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Jaxon Smith, left, works on his paperwork with attorney Derek Parry Friday during Gender Marker Change Day at the Scott M. Matheson Courthouse in Salt Lake City. The day offered queer Utahns the opportunity to receive free help to legally change their gender tags and/or names. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)
Estimated reading time: 4-5 minutes
SALT LAKE CITY — On Friday, Shannon Woodbury legally confirmed the name and gender she has been using for over a decade.
“I came out as transgender back in 2008,” she said. “My old name, I haven’t used it for a long time. Even my bank and my job used my new name on paychecks and stuff. I’ve had jobs that registered me as my preferred gender, woman, for years. But of course, I’ve wanted to make it official for a long time.
Woodbury was one of dozens of people who attended Gender Marker Day. The day offered queer Utahns the opportunity to receive free help to legally change their gender tags and/or names. Organizers said the event was the first of its kind, not just in Utah but around the world.
Shannon Woodbury, right, works with attorney Kent Brown on necessary paperwork Friday during Gender Marker Change Day at the Scott M. Matheson Courthouse in Salt Lake City. (Photo: Laura Seitz, Deseret News)
“It’s been months of planning and a lot of bickering, but the people I’ve dealt with, the attendees, it’s an incredible crowd,” said attorney Angela Elmore, one of the main organizers of the event. “They’re just so grateful, just super sweet people.”
The event had 57 seats that filled within days, but demand was such that an estimated 20 to 60 turned up on the day of the event in hopes of help, Elmore said. She plans to continue the event annually, probably in May, and expand it to other resources for trans people.
Attendees said the event is a much-needed resource for Utah’s LGBTQ community because the process of changing name and gender tagging can be daunting and expensive. For example, the Utah Legal Clinic has a flat fee of $885 for an adult name and/or gender change.
Elmore said the event had a number of small donors and nonprofits that covered the costs of those who didn’t qualify for a fee waiver.
Woodbury initially attempted to file a name and gender marker change without legal help, but discovered she had done so incorrectly after receiving help from the Gender Marker Day volunteers.
“It was just hard to know what order to do things in,” she said. “(The event) is extremely helpful because I had no idea what to do. It’s great; I’m glad I’m here.”
Avery Kjar, from left, Meredith Thomas, Ronnie Robledo and Niko Ahquin wait for their paperwork to be filed Friday during Gender Marker Change Day at the Scott M. Matheson Courthouse in Salt Lake City. (Photo: Laura Seitz, Deseret News)
Sandy resident Jaxon Smith also said the process of changing the name and gender marker was intimidating. The process includes:
Obtaining a medical letter stating that the person has received appropriate clinical care or treatment for gender reassignment
Obtain a certified letter from the Department of Corrections confirming that the individual is not on the sex offenders’, kidnapping’s and child abuse offenders’ registers
Participate in a court hearing
Filing a Court Order with Utah Vital Records and Statistics
Updating the individual’s name and gender with the Utah Driver License Division, Social Security Administration, banks, health care providers, insurance companies, employers and other entities. experiences
“I am very pleased that this is such a big step forward in this process, but there is still so much work to be done,” Smith said after the conclusion of his court hearing. “And it can be a bit unclear what the process outside of court is. I get my court order – I change my name and gender and that’s great – but then the steps after that, how do I update my social security, birth certificate and license and update my name with the banks, my employer, my investment accounts and 401,000? All those things – this part is still very discouraging.
The legal change means Smith’s identity is finally reflected in his government-issued ID. Since his move, Smith has had several encounters where people questioned his ID, often with the conversation being with a supervisor.
Jaxon Smith displays a card he uses when receiving questions about his driver’s license photo during Gender Marker Change Day at the Scott M. Matheson Courthouse in Salt Lake City on Friday. (Photo: Laura Seitz, Deseret News)
“On the one hand there’s a bit of luck because I passed so well they don’t think it’s me, that validates my transition,” he said. “But on the other hand, it’s really frustrating when I can’t do anything. I don’t look like this anymore I don’t sound like someone who looks like that anymore.”
Although these experiences varied in intensity, Smith says they illustrate the importance of a legal name and gender tag change.
“People will ask me, ‘Well, why is that important?’ And in a way it’s not really because nobody checks my ID to be my boyfriend, right? But it does in a lot of other ways,” he said. “Even just a small instance of me being misgendered or being questioned – whether it’s going into a bar or being stopped – dealing with that is actually really difficult, even though I’m less and less likely to be wrong-gendered now, showing my ID every time I’ve done it is like another trigger.”
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