By Elizabeth Aspinall
Admired for courage and outstanding achievement. Someone who selflessly gives of themselves so that others can benefit. These are words that describe a hero, and they describe Jay Moch.
Jay is a 2019 University of Calgary law grad who is starting his articles at Lawson Lundell LLP. While that is a typical step in any lawyer’s career, Jay is anything but typical. Those heroic qualities of achievement, courage and selflessness became clear early in Jay’s membership in the legal community.
As a second-year law student, Jay worked with faculty member Saul Templeton and other students to launch the U of C chapter of OUTLaw, an organization that promotes the interests of and advocates for LGBTQ+ law students. U of C was the last common-law school to have an OUTLaw chapter. In Jay’s words:
OUTLaw speaks to people and increases visibility [of LGBTQ+ people within the legal profession]. OUTLaw creates a safe space to meet like-minded people where you don’t have to worry that you’re in a historically conservative city in a historically conservative profession. There are people like you and it’s okay.
OUTLaw chapters exist across North America. They serve LGBTQ+ law students both during law school, and as they embark on their careers. They raise awareness of concerns and issues facing LGBTQ+ students, host social events, and increase the visibility of LGBTQ+ law students. For example, OUTLaw chapters across the country collaborated with other organizations to intervene at the Supreme Court of Canada in the Trinity Western case, arguing against Trinity Western University’s application to accredit its proposed law school.
Jay served on the new Calgary OUTLaw Executive, first as the VP events/fundraising, and then as the President. The first event OUTLaw promoted was participation by the U of C law school in Calgary’s Pride Parade. In 2016, the year before OUTLaw was formed, only seven people from the law school marched. That participation increased to 15 in OUTLaw’s first year, and increased again to 28 this year.
In addition to establishing and working with OUTLaw, in August 2018, while in his third year of law school, Jay also began working with Pro Bono Students Canada to create and run Trans ID clinics in Calgary. These clinics establish a safe space where transgender people can get legal information and assistance to officially change their name and gender-marker.
Jay notes that changing one’s name and gender-marker can be intimidating and expensive. He also notes that having identification that reflects one’s gender identity is a matter of personal dignity, not just practicality. The Trans ID clinics strive to ensure that transgender people have that identification.
The clinics are run at locations that are safe and accessible to transgender people, places like The Alex, a self-described hub for vulnerable Calgarians, Mount Royal University and the Memorial Park Library. The Skipping Stone Foundation, a Calgary-based non-profit organization which supports trans and gender diverse youth and their families, also provides support for the clinics. Lawyers from Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP volunteer to finalize documents and advise clients. U of C law students volunteer to assist at the clinics, providing information and support before the client meets with one of the lawyers.
Jay was involved at each step of the process: he identified the Skipping Stone Foundation as a partner, recruited student volunteers, prepared binders of materials used to train volunteers, identified and collected the necessary forms, and worked at the clinics. He quite modestly describes the clinics as going “really well.” At only one clinic, 3 lawyer volunteers, 2 Skipping Stone volunteers and 4 student volunteers assisted approximately 33 people of various ages. Each client left the clinic with the paperwork necessary to submit their application to the government to change their name and gender-marker. So far there have been four clinics and the intention is to keep running them not just in Calgary, but also in other centres, including Edmonton.
Jay describes the work as “heavy” and “work that it is important to do.” As someone who is transgender himself, he is committed personally to the work. “I’m proud I’m trans. It made me who I am, and I want to be able to use my experiences to help others.”
The next step for Jay may be to address the financial side of submitting the forms to the government. Possibilities include securing a sponsor or funding to help clients cover the cost of submitting the forms. The process is expensive and must be repaid each time the forms are submitted if they are returned because of an error. The cost also varies depending on which registry processes the forms. Jay notes that in Ontario, the government has waived the processing fees for people who go through Ontario’s Trans ID clinics.
Jay says his parents inspired him to become a lawyer. He saw them giving to the community and saw his father’s position as a lawyer as playing an important part in giving them the opportunity to give back. Jay has inherited that generous, community-minded spirit. He is working to make a better world.
Elizabeth Aspinall is a Practice Advisor and the Equity Ombudsperson at the Law Society of Alberta. Prior to joining the Law Society, she practiced at JSS Barristers in Calgary. Elizabeth is a member of the CBA Alberta Editorial and Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Committees.