Spectrum: Qmunity prepares to reopen gender ID and name change clinic

The Vancouver-based queer organization hosted a workshop helping folks navigate the process

(Kristen Frier)


(Kristen Frier)

Qmunity, an organization that advocates for LGBTQ2+ folks, hosted a gender identification and name change workshop for British Columbia’s trans community last week. 

The workshop aimed to provide vital information to trans and gender non-conforming (GNC) people looking to change their legal name and gender markers on their ID. However, the workshop also served another purpose: consultations for the reopening of the queer organization’s gender and name change clinic.

“Historically, Qmunity has had a gender and name change clinic,” says volunteer coordinator Chelsey Blair. “We’d have lawyer support and volunteers help folks go through the process.” 

Blair added that this important process for trans and GNC people can be “administratively prohibitive.” 

“If your brain doesn’t deal with filling out forms very well, you’re going to have a bad time trying to do this,” says Blair. “The feedback that we’ve heard was that [the process] is complicated and difficult.”

To begin the legal name change and gender marker process in B.C., you must first apply to get a Certificate of Change of Name. This is the document you show anytime you are asked for proof of your legal change of name for documents like a new birth certificate, MSP, BC services card, driver’s license, and passport.

Blair says Qmunity wanted to help people navigate the system and provide emotional support during the ID change process. 

“There’s just so many things already that trans people have to do to be themselves, and so having someone to support you through some of that more bureaucratic process is really important.”

So far, the response she has received about the workshop has been positive. 

“Having a human being empathize with you about how that sucks, and have some knowledge about how to get through the process and what steps to take in what order will be really supportive for folks who want to go through the process,” she says. 

Blair says that the workshop was also important for understanding the implications of changing your name and gender ID. 

“The two lawyers we have that are going to be working in the clinic with us … they’ve both decided not to go through it because it’s just annoying and difficult,” she says.

“When folks who are relatively privileged, and have access to support and the wherewithal to do the thing, still are like, ‘that seems real hard, I’m just gonna opt out.’ I think that’s indicative of the fact that the process is a high barrier, and it’s problematic, and folks need help navigating it.”

With the success of the workshop and resulting consultations, Blair says Qmunity is now determining whether more workshops like this will be offered in the future. 

“Our intention is to have the clinic running, which basically means we’re going to have folks volunteer in our space at set times we’re hoping once or twice a month to help people either in person or over Zoom,” says Blair.

“If there’s a high demand for the service, then we’ll start doing workshops as well to help people get a sense of what the process is and how to navigate it. But we’re hoping that volunteers will be able to explain those things and help people work through it when they come in and talk to us.”