I haven’t updated this blog in a long time. Much has happened since I last posted, and much is happening right now. That is what I am writing to tell you about. I was discriminated against today. Locked out of the court system of Denver County because of no other reason than the fact that I am poor.
Ah, but I see we are in media res here, perhaps the beginning would be a better place to start. This morning, after much trouble getting myself down to the City and County of Denver building, I attempted to file paperwork relating to my legal name change. I handed over the appropriate forms for the waiver of payment, expecting to continue on and file name change paperwork at the same time. I was told at first that I could not even file the motion to file without payment, becausethey don’t do that for name changes- in direct contradiction to how the state says the process should run.
After researching the law and talking to a lawyer friend of mine, I returned to the courthouse with a freshly typed motion to reconsider. They did not want to accept the motion, and took five minutes speaking with a manager. Then they took the motion and claimed to go looking for a judge. When they returned, I was informed that the judges had all gone to lunch, and that I should come back in an hour.
I was not able to return in exactly that hour, but I did return at 2:45, well before theysaid the judges would leavefor the day. They told me that all the judges had left for the day, but they would take my paperwork and give it to the presiding judge when he returned.
Martha Vigil of the clerk’s office called at 4:00 PM to tell me that the presiding judge denied the motion. District court is my next stop. I will go to the court clerks tomorrow and demand to see the order denying the motion to reconsider. Then I will prepare an appeal to take to district court-and beyond, if I must.
The reasoning that I have been given is that they consider a name change an “elective” process, and therefore not open to poor people. This is wrong. Very wrong. And it cannot be allowed to stand. Our courts were never supposed to go to the highest bidder. What they have denied me is not a luxury, they have denied me my identity and basic safety. My current legal designation is a very masculine name. Presenting ID cards with that name and my gender raises eyebrows and risk. I risk being discriminated against, assaulted, killed, or worse if that ID is shown to the wrong person at the wrong time.
The bottom line for this issue is that this is a process that I am forced to go through by the state to be able to live my life the way that is necessary to me. To others, a name change may be a luxury. To a trans individual the name change process is not a luxury. It is the only way to legally be who one is in official matters. I live in a state that claims that it does not discriminate on the basis of economic status or gender identity. But I have just been denied the right to file a legal name change that is necessary for my gender transition because I am poor.
The processes of our courts were never supposed to be about exacting payment from citizens for matters in which they are required to go to court for the purpose of collecting fees. While the fees charged are a necessary part of funding that system, we cannot allow economic status to determine access to our judiciary. While there is a Non-Profit that may help with the costs, that should not be necessary. And I believe that the only way to change this will be to fight tooth and nail to make Denver County obey the laws of the State of Colorado, not just in my case, butin every case that comes after.