Name changes, fingerprints, filing fees - for the transgender community, transitioning can be tedious
HIGHLAND PARK, Mich. (FOX 2) - You probably haven't given your name much thought. After all, it's easy to forget the things that have been with you all your life.
But that proper noun encompasses all of you and is the ever-lasting label friends, family, colleagues and everyone else identify you as.
Except that's not always the case in the transgender community - at least not as first.
"It's such a little thing that a lot of people take for granted, but it's very important in the transgender community," said Tracy.
Tracy isn't her real name yet. But that's why she's at the Ruth Ellis Center, where she can get all the assistance she needs with the tedious process of changing one's name.
"Just to have the name go with yourself and how you feel on the inside is very important for your self-esteem," she said.
Beyond that internal battle we all fight, having a name to match your identity is vital for many facets of life. From school, to work. even the doctor's office, matching a name to the face and everything in between is important. However, it's one of many steps that members of the transgender community must go through during the transitioning phase.
Which is why attorneys with Dykema Gossett and Ford Motor Company are partnering with Fair Michigan and the ACLU at the Ruth Ellis Center.
"Typically, these take several months to process because you have to do a background, you have to do a legal publication. You need to get your fingerprints done. You have to pay filing fees and without the assistance of a lawyer there, it can be even more cumbersome so we're ecstatic to be able to volunteer here today to do that project," said Heidi Naasko, an attorney with Dykema Gosset.
"Some of our names that have been on the waiting list the longest have attorneys today to start the process to change their name," said Julisa Abad from Fair Michigan. "We're providing transportation so they can get their fingerprints done so that's one less component they have to worry about."
Abad said there is a large name changing clinic in the works - a welcome source of news for the 37 people on the waiting list to get their name changed.
But before the physical infrastructure can be put in place, the financial and corporate backing needs to be established. Which is why Ford's name attached to the partnership means so much.
"People at the top need to get involved. Because people always follow the people that are in control," said Nebill Abdulla of Wrigley's Pharmacy. "We need more leaders, we need more people to speak out. Silence is a form of acceptance so speaking out is the number one thing."
Speaking out is a key component for many advocates and members of the transgender community - it certainly is for Tracy.
"It makes you kind of fit in, it makes you feel better, it gives you that self-esteem," Tracy said. "A lot of people don't know where to start. What's the first thing that I do? Where do I go?"