GEAR leader hopeful event will lead to new standard
Advocates of transgender equality are hoping Dallas County’s newly sworn-in judges will take advantage of an upcoming legal forum to learn more about the issues facing transgender residents.
The Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance and Stonewall Democrats will host the two-hour legal forum for area judges, lawyers and other legal workers at the John Thomas Gay and Lesbian Community Center on Jan. 18 at 6 p.m. The groups’ leaders are focusing their attention on 42 judges who were endorsed by the gay political group in the November election.
A representative of Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund will facilitate the forum.
Pete Webb, president of the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance, said the idea for the forum came about during the candidate screening process last year.
“There were a lot of people who expressed interest during the endorsement process,” Webb said. “They wanted to know more information about transgender rights.”
The candidates became aware of the issues because they were approached by transgender voters at campaign functions, Webb said.
Jesse Garcia, president of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, said the forum presents a unique opportunity for legal professionals to learn more about a little-discussed subject.
“This is an opportunity to focus on a part of the community that is often forgotten when it comes to full equality,” Garcia said. “Issues such as driver’s licenses that identify transgender men and women by their old gender to discrimination in the workplace these are occurrences our transgendered sisters and brothers face on a daily basis.”
Jessica Davis, one of the founders of the 1-year-old Gender Education Advocacy Resources group, called the forum a “phenomenal opportunity.”
The election of so many Democratic Party judges who have expressed interest in transgender issues gives her hope of advancing transgender equality in Dallas County as was seen in New York City last year, she said.
New York City’s Board of Health voted in December to allow birth certificates to be issued with a transgender person’s new gender marked on them. The change was seen as a sign of progress, although the board disappointed by transgender activists by voting down a proposal to allow pre-op transgenders who are still in transition to change their gender marks.
“If we could model something similar to what New York City did, it would be a benefit for future generations,” Davis said. “Hopefully, we can set a standard.”
Davis said she was thrilled by the election of so many Democrats who had expressed sympathy for LGBT issues.
“When I saw all of the judges get elected, I said, “‘Oh, my God,'” Davis said. “This is a chance for us to really make a difference.”
Many Dallas County judges who were previously in office had indicated they would not be ruling favorably on transgender cases, she said.
“The judges were saying they were not going to be advocacy judges and would no longer make the changes,” Davis said. “It was easier to get the changes made in Tarrant County.”
Davis said transgender residents are at the mercy of judges when it comes to making the necessary legal arrangements for transition.
“It’s up to that judge,” Davis said. “Basically, you can be turned away and you’re stuck with something that is not you with no recourse.”
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This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, January 12, 2006.