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Preferred name changes: Are they even accessible to students?

By Eren Just, April 22 2022—

Last November, the University of Calgary introduced the Change of Name Statutory Declaration — a form which allows students to change their name on all university systems without requiring a legal change of name. 

This is important because legal name changes can be inaccessible for many reasons, including immigration status and financial costs. The changes were meant to reflect the university’s commitment to use the names of students in ways that are respectful and inclusive — particularly to individuals who identify as transgender and non-binary. 

Although, students are able to fill out the form online to change “the official name on [their] student record without making a legal name change,” there are a few complications that arise from here.  The Change of Name Statutory Declaration changes a student’s name on all university documents, including transcripts, tax receipts, immigration, RESP providers and health insurance documents. This only makes it more difficult for students to confirm their identity and access services outside of the university — such as student loans or making insurance claims — by adding an extra step in the process.

A real solution is sorely needed. Currently, students are able to add a preferred name to their MyUCalgary and D2L profiles. They can also update their IT login and email by contacting IT Services alongside being able to obtain an updated UNICARD by contacting the UNICARD Office. However, there are some systems that continue to display an individual’s legal name — including the career portal Elevate and class lists used by some professors.

In the four years since I first changed my name, I have followed conflicting information from university staff and second-hand accounts from friends who held the same skepticism. Across the many offices and departments that make up the U of C, students continue to navigate these systems with little to no guidance.

This is especially personal to me as we just observed the International Transgender Day of Visibility on March 31. My experience as a trans student is already difficult enough but when documents such as class lists display my legal name, I also risk being outed in the classroom. While I am proud to be trans, self-disclosure is a deeply personal choice. Being visibly trans can feel empowering and liberating, but it can also be uncomfortable or dangerous, especially for trans people who are multiply marginalized and underrespresented — facing greater risks of discrimination and violence.

Visibility, in general, is complicated and contentious for many of us. Trans people in North America right now are more visible than ever, but are also facing unprecedented and brutal attacks on their rights and dignity. Visibility does not guarantee inclusion or acceptance and  must be balanced with the need for safety and wellbeing.

The U of C can help by making name changes easily accessible and consistent across its internal systems — wherever possible — while ensuring that official documents can still be obtained with one’s legal name. This would improve the lives of many trans students and all other people who would benefit from a more inclusive approach to our information systems.

This article is a part of our Voices section.

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