Can you believe that 14 percent of LGBT people actually admitted that they voted for President-elect Donald J. Trump? And that is after he campaigned on promises of appointing Supreme Court justices to reverse national marriage equality and a general stance that he believes businesses should be able to discriminate against LGBT people.
Well, less than two months stand between us and Trump’s inauguration to the highest government office of the most powerful country in the world.
I wish I had better news but, despite recent claims by Trump that the LGBT community does not need to fear the repeal of same-sex-marriage rights or our other civil liberties, the threat of physical and political backlash aimed at the LGBT community is eminent. In the last few weeks, hundreds of reported acts of verbal and physical harassment were recorded by the Southern Poverty Law Center alone. The threat is real and we as a community must band together and be aware of what we can do to help protect ourselves before and during a Trump presidency.
Consider taking precautions to ensure that you and your families are legally protected going into a Trump/Mike Pence administration, and this looks like and means different things for different people under our LGBT rainbow.
Make sure your relationship is protected
Estate planning, estate planning, estate planning! These basic documents (last will and testament, health-care power of attorney, durable power of attorney, living will, hospital-visitation authorization form, agent for disposition of remains and pet-care directive) have always been the first impenetrable line of defense for LGBTQ individuals and couples. I became passionate about estate planning after the Terri Schiavo disaster; a married, straight woman whose husband’s wishes about her end-of-life care were not respected because the family disagreed with him and wanted her kept alive artificially. At that moment, 11 years ago, I realized the full importance of LGBT individuals to put their wishes in writing.
Health-care documents are particularly important because states have already started proposing laws stating that health-care facilities don’t have to provide health care to LGBT people. Moreover, Obama’s mandate that hospitals must extend visitation rights to the partners of LGBT patients and respect patients’ choices about who may make critical health-care decisions for them, could be lifted. A health-care power of attorney, along with a hospital-visitation authorization form, will protect you.
Lastly, if you recently got married, you should sit down with a legal advisor and make sure you took the correct steps when obtaining a marriage license and that your collective assets, especially property, are protected and titled properly to protect you and your assets to the fullest extent.
Make sure your families are protected
Likewise, consult with an attorney to make sure your parental rights are legally secured. Being married or appearing on a birth certificate do not confer parentage; only an adoption decree confers legal parentage to non-biological children. If you have children that you are not biologically related to and haven’t yet adopted them, please do so. Legal challenges to parentage under a Trump presidency will likely go against the non-biologically related person, creating unnecessary instability for the family unit and turmoil for the child.
Moreover, I urge parents of transgender children to be active in their children’s schools if they aren’t already. Vice President-elect Pence has a history of anti-transgender policy and sentiment in his home state of Indiana and has advocated for funding for HIV/AIDS to be redirected to conversion therapy.
IDs and passports
It’s important that all queer people, but especially transgender individuals whose legal documents may not accurately reflect their name or gender, secure these documents for themselves. IDs and passports that accurately reflect our identities are crucial tools for navigating our society and the world safely.
The executive director of National Center for Transgender Equality Mara Keisling told The Huffington Post, “[W]e just don’t know what’s going to happen. But, for now, I suggest that folks think about what they want their ID’s to be. If you’re somebody who has needed a passport for a while, I would go do it. For sure. [N]ow is always the best time to do something you’ve been stalling on.”
Passports are especially important because the ability to change your gender marker on passports was unilaterally granted by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her tenure and that mandate could be rescinded under the new administration.
Name-change court orders
In the same vein of IDs and passports, the transgender and gender-nonconforming community should consider obtaining a name-change decree sealed by court order. Once you have that piece of paper, changing other documents becomes seamless, including your Social Security card, your driver’s license or state ID, your birth certificate and your passport.
Now through the inauguration, I, along with a dedicated team of trained volunteers, will be providing pro-bono services to anyone in Pennsylvania and New Jersey seeking a name change or gender-marker changes to documents, including a driver’s license, Social Security card and/or passport. Please reach out and we’ll make sure you get the assistance you need and deserve.
Let me try to end this on a good note. While things are going to get harder before they get better, trust in the fact that we’re a resilient bunch. We have fought to be seen together in public spaces. We fought to decriminalize our sexual activity. We literally fought for our lives through the AIDS epidemic. And most recently, we fought for the right to marry the person we love. Now, we’ve been tasked with fighting hate at every level of society. I’m not worried that we’ll conquer this fight because guess what? We’ve won every other fight!
And unlike supporters of hate, we win our fights using empathy, compassion and love as our ammo. Love really does trump hate.