I called a friend up on the phone and both he and I were talking about trauma. One of the things that I brought up was the fact that often times people do certain things to us and they don’t care about how it makes us feel. One of my biggest sore spots is people’s complete disregard for the right to privacy. As someone who is apart of the LGBT community, issues like this come up very frequently. As LGBT people, we’ve come a long way in history. For some despicable reason that for the life of me I will never comprehend, LGBT people have been met with violence, disownment and murder. Yes I said it, murder. Look up the case of Matthew Shepard. He was murdered in 1999 just for being gay. That shouldn’t have happened and thank God we got the government involved to insure that LGBT people have equal protections under the law. Now I know what you’re thinking, why did the government have to get involved for changes to happen? Why did we have to take marriage equality to the highest courts of this land when it didn’t need to go that far? You’re absolutely right, it didn’t have to go that far, but we had no choice because for too long, we were treated and thought of as second class citizens. We tried playing nice but the states wouldn’t listen, so we took it to the next level.
If states wouldn’t listen to us, the courts will, and they did. Because of our tireless efforts to fight for equality, we now are allowed to marry. How cool is that! But the fight’s not over, as there’s still quite a bit of work to do. Even though we’ve come a long way from where we used to be, there’s still the matter of the right to privacy. Everyone in this country deserves the right to privacy as it’s written in the constitution, at least it should be anyways. If it’s not yet written in the constitution then it needs to be! Let’s say for example you get abused at school. You’re bullied relentlessly by students and teachers because of your disability. On top of that, you’re LGBT. Being LgBT is one thing, but add a disability on top of that and you’ve a whole new can of worms. It’s graduation day but you don’t go to the ceremony. Why would you go to a ceremony to be in a stadium of a whole bunch of people who’ve bullied you? Since you’ve chosen not to go to the ceremony, you either elect to pick up the diploma or have it mailed to you. Unbeknownst to you, you find out that your name was published in the local newspaper and you didn’t give permission for it. You call or email your local newspaper and ask for your name to be removed from the publication, and they say no because it’s already been moved to the archives. What do you do? What can you do as someone who not only didn’t give consent to have their name published and it happened anyway, then when you ask politely for the newspaper to edit your name out of it, they tell you that even if you didn’t give permission to be published they can do whatever they want? That is a violation of privacy!
Let’s talk about name changes. In the United States you’re allowed to change your name to whatever you want for any reason, unless of course it’s not to evade law enforcement or a debt, or to cause confusion or to commit a crime or fraud. Depending on the crime you’ve committed you might not be allowed to change your name, and if the court suspects that you’re changing your name to commit fraud or to avoid law enforcement your petition will be denied. But what if you’re just an average innocent person? What if you’re LGBT or have been a victim of abuse and harassment? What if you want a fresh start in life to be the you that you knew you were always meant to be? I guess you could go about it in a few different ways depending on how hard you’re willing to work. You gotta fight for your dreams and fight for your rights and you also have to fight for your identity. If you’re in a radically conservative part of the country, your first step would probably be to move out of that state and go some place more liberal where it’s guaranteed that nobody knows your name. You’re starting from scratch. No one knows you from a hole in the wall, you get the picture. Think of all of the imigrants that come to America or the UK from their original life of poverty and struggle. It’s pretty much the same concept, you want a brand new start with a brand new life and a brand new you. In most states, changing your name is a pretty straight forward process, but in many states you are required to publish your intent to change your name in the newspaper. In Oregon and Washington State you’re not required to publish your name in the paper, but it is still public record as you’re required to post it on the courthouse bulletin board. There’s probably a way to get around it by filling out a motion. If you are LGBT, particularly transgender, it might specifically be in your best interest to keep it confidential especially if you’ve been the victim of abuse, or you’re in fear of being harassed.
It’s been my experience that whenever I’ve dealt with the courts particularly in Colorado, they’ve been quite friendly to me. Colorado is a liberal state and they tend to be compassionate when it comes to abuse victims and LGBT people. In Colorado and other states, you are required to publish your intent to change your name in the newspaper. This is put into place so that criminals can’t simply run off without paying debts that they’ve made under their previous names. Since that didn’t apply to me, I was granted a name change without having to publicize it. I still had to swear under oath that I wasn’t changing my name to avoid debts or to commit a crime, and of course I was honest when I said that I had no malicious intent by it, and the judge promptly granted my request and even sealed the entire case so it could never be accessed again. In the case of a school graduation publication, I believe that publication should only be done if permission is granted by the student. If not granted, then the student’s name shall not appear. If it still appears and the student wants their name removed, then the newspaper must oblige. If the newspaper refuses, then legal action must be taken. This is about a person’s right to privacy and a right to safety. My right to be safe and my right to privacy is more important than freedom of the press.