Gabriel E. Laborde was admitted to the bar on the Election Day of Donald Trump.
It’s a day Laborde, who is gay and Hispanic, will not forget.
“I was really shaken up by the election,” said Laborde, who moved to Pittsburgh less than two years ago from Puerto Rico. “One of my first reactions was to look for ways to help people and communities that are the most vulnerable to the election of Mr. Trump.”
Besides undocumented immigrants, he thought of trans people.
Laborde saw a tweet from @dtwps, who created the hashtag #TransLawHelp to identify attorneys who can offer free legal services to trans persons. As soon as Laborde saw the tweet, he said he could help.
“I know it’s a way I can start helping out trans individuals,” he said.
Laborde said he’s heard from four trans people, three in Western Pennsylvania and one on the east side of the state.
The “legal process where an attorney would be more helpful,” he said, “would be a name change.”
In Pennsylvania, a person who wants to change their name on a driver’s license or birth certificate must first submit a petition to the court, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality. Changing the gender marker on these documents involves obtaining signed documents from physicians.
The process is not complex, but involves a lot of paperwork and requires a person to appear before a judge, said Laborde, who is LGBT Caucus Liaison for the Young Democrats of America Hispanic Caucus.*
“It’s not a fast process from what I’ve seen,” he said. In fact, these are the first name change cases he’s ever handled.
Laborde isn’t the only one doing this work. The Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund’s Name Change Project offers free legal services to trans people around the country, including in Allegheny County.
The people who’ve contacted Laborde are “afraid,” he said. “They’re still in a state of shock. They’re terrified for what’s going to happen.”
Some of that fear comes from uncertainty: What will Trump actually do? When will he do it?
Laborde said he’s always wanted to “help those who don’t have the means” — like LGBTQ adults and youth — “in whatever way possible.”
If Hillary Clinton had been elected, Laborde said he thought there wouldn’t be a lot of work to do.
“I thought that we would have a president who [would] continue to advance the rights of LGBTQ people.”
But Clinton wasn’t elected.
Instead, the country will be run by Trump with vice president-elect Mike Pence — who signed a “religious freedom” bill and supports public funding for “conversion therapy” — a “heartbeat away from the presidency,” as Laborde said.
With Trump in the White House, Laborde said, there’s “a lot of work to be done.”
*This sentence has been clarified.