Everyone knows that heading back to school can be a little nerve-wracking. There can be a lot to take in all at once, especially for those heading into their first year of university. For most students, the last thing on their mind is whether or not their information on record is accurate. For transgender students, however, that may be the only thing they are thinking about.
In the transgender community, the term “dead name” is commonly used to refer to a name given to a person at birth which they no longer use. For cisgender folks (that is, people who identify with the gender they were assigned at birth), their birth name is likely a large part of their identity. It is how their friends and family addressed them growing up, and may have some cultural, familial, or generational significance. For a transgender person, however, their dead name may be of little significance to their identity. As part of their coming out, they may choose a name that better reflects their gender identity.
With this in mind, it is important to remember that calling a transgender person by their dead name can have devastating consequences for their safety. It can make them the target of physical violence, especially for those who are not “out” as transgender. It can also be psychologically harmful if it triggers gender dysphoria, which can produce symptoms similar to those of depression or anxiety. Instead, transgender people usually prefer to be called by a name — and often a pronoun set — that affirms their gender identity, reducing gender dysphoria and acting as a layer of protection against trans-antagonistic violence.
Due to the way UFV classes are structured, transgender students can expect an extra little speed bump on the first day of classes: roll call. The one downside of small class sizes is that seating is limited, and the prof is going to have to go through the class list alphabetically to make sure that everyone who registered can get in. If you are trans, the thought of having the prof call out a dead name to the whole class is likely to set your teeth on edge. Similarly, a student email account that uses a dead name is reason enough to start shopping around for a new email client.
Fret not, fellow student! I spoke to Nisha Mahil, an enrolment services assistant with the Office of the Registrar, about steps that transgender students can take to remove dead names from their student records. Even if they are unable to undergo the legal process needed to officially request a name-change with the provincial government, amending personal information is incredibly simple: “Students can visit any Office of the Registrar and ask to have a preferred name added to their file.” Just like that, students can give a preferred name at any time and have it appear on the class list that their professors receive. In fact, “[the only time] a student would need to provide name-change documents [is] if they wish to change their legal name within our system.”
But what about making changes to the information used by UFV’s online services, like the student email? All they need to do is talk to IT Services. According to Nisha, “a request should [be] sent by the student in order to update Blackboard, student email, etc.”
That’s it: two simple steps are all you will need to improve your university experience and help keep yourself safe. Now get out there and have fun!