Casie, a transgender software engineer who doesn’t identify as male or female, has been planning to legally file for a name change to match their gender identity since last November — but with Donald Trump’s win of the presidential election on Tuesday, that quest became more urgent than ever.
“I am trying to get any changes to happen while I still have the ability,” Casie said, adding that the process will begin within the next couple of weeks. “I feel more rushed; I wish I had time to really try on a name and make sure it’s one I wanted to keep before changing it legally.”
Many members of the transgender and LGBTQ community are racing to make legal changes before Trump enters office, since he could put marriage equality and other rights earned under Obama in peril — and a number of legal experts are providing these services free of charge. Celeste Fiore, a lawyer based in Montclair, N.J., said the steps toward transgender equality made in the last eight years have largely been due to executive orders from President Obama.
In a campaign speech about what he would do during his first 100 days in office, Trump said he would “cancel every unconstitutional executive action, memorandum and order issued by President Obama“ which would nullify an order that protects transgender student rights and another that would ban federal contractors from discriminating against LGBTQ people. In addition, his vice president, Mike Pence, has been called “far and away the most anti-gay candidate to run on a national GOP ticket” due to numerous policies he passed as governor of Indiana and his support of conversion therapy for members of the LGBTQ community.
Fiore said they were “inundated” with tweets and emails from trans people after posting an offer on Twitter to help — free of charge. The hashtag advertising these services, #TransLawHelp, gained traction on Thursday, attracting hundreds of tweets from trans people seeking help for name changes and lawyers offering to do and waiving their fee.
“These are services I already offer, and I thought that this is one of those times I can use privilege to help people,” Fiore said. “I was so devastated and felt like I really needed to do something.”
In addition to legal advice, others are offering wedding services like photography and officiating for free. Many same-sex couples are accelerating their wedding plans in case marriage equality is overturned once Trump takes office.
I’m a photographer offering free wedding/engagement portraits to select, local LGBTQ+ couples who have to suddenly move up their ceremonies.
— Black. Queer. God. (@Adamant_Yves) November 10, 2016
Photographer Shon Yves offered to take engagement or wedding photos of same-sex couples for free and Wendy Markum-Scanlan, owner of a bridal store in St. Louis offered to officiate same-sex weddings. “I felt like i needed to do something, but I am not brave enough to protest on the streets,” she said. “So I looked at what I do for my career and thought maybe I can help.”
Brian Silva, executive director of Marriage Equality USA, said the organization is not anticipating marriage equality will be overturned under Trump, as the process to do so would be extremely difficult. “While we remain vigilant, the reality is that people should remain confident in moving forward with their marriages in the manner in which they were planning to do so already,” he said.
Gay-rights activists say it would take a complex confluence of events to challenge the Supreme Court’s June 2015 ruling to on same-sex marriage. Trump would need to successfully nominate a conservative member to the Court and there would need to be a conflict on the issue of same-sex marriage that would compel the court to revisit the issue.
However, some couples are not sure if they want to wait and find out. One Chicago-based woman, who asked to remain anonymous as to not tip off her family, is considering eloping with her girlfriend within the next few weeks. The couple had previously discussed getting married in a traditional ceremony in 2017 but may now do so quietly in a courthouse for legal purposes.
“When I first came out, I didn’t have these rights and once you get them and you kind of take them for granted,” she said.