Students should support local trans organizing, Real Name Campaign

Dylan Borne, Staff Writer

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Dylan Borne (she/they) is a member of Freedom Road Socialist Organization and an organizer with the Real Name Campaign.

Organizers petition for New Orleans to make name changes more accessible for transgender city residents.

Organizers petition for New Orleans to make name changes more accessible for transgender city residents.

Transgender activists in the city are pushing forward a new grassroots struggle for LGBT+ rights: the Real Name Campaign. It is a fight for accessible name and gender marker changes in New Orleans and Louisiana. Our petition includes demands to waive the prohibitive $505.50 name change fee, eliminate the medical requirements for getting gender markers changed, include a non-binary gender option for all identification and remove the restrictions on name changes for inmates, violent felons and minors. 

Without having their correct names and genders on IDs, trans people are open to discrimination. People will be able to out them right when they show their documents. Employers can deny them a job, clinics can deny them healthcare, shelters can deny them housing and welfare agencies can deny them services. This is in a state where a third of the trans community lives in poverty. Trans people are living paycheck to paycheck, as sex workers, servers, cooks, artists, dancers — every part of the city’s working class. Research confirms that correct legal names substantially improve income, healthcare use and housing stability. A $505.50 fee is a poor tax, and inaccessibility is life-or-death.

The most oppressed are trans people of color. Fifteen Black trans women have been murdered this year at the time of writing. 

This oppression calls attention to the Real Name Campaign’s militant demand of accessible name changes for inmates and violent felons. Petitioners have sometimes received initial hesitation from signees on this point, even though states like New York have implemented this policy with no problem. 

The reality is that demanding accessible name changes isn’t going to blow away anyone’s paper trail or background. What it will do, however, is take a stand for the most oppressed. 

The prison-industrial complex in Louisiana historically has slapped additional “Crimes Against Nature” penalties on convicted Black trans sex workers for sexual conduct considered contrary to nature, forcing them to register as sex offenders. In 2011, almost 40% of Orleans Parish sex offenders were registered under that homophobic and transphobic law. 

There’s no real trusting in Louisiana legal convictions, especially against trans people of color. Currently and formerly incarcerated people are at least as much a part of the struggle for accessibility as anyone.

All of our demands are winnable. Texas, Washington and Nevada are among the many states that allow for people to waive the name change fee. The Portuguese LGBT+ movement won a reduction in the age requirement for name changes to 16. For those getting ready to despair over Louisiana’s status as a “red state,” know that Arkansas was the first of 12 states to adopt a non-binary gender designation on IDs.

As much as this is a campaign for accessibility, it’s also a campaign for dignity. The government is denying us trans people the freedom to be ourselves. We’re in this for our basic right to self-determination. 

From participating in the Gordon Plaza struggle to the Per(Sister) exhibit, progressive Tulane students are increasingly interested in not only fighting gender oppression and white supremacy on campus, but connecting their activism to broader New Orleans community struggles. Let’s keep it up.

You can join the Real Name Campaign by signing the petition and sharing it online, or getting in touch with the author to help with street petitioning and campaign planning. Contact the Real Name Campaign via email at [email protected] or search them on Facebook or Instagram (Real_name_campaign). The organization’s next event will be a dinner for anyone who’d like to support or find out more. It’ll be held at 125 N. Carrollton, September 12th at 6 p.m.