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University of Toledo OUTLaw organization hosts name-change clinic

The clinic, hosted by the university's OUTLaw organization, was open to all Lucas County residents, including members of the LGBTQIA+ community.

TOLEDO, Ohio — Students in the University of Toledo's College of Law School hosted a name change clinic for those living in Lucas County on Saturday.

OUTLaw, an LGBTQIA+ student organization, provided free legal assistance to participants under the supervision of practicing attorneys. 

The organization also set up a community closet at the clinic with clothes for transgender and non-binary members to take for free if they chose.

Local fashion designer, Jerra Kaitlynn Whittaker, went through the process of changing her name years ago and said events like this show progress is happening for members of the LGBTQIA+ community to feel more like themselves.

"To all the law students that took their Saturday, that volunteered to do this, your Saturdays are commodities. I have a lot of friends in law school and that is heartwarming to know that there are people that care," said Whittaker.

Whittaker wishes groups like OUTLaw were around when she went through her name change process back in 2014, a process that can be complicated and challenging for lay people. 

She's glad to see organizations stepping up to help others whether they're in the LGBTQIA+ community or not.

"I lived in Omaha, Nebraska and there wasn't a whole lot of resources for trans people back then. So, I started on delving into this on my own," said Whittaker.

She says she took to the library to study name change theory before realizing she needed help. 

"There's a couple of ways you can do it and I think the most common way to do it for trans people is, hire an attorney, " she said.

She said with a good affordable attorney and team she was able to navigate her way through a process which largely involved going through the court system.

She said in Nebraska she was required to notify the public in a newspaper that her name was changed in order to prove she wasn't for illegal or fraudulant reasons. 

She said she was successful in changing her name in Nebraska, but the process can vary depending on location.

Whittaker said going through the process helped her connect with her own true identity but at the end of the day she’s transgender because of how she feels not what her name is.

She encourages others to not go through the process alone because there is a lot involved in the process. She said with the right help it can be done.

"Don't do this by yourself. You're dealing with the IRS, you're dealing with social security, you're going to be dealing with a lot of things that need to be addressed and that's what lawyers are trained to do," said Whittaker.

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