POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

What’s in a name? A lot.

BY Brenda Flanagan, Senior Correspondent |

Trevor Betts is a senior at Monroe High School. He started life as Veronica, but by the time he turned six, Trevor knew he didn’t fit in with the girls.

“I don’t have any connection to the name ‘Veronica’ anymore,” said Betts.

Betts came out as transgender at age 12, chose the name ‘Trevor’ and struggled for acceptance. Barred from school bathrooms in seventh grade, Trevor finally gained respect on the football team at Monroe High School.

“I think they started to realize that I was ‘Trevor’ when I started playing football because no one really gave me any crap after that,” he said. “It sucks that that’s the reason why, but a lot of people in my school, it’s either you have to be a sports player or you have to be an a-hole to other people in your school to get acceptance.”

“You know, I never thought about the name change meaning anything until the day that it happened. And I realized there was still some, like a reservoir of sadness, of saying goodbye to Veronica, which I thought I was done doing already,” recalled Trevor’s mother, Janet Sacklow.

Sacklow noted it took a lawsuit for Trevor to legally change his name after his dad initially opposed it. His parents are divorced. Trevor won the court challenge, and in her ruling, Judge Marcia Silva wrote precedent-setting rules that focus on the best interest of children like Trevor who seek a name change. These rules include: age, the length of time the name’s been used, mental health history and most importantly any potential anxiety, embarrassment or discomfort arising from a name that doesn’t match their gender identity.

“That’s a critical issue. As the judge pointed out in her decision, the suicide rate and the attempted suicide rate among transgender youth is enormous. And one of the things that is particularly upsetting to these youth is the fact that they are not known as the person, or the name, that they identify with,” said Jennifer Weisberg Millner, the attorney representing Trevor.

Trevor’s lawyer says the judge’s decision will now guide jurists in similar cases. As for acceptance in school, Gov. Chris Christie recently signed into law a bill ordering New Jersey’s Department of Education to adopt standard guidelines, instructing districts how to create a safe and welcoming environment for transgender students. Garden State Equality has already suggested rules to the Department of Education.

“Right now trans students are protected under the law against discrimination, but a lot of schools aren’t sure how to enforce that law. So the guidelines are critical to make sure that from school district to school district, it’s the same type of policies,” said Executive Director of Garden State Equality, Christian Fuscarino.

Christie signed another bill that closes most loopholes in transgender health care.

“This bill is huge for transgender residents in New Jersey. It means their transition-related care must be covered by their health insurers,” said Fuscarino.

That’s important for Trevor, who’s faces continued hormone treatment and a $50,000 surgery.

“All the treatments that relate to that are covered now, with just your deductible. So testosterone is covered. Top surgery is covered. As long as everything stays the way it is — it’s amazing,” said Sacklow.

That could change as the Senate considers whether to repeal Obamacare. Meanwhile, the state Department of Education says it’s now compiling guidance on transgender issues for New Jersey school districts.