In August 2019, Bay Area Legal Aid, in partnership with the San Francisco Public Library, organized the first Name and Gender Marker Legal Clinic ever held on the Library’s premises. The clinic helped transgender members of our community with the paperwork necessary to change legal documents to reflect their name and gender, and also offered assistance with obtaining court orders for name and gender changes.
Inspired by the clinic’s success, Dr. Jeanie Austin, a librarian with the San Francisco Public Library, recently created a guide (Name and Gender Marker Legal Clinics at the Public Library: A Better Practices Guide) to help other librarians to replicate our model, in partnership with legal services organizations. Thank you to Dr. Austin for helping to build a movement toward collaboration between legal services organizations and public institutions. There is so much room for partnership between the two to serve our communities, and we are grateful to have played a part in inspiring this excellent handbook.
As Dr. Austin makes clear, if a public library adequately serves transgender patrons through its environment and everyday functions, hosting a name and gender change clinic can be a way of further communicating the library’s inclusive space: “Hosting a name and gender marker legal clinic at the public library, or at on off-site location with public library support, communicates to transgender patrons that the library is a place where they will be recognized and respected. This type of program conveys to patrons that the library is actively available as a resource to all members of the community.”