Advocates say pair of bills could improve mental health, path to authenticity for transgender community
MARYLAND – Advocates for the transgender community say House Bill 39, cross filed with Senate Bill 581, could have a big impact on trans individuals. “They may not want that publicized so widely for safety and privacy concerns. These are very personal decisions, and asking people to broadcast that publicly sometimes puts people at risk and increases their stress and anxiety,” said Chair of the Legislative Committee for Salisbury PFLAG Michele Schlehofer.
The bill would allow Marylanders to waive the state’s requirement to publish one’s name change in a local newspaper. “Once we do our name change we don’t have to put it where it is going to be public record for everybody to see. We can have a little more privacy now. Not everybody wants to be out and open about it,” said transgender advocate Christiana McBride.
McBride says she was able to get around that requirement back in 2017 with the help of the Free State Legal Project’s lawyers. But McBride tells 47ABC changing that policy is important because not everyone has access to lawyers. “Not everybody has that and not every state does that. So that makes a big difference for trans people. Not everybody is able to do a name change,” said McBride.
Delegate Chris Adams says he personally supports the bill, but can understand why others might not. He tells 47ABC that many times the publication of a name change is required to prevent any kind of fraud. The publication requirement also allows for people to object to another person’s name change if they have a valid reason.
But, Schlehofer says waiving that requirement could greatly decrease the chances of harassment for trans individuals. She says not only that, but it also helps trans people fulfill their path to living an authentic life. “Being able to change one’s name for many transgender people is an affirmative action that really does significantly improve their mental health and well being,” said Schlehofer.
Right now both the House and Senate bills are in their opposite chambers so lawmakers can compare them. After that, if the bills are approved, they head to Governor Larry Hogan’s desk. Beyond these bills, McBride also says she’s proud to see the steps Maryland has been taking to support the transgender community. For example, she brought up the fact that Marylanders do not have to disclose their gender identity on their drivers license, thanks to 2019’s Senate Bill 196.