Editor’s Note: this story has been updated to reflect the correct name of the court that issued the decision.
A transgender man in New York is now legally “Ben Stanford,” thanks to the efforts of a leading trans rights group, his attorney and the sage judges of the court of appeals.
When Stanford first applied for a name change, a judge denied his application for lack of “medical evidence” of his gender transition from female to male.
Attorney Laurie Styka Bloom of the law firm Nixon Peabody provided pro bono representation for the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund. She took the case to the Fourth Judicial Department — a branch of the appellate division of the New York State Supreme Court — and argued trans people should not be forced to provide more “evidence” than any other person seeking a name change, which in most cases is none at all.
The judges agreed, and Stanford was elated by the decision, according to a statement released by TLDEF.
“I have worked hard to be who I am and live my life authentically. Having a name that did not match my identity caused me great difficulty in my daily life, particularly when forced to present inaccurate identification,” said Ben. “Thankfully I finally have a name that accurately reflects my true self. I am grateful to TLDEF and Nixon Peabody for helping me through this ordeal. I can now move forward with my life as myself.”
“It is critical for trans persons to align their legal names with who they are to help them challenge the discrimination they already face in education, health care, housing and public accommodations,” said TLDEF Staff Attorney Ezra Young in a statement. “Navigating the legal system can be expensive, time consuming and intimidating. We are committed to providing our clients with legal assistance that brings positive outcomes and helps them lead happier, healthier lives. We are thrilled to see Ben’s name change come through once and for all.”
Stanford’s case is similar to one in Indiana, where a man is suing the state for the right to change his name, according to PinkNews.
A 31-year-old Mexican trans man, who’s been living in the U.S. since the age of 6, was granted asylum last year as “a protective step” to avoid his deportation where he could face persecution for being transgender. A state law enacted in 2010 blocks him from changing his name.
His attorneys argue the law is unconstitutional and forces him to “out” himself as trans every time he shows someone his driver’s license, bearing his female birth name. The man, known in court records as “John Doe,” was able to have his gender marker changed from F to M. He is legally married to a woman who is a U.S. citizen and has applied for citizenship as her spouse, but the bureaucracy requires he wait up to three years for processing of his application.