willing and able to advocate that your transition and your gender identity do not negatively affect your children and should not impact your visitation or custody rights.
At the very least, you will need to update your estate plan to reflect your new name and gender identity. If you don’t already have an estate plan in place, now would be the perfect time to create one.
You may also want to consider updating your existing estate plan. For example, do you trust the persons designated in your healthcare proxy and power of attorney to respect your wishes and advocate for any health issues unique to you? Have you made it clear how you would like your body to be treated and your funeral conducted upon your death? Sadly, it is not uncommon for unsupportive families to conduct last rights and memorial services under the sex and the name assigned at birth. Placing language in your power of attorney for health care and last will and testament can allow supportive family members or friends to make arrangements that are meaningful to you.
Discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodation
In Illinois, it is illegal to discriminate against someone because they are transgender. Your employer cannot fire or demote you for coming out or for asking people to respect your gender identity and preferred pronouns. A landlord cannot refuse to rent to you because you are transgender. A store or restaurant cannot refuse to serve you. You are free to use the restroom that corresponds with your gender identity, and you are not required to show identification to prove you are in the correct bathroom. If you are discriminated against, you have a right to stand up and take action.
By working with an attorney who practices LGBT law on any discrimination issues, your transition may present an opportunity to educate your employer and fellow employees. For example, you may be able to successfully introduce the idea of gender neutral bathrooms in your workplace. A little education can sometimes go a long way in ensuring a safe and supportive environment for transgender individuals.
Not just any lawyer will do
Despite the progress that has been made in the last few years, transgender issues are still an emerging area of law. As such, it is important to choose an attorney who has a history of serving the LGBTQ community and understands the unique issues faced by the transgender community.
The Chicago law firm of Jill Metz & Associates provides estate planning and family law services for LGBTQ individuals, couples and families throughout Illinois. We provide a safe environment where you can plan for your future.