Sunday, September 26, 2021

All Rise For The Honorable…

One of the things I think we all want to avoid is a court case* that we are involved in and we have to deal with lawyers.

I know a number of lawyers professional though trans rights advocacy and I think that they all share a common trait, you cannot get a yes or no answer out of them. What you get is; “Well it is most likely…” or “You probably…” or “In my opinion…” I understand where they are coming from, going to court is a crap shoot, it all boils down to the jury.

I ran across this article about what lawyers should know if they have a trans client.
Top 7 Best Practices for Representing Transgender and Nonbinary Pro Bono Clients
By Erin Meyer
September 22, 2021

Transgender and nonbinary individuals are often among the most marginalized communities we serve as pro bono lawyers. In the US and abroad, transgender and nonbinary people have faced a history of discrimination in employment and housing, unequal access to healthcare, and violence. Indeed, as the Human Rights Campaign has reported, 2020 was the deadliest year on record for transgender and gender non-conforming people – and especially for transgender women of color, dozens of whom were violently killed. The rates of suicide attempts, particularly among transgender and nonbinary youth, are similarly alarming.
Here are what the author felt was important for a lawyer to know,
1.Avoid deadnaming and assumptions about your client’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or pronouns.
When introducing yourself to your client, share your name and pronouns.
Ask your client what name they go by and what pronouns they use – avoid asking for “preferred” pronouns. Don’t refer to your client by a name they no longer use – a practice called “deadnaming” – even if that name still appears on their legal documents. Deadnaming invalidates a transgender person’s identity and can be very emotionally damaging.

2. Mirror your client’s language in describing their sexual orientation and gender identity, and accept that your client’s self-identification may evolve over time.

3. Beware of coercive narratives when describing LGBTQ+ identities in asylum applications.

Particularly in the context of asylum cases, there are times when the way your client self-identifies their sexual orientation or gender identity may not fit neatly into the “particular social group” categories that have been recognized in US immigration case law. In these instances, you may feel tension between trying to label your client’s identity in a way that ensures a legally cognizable claim based on existing case law while also trying to mirror your client’s language and understanding of their identity.

4. Practice using the client’s pronouns, but if you make a mistake, acknowledge, correct it, and move on.

5. Ensure your client will be able to access your office building and the bathrooms in accordance with their gender identity.

For any low-income pro bono client, coming to a corporate law office can be an intimidating and unfamiliar experience. This can be all the more true for a transgender or nonbinary client whose government-issued identification document does not match their name in use and gender identity.
I remember once when I had a meeting for the anti-discrimination bill and the meeting was at a very prestigious law firm in New Haven, it was on the top floor of the building overlook the New Haven Green… I mean it was very exclusive, the conference room furniture was all expensive wood, leather chairs and I can say that even I felt intimidated. When I worked and got called to the VP of Engineering of a large multinational for a conference (which they flew me out on the corporate jet) I know what it is like to be intimidated by “power.”
6. Be cautious when working with translators to ensure your client is not being misgendered.
When using a translator to speak with your transgender or nonbinary client, have everyone in the room introduce their names and pronouns to ensure the translator is aware of how each person should be addressed. This practice can help prevent the translator from unintentionally misgendering the client.

7. Interrupt bias and be an ally to your client in court.
In Lambda Legal’s 2012 “Protected and Served?” survey of 2,376 LGBTQ+ people, 19% of the survey respondents who had appeared in a court at any time in the past five years had heard a judge, attorney, or other court employee make negative comments about a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. Some of the survey respondents also had their sexual orientation or gender identity disclosed improperly, such as for the purpose of embarrassing them or attacking their moral character.
I know a trans women who was misgenderd and her ex wife and her lawyers misgendered her and the judge let it pass even though her own lawyer pointed out that was not her legal name nor birth gender.

The only lawyers that I personally had to deal with were real estate and probate lawyer, who happened to be my neighbor when I was growing up and we road the same school bus together. So I can really give much advice on getting a lawyer, but I will say like any major transaction do your homework, or as lawyers like to call it your due diligence. In most states there is a LGBTQ+ section have a lawyer referral service. Also the Better Business Bureau has a rating service, and do a search on the web where you also can find referrals and ratings.

*I was on a jury in a federal court case, it was very interesting and I learned a lot about a particular disease and it got me out of work for two weeks.

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