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Free Louisville legal clinic helps transgender people through the name change process

Organizers Suzanne Marino and Grant Grissom outside the clinic at the Louisville Pride Foundation.
Suzanne Marino
Organizers Suzanne Marino and Grant Grissom outside the clinic at the Louisville Pride Foundation on June 24, 2022.

The clinic helps clients, especially those who are transgender, navigate the process of legally changing their names, from filing paperwork to assisting with court hearings.

Vic León Reibel, an actor and drag artist in Louisville, started the process of medically and socially transitioning nearly two years ago.

Reibel, a transmasculine nonbinary person, said he put off going through the process of changing his name legally.

“As a trans person, this process can be so intimidating and overwhelming. I knew I wanted to change my name, but I didn’t even know where to start,” he said.

Then, in June, he heard about the free name change clinic.

After he worked with attorneys from the Louisville law firm Dinsmore & Shohl, which hosted the free clinic along with the Louisville Pride Center, he said it took 15 minutes to file his documents, with no legal fees. The attorneys assist clients with completing paperwork and petitioning courts on their behalf to legally change their names.

When he saw the first piece of mail with his new name, Reibel said he teared up.

“I felt euphoric. For somebody to go from a name that may have caused a lot of pain and discomfort for them to a name that really empowers them, it’s incredibly important,” he said.

On Sept. 23, the third Louisville Pride Center Lou Name Clinic will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.at the Louisville Pride Center at 1244 S. Third St. The event is cosponsored by Dinsmore & Shohl, the Lambda Law Caucus, and the University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law.

Suzanne Marino is an associate attorney at Dinsmore and Shohl who started working at the clinics last year. She said having legal documentation that matches a person’s gender is valuable for a variety of interactions, from buying a pack of cigarettes to identifying yourself to a law enforcement officer.

“If your legal documentation doesn't align with who you are, you’re exposed to the opportunity to be misgendered or for people to not believe you when you tell them who you are,” she said.

The clinic will have volunteer attorneys, paralegals, notaries and law students onsite to help fill out name change petitions and navigate the process.

Marino said some clients she serves are from counties where a court hearing is required for a name change, which they sometimes find “nerve-wracking.”

“We actually go to those hearings with the clients. That’s another kind of pressure that we hope to take off of clients through the clinic, in that they're not just showing up to court and having to explain themselves to a stranger,” she said.

Marino said the clinic has helped 50 clients through the name change process in Louisville.

Pre-registration is encouraged but not required.

Divya is LPM's Race & Equity Reporter. Email Divya at dkarthikeyan@lpm.org.