At a surface level, SIUE’s name change process seems like an easy, inclusive way for students — especially those who are transgender — to go by their chosen name. But when many services on campus use your legal name and even greet you out loud with it, it fails at its main purpose.
Deadnaming is the act of referring to a trans person by their name given at birth after they have decided to go by a different name. Often, it can be done by accident, such as when legal forms still use someone’s birth name. Nonetheless, it is a harmful phenomenon that can out a trans student and lead to targeted harassment and discrimination.
Because of more students being openly trans than ever, more schools and universities — such as SIUE — have been implementing systems that allow trans individuals to go by the name they have chosen. Unfortunately, SIUE hasn’t accounted for flaws in how they implement this information.
Though SIUE generally applies the names given to them on most identifying forms, many campus resources still don’t implement the name changes.
Textbook services have access to student’s deadnames, and employees have accidentally deadnamed trans students while greeting them based on the names displayed to them. Lovejoy Library’s printing services display deadnames when you swipe your student ID to print. Emails from the Career Development Center often list students' deadnames as well. We understand that this outing isn’t intentional, but it still leads to the same issues as intentional outing. While not all of these situations are inherently going to lead to public outing, it’s still disrespectful and can be upsetting to trans students.
These situations aren’t optional either, as picking up textbooks and using the printing services on campus are an inevitable part of student life at SIUE. This lack of implementation when it comes to name changes, sadly, makes deadnaming unavoidable for trans students.
There aren’t any legitimate reasons for the general public to need to know a trans person’s deadname. When it’s spoken out loud by an employee or comes up on a screen regularly in student life, it defeats the purpose of having a name change option in the first place.
There are simple solutions to fix the issue of students being deadnamed out loud. A general guideline would be for institutions that don’t use the names within the name change form to cease greeting students by the listed names altogether. Similarly, staff could forego the use of ma’am and sir in greetings, skipping the needless gendering overall.
These kinds of changes could be easily implemented in employee training, as generally, greeting students by name in these situations isn’t necessary. Virtually no other students would notice the difference, but it would remove the pressure that trans students face in these situations.
Otherwise, why not implement the name changes in every system at SIUE, instead of leaving random gaps where the legal names are used instead? When there are already identifiers used at SIUE such as the e-ID or 800 number, legal names being used in lieu of student’s preferred names as an identifier seems superfluous at best, and at worst, is a poorly planned gap in the system overall.