The importance of a name: Self identity without restriction

Two of NSU’s core values are ‘student-centered’ and ‘diversity,’ and with everything going on in the nation, it is more important than ever that students feel safe and at home at NSU. However, some students are still forced to step out of their comfort zones over something as simple as a name.

Names may not seem like a big issue to some people, but for transgender and nonbinary or nonconforming students, a name can mean everything. While many members of NSU’s faculty are accommodating and take note of students’ preferred names, NSU still registers students by their legal given name on every file they have, even non-legal papers. That means that while a student may prefer to go by a different name, personal items such as their IDs, emails and class rosters are registered under their legal name. While there is currently no law or educational policy that denies students an informal name change on their IDs, emails and class rosters, NSU cites that students currently need a legal name change for them to change their names in these systems.

This puts transgender and nonbinary students in a tough bind as legal name changes are often an expensive and complicated process. Some students who go by a preferred name may not even want to pursue an official name change as they may simply prefer going by a nickname, or in the case of transgender and nonbinary students, they may not be out to everyone yet.

Adrian Ditore, a sophomore marine biology major at NSU, explained that, for transgender and nonbinary students, being called by their legal name, or “deadname,” is extremely detrimental to the students’ well being and mental health.

“Being able to change my name on my ID and email would improve my well being drastically. Just to have someone naturally calling me ‘he’ if they don’t know me without having to sit down and explain that I’m trans[gender] to strangers would be huge. It makes me feel like I’ll never be the equivalent of a cisgender male because cisgender males never have to go into the class and identify themselves to their teachers,” he said.

Some students choose to send their professors an email ahead of time to let them know of their names and pronouns. Skylar Cutier, a senior computer science major at NSU, sends emails to her professors beforehand to avoid the uncomfortable explanation, but often still ends up being deadnamed.

“I receive a lot of emails and I get dead named. If I have to go to the One-Stop Shop, I get deadnamed. Having to explain my identity to people every single time; it’s not just exhausting, embarrassing and degrading. Why make us go through all of this? Even when I join Zoom, I have to manually change my display name,” said Cutier.

Juno Boulet, a sophomore at NSU, finds coming out to their peers a struggle. The ability to change their name on their personal identifiers would alleviate some of the stress that comes with starting a new semester.

“It would just be more comfortable. I wouldn’t have to explain to people why my email is different from my name. People aren’t expecting my email to be different because they know me as Juno, but when I tell them, they know immediately,” they said.

Transgender and nonbinary students not only have to repeatedly come out to their professors, but also their peers. Max Del Gardo, a sophomore at NSU, notes that the ability to change students’ display names would be especially applicable right now as many classes are online. 

“If we were in all in-person classes, people would know me by the name that I choose to go by. Online though, my legal name is on things like discussion boards, and if they see my last name, they might notice it’s me, but mostly, they don’t. To be called by my legal name all the time just makes me uncomfortable,” they said.

Transgender and nonbinary students often feel they have no other choice than to go out of their way to come out to their professors and peers every semester. It’s not only a hassle and uncomfortable, but some of the time, professors and peers forget or do not respect their identifiers.

“I think it’s fundamentally immoral to expect transgender students to carry the burden of constantly deadnaming themselves and forcing them to be okay with being deadnamed by others. Not only does this not allow us to have our own identifiers with our names, but we just have to accept the names and pronouns that other people associate with us,” said Ditore.

Allowing students to change their name to their personal identifiers can be not only beneficial to transgender and nonbinary students, but also to students who simply wish to avoid people butchering the pronunciation of their name or a desire to go by a lifelong nickname. While the importance of a person’s given name being on the legal files is understandable, professors and classmates are not looking at a person’s legal files every day. 

There is a current petition on change.org asking NSU to allow students to change their name on items such as SharkIDs, email and class rosters with over 100 signatures. That petition can be found here.

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