Trans Competent Lawyering
in Joanna Radbord, (ed.), LGBTQ2 + Law: Practice Issues and Analysis, (Toronto: Emond Publishing, 2019)
28 Pages Posted: 20 Jul 2020 Last revised: 9 Jun 2022
Date Written: October 1, 2019
To help lawyers deepen their understanding of trans legal issues, this chapter provides a brief overview of certain key areas in the Canadian legal system with which trans people frequently interact. It addresses both procedural matters, such as client identification in law practice and in court, and substantive areas, including changing identity documents, human rights protections, immigration law, criminal law, and family law.
Trans people face unique legal issues because of their gender identities and expression. These challenges are compounded if they also face other social barriers, such as poverty, racialization, and criminalization. At the same time, some of trans people’s experience with the law has little to do with their gender identities or gender histories. They may seek access to legal services for a myriad of needs. All lawyers should expect to work with trans people at some point in their practice, whether as clients, as another party on a file, or as opposing counsel or co-counsel.
Lawyers require a general understanding of how to serve trans people so as to meet their legal and professional obligations. Practitioners should be familiar with the legal issues facing trans people in their areas of practice. The family lawyer recognizes the stigma that trans people may encounter in seeking access to and custody of their children, and the increasing number of disputes relating to gender creative and trans youth. A real estate or estate planning lawyer knows that a client may have a different legal name and gender history than the name and gender currently used. The criminal lawyer understands the history of trans marginalization and that a trans person’s gender identity and gender history may be an important consideration in custody, sentencing, and corrections. More generally, all lawyers should be ready to respect their clients’ gender identity and gender expression.
Keywords: law, lawyering, transgender, trans, gender, LGBT, cultural competency, human rights, social justice
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