Following Trump’s election, this Pittsburgh attorney is offering free legal help to trans people

The call for #TransLawHelp went out after Trump was elected president.

One Pittsburgh held a post-election gathering in Market Square on Wednesday evening.

One Pittsburgh held a post-election gathering in Market Square on Wednesday evening.

Jasmine Goldband / The Incline
Sarah Anne Hughes

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.”

Laborde can be contacted via email or Twitter.

*This sentence has been clarified.

We love you, Pittsburgh.

Looks like you’re the type of person who reads to the end of articles.

Because you love learning about Pittsburgh, you need our free morning newsletter, full of useful news, can’t-miss events, and everything else you need to know about our city.

There's no journalism without u.

Reporting and writing stories like this require time — and money. When readers like you become members, it ensures that we’ll be able to keep bringing you the news. Will you join us today?

It feels like we know each other.

It’s nice seeing you here, because we can’t do this without you.

Make our relevant, original, and actionable journalism possible by contributing now.

Let’s make it official.

Your support allows us to do great work like the article you just read, and we can’t do it without you.

Will you become a member today to help us for the long haul?

You’re the best.

Members often ask us how they can go the extra mile to help us. Your financial support makes this possible. Bringing your friends makes it fun.

Get your loved ones to sign up for our daily newsletter today.