Three trans women fight to overturn a harsh law that binds them to their past.
WHAT'S IN A NAME tells the stories of three trans women, Tania Cordova, Eisha Love, and Reyna Ortiz, who are suing the state of Illinois to overturn a law that bars people with felony convictions from legally changing their names. These women have been forced to use their deadnames long after they transitioned, and each has been severely impacted by their inability to choose their own legal name. A male name on their government ID exposes the women as trans and opens them up to the possibility of harassment and danger; after showing their ID cards they have been denied services, housing, and employment. The constant outing causes an enormous amount of stress. Reyna calls it the “walk of shame” when she has to stand up and walk across the waiting room at the doctor’s office after the nurse calls out her deadname. WHAT'S IN A NAME shares the personal stories of three brave women who, at the risk of exposing themselves, not only as trans, but as people with felony backgrounds, are fighting for the right to choose their own name, a fundamental aspect of self-expression.
The alarming rate at which trans women of color are murdered in this country is the pressing context of this story. 2021 was a record-breaking year for anti-trans legislation in the United States– state legislators introduced more than a hundred bills that would infringe on the rights of trans people. This recent surge of anti-trans legislation (that would restrict access to healthcare, bathrooms and sports for trans people) sends a clear message that trans lives are not valued. But in Illinois, three trans women of color are pushing back, fighting for the freedom of self-expression. The film makes explicit the failures of a broken criminal justice system that targets trans women of color, revealing the intersectionality of the most critical issues of our time: trans rights, racial justice, poverty, and immigration. WHAT’S IN A NAME follows Tania, Eisha, and Reyna as they take their future into their own hands, doing important work that will benefit the generations that follow.