Lawyer helps transgender people change name

Josh Payton, left, works with Rebecca Sheetz, who is a first year law student and intern at his clinic, to help transgender people legally change their names and gender markers.

Josh Payton quit his job as a lawyer in Missouri to work with his family at Celebrity Attractions, which organizes Broadway performances at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center. At the time, he thought that he was leaving the court forever, but then an opportunity presented itself.

So in 2019, Payton took and passed the Oklahoma Bar Exam.

Toby Jenkins, CEO and Executive Center of Oklahomans for Equality, approached him and told him that they needed someone to start a name-changing clinic for transgender people who needed that service.

Every second Wednesday of the month he now operates the Name and Gender Change Clinic, where he helps members of the community to legally change their name and legal sex.

Payton still works his day job because he isn’t trying to make money through this venture. For him, this is a labor of love.

“This is all about service," Payton said. "Nobody in Oklahoma was trying to do this. I charge as little as possible. I love these people and want to help them."

On June 9 at 5:30 p.m., seven new people showed up to his clinic on 4th Street in Tulsa. The purpose of it was not just to provide information, but to actually do it. That morning three people had their names and identity markers changed at the courthouse.

Payton explained that for many Oklahomans, they have been waiting their whole life to legally change their identity markers, but the beliefs that it isn’t legally possible, and that if it were possible that it would be too expensive, have prevented them from doing it.

“I can help make it affordable," Payton said. "I have a sliding scale as low as $300. Those who can pay more do, and that helps me to provide more people with this service."

Included in that $300 is the $164 legal filing fee. But not everyone can afford that, so Payton came up with another answer. For those who are unable to pay the $300, he set up a scholarship.

“Don’t let money be the reason why you don’t come,” he said. “I want to help as many people as I can. It’s a huge rebirth for them. I can’t explain what it’s like, but it is something that they’ve wanted all of their lives."

Tahlequah has a Chapter for Oklahomans for Equality, TahlEquality. The purpose of the organization is to advocate for equal rights for LGBTQ+ individuals and families through advocacy and education. The organization in Tulsa was organized in 1980 and serves a diverse community with staff and volunteers.

“The big thing I tell people is don’t wait anymore. Start doing things now,” said Payton.

June marks the celebration of Pride Month, and in light of it, Oklahomans for Equality hope to bring attention to their different programs, including their Name and Gender Change Clinic.

The clinic takes place at the Dennis R. Neill Equality Center on 621 E. 4th Street from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on the second Wednesday of each month. To learn more visit https://www.okeq.org.

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