Non-binary gendered students have limited options in pronoun choices

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Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

They, ze, xe and ve are just a few of the pronoun options used by some non-binary gendered people, but none are options afforded to students when it comes to UT registration and some official school documents.

According to Shelby Stanfield, vice provost at the Office of the Registrar, she/her, he/him, Mr./Mrs. and Dr. are the only titles and pronouns currently available for students. Stanfield said the Gender and Sexuality Center had previously worked with the Office of the Registrar in order to allow non-binary gendered students the ability to change their name to their preferred name by submitting supporting documentation such as a birth certificate, government issued ID, marriage certificate, court order or divorce decree.

Haley O’Shaughnessy, history senior and non-binary transgender person who uses the pronouns, they, them and their, said many students can be negatively impacted by the use of wrong pronouns and the use of their dead names, a term used in the transgender community to refer to the name given to a person at birth that they no longer go by.

“It’s on their university documents, and it can be quite triggering,” O’Shaughnessy said. “It can be quite an unsafe environment to email your professor and let them know that that’s not your name and this is your pronouns.”

O’Shaughnessy said the process of legally changing a person’s name is too hard, takes too long, and is a complication that transgendered students should not have to go through.

“You can’t just say that you have a different name,” O’Shaughnessy said. “You have to go through the process of going through the government of getting your name changed as well, and don’t even get me started about the trouble it takes to change it.”

Stanfield said change is possible at the university level in the future, but he does not think there has been a large enough call for change by the student body necessary to take steps toward significant change.

“There hasn’t been a compelling request that has come forward on behalf of the institution to consider, and, with respect to all the other priorities that the University has underway — the medical school, four year graduation rates, new advising systems and moving [to] more online services for the students — those requests have been prioritized and institutionally that’s where the resources have been attributed.” Stanfield said. 

For Tyler Grant, public health senior who goes by the pronouns they, them and their, not being able to choose those pronouns for official school documents is just another problem non-binary gendered persons have to add to the list of basic rights they are not afforded.  

“We shouldn’t have to raise a big fit about it — that’s not our job,” Grant said. “They’re putting the responsibility on the already oppressed group whenever it’s their responsibility as supposedly a progressive school, and if they’re supposed to be allies then they should be proactive about these kinds of things.”

O’Shaughnessy said it is vital to be respected.

“I’d be happy to be respected by the computer system,” O’Shaughnessy said. “What matters most to me is being respected by people.”