Transgender clinic to start in September at Empire College

A new legal clinic for name and gender changes is set to start at the Empire College School of Law during the second week of September 2017. 

These services, which will be provided Monday nights from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., will be offered at Empire College in Santa Rosa within the Self-Help Access Center clinic, which is run by law students and professor Tony Zunino. The clinic will serve people ages 18 and older.

For those who need financial assistance, the clinic will help provide fee waivers for court filing fees which can cost someone $465 and another $25 for a certified copy of their order. If the waivers get approved by the court, then fees are waived.

The clinic will not accept walk-ins. To reserve a space in the clinic, those interested have to first get a referral from a family law facilitator and then email Grace De La Torre, who helps students with the legal changes and was previously a law student involved with the Self-Help Access Center.

De La Torre said she had been looking for “a place in Sonoma County where those who identify as trans can get their name and their genders changed.” 

“I wanted to have a place where people who identified as trans can go and have their identity match their true selves,” De La Torre said. “I started doing them when my daughter came out as trans and she wanted to change her name to have her documentation match her identity. I just have a real passion for it and I feel like it really helps people.”

People who attend the clinic can get help with filling out name and gender change forms while learning about processes involved in court.  

After attendants are able to change their name and gender, De La Torre will help them through the process of going through the social security office, the DMV, and any other places where they would like to make legal changes.

De La Torre said the clinic is a great option for college students who need more affordable options, since it is free as long as the attendant has a referral and makes an appointment prior. 

“You get firsthand legal knowledge,” De La Torre said. “You get an attorney and other law students that are really compassionate and want to help others.”

De La Torre said the clinic is completely confidential. 

She advised those going through the process of legally changing their name or gender to not get overwhelmed and to be patient with the court system, since the clinic was created to alleviate any of these stresses and help the process go by smoothly.

“I really, really encourage people to do it if that’s what they’re considering,” De La Torre said.

Unlike Empire College, Sonoma State University does not provide services to change legal documents.  Sonoma State does offer a new preferred name change policy where a student’s name can be changed on student IDs and class rosters.

Carly Solberg, president of Sonoma State’s Queer-Straight Alliance, said accessibility is imperative for trans people.

“It’s super important to have access to workshops because it can be expensive as well,” Solberg said. “Trans people are more marginalized and more likely to live below the poverty line.”

Sonoma State’s Counseling and Psychological Services, located on the first floor of Stevenson, facilitates “Transcending Boundaries: Gender Identity Discussion Group,” a group primarily for trans students that is open to all. 

The discussion group meets for an hour each week, but does not have a set meeting date yet.

Solberg said she began identifying as trans in the middle of her freshman year at Sonoma State.

“Without QSA, the HUB, and CAPS I would be really lost,” Solberg said. “Those resources allowed me to meet other trans people.”

For more information or to set up an appointment at Empire College, email Grace De La Torre at delatorregrace46@gmail.com.

The Queer-Straight Alliance meets every Friday at the HUB from noon to 1 p.m.

To join the Gender Identity Discussion Group at Sonoma State, call CAPS at 707-664-2135 or email Dr. Andre Kerlow-Myers at kerlowmy@sonoma.edu for more information.