Transgender woman seeking name change

Attorney Alison W. Toepp, left, walks outside Shenandoah County Circuit Court in Woodstock with her client, Kendra Brill, right, during a civil proceeding Monday afternoon. Brill, who identifies herself as transgender, is trying to have her name changed. Rich Cooley/Daily

WOODSTOCK – A transgender woman testified Monday in Shenandoah County Circuit Court that she needed to have her name changed to accurately reflect her gender identity.

Kendra Brill, 35, said that she has always been a female, but the legal system has refused to recognize her true gender identity. She remains known in court documents as William Forshee, a name she took years ago when she was still struggling with her sexual orientation and mistakenly believed she was a gay man.

Brill said no one refers to her as William Forshee anymore, but the name has followed her when she has tried to find jobs or obtain credit, situations where her male name and her female appearance sow confusion among those reviewing her applications. Brill is also identified in her court filings as William Joseph Brill.

“It’s hindered me in many ways,” Brill told Hupp of her male names. “I can’t do a lot of things I want to do.”

Brill’s case has been complicated by drunken driving convictions and related prison and jail sentences. She was convicted in early July of shoplifting beer, an offense she committed almost a year ago, and was sentenced to 14 days in jail. She attributes her drinking problem to the psychological strain of coping with the disapproval others have shown toward her as a transgender woman.

“I didn’t choose the discrimination. I didn’t chose the abuse,” Brill told Hupp, her voice cracking.

Hupp has twice denied earlier attempts by Brill to change her name, citing the need to maintain consistency and clarity in court and penal system databases. He also told her she could file a new name change application if she obtained a sex change operation.

Brill and Alison Wickizer Toepp, a Richmond attorney who is representing Brill for free, were hoping that Hupp would make another ruling on the case Monday. But Hupp said he noticed in preparing for the hearing that state law requires him to notify the local commonwealth’s attorney whenever someone with a criminal record is seeking a name change. Prosecutors have 30 days to file an objection to the name change.

As a result, Hupp said, he could not issue a ruling until he learns whether the commonwealth’s attorney wants to contest the name change.

After the hearing, Brill said she has remained sober in recent months and hopes to build a new life for herself around advocating for the rights of transgender women in prison.

“I’ve got better things in my life to do than get messed up,” she said.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com