When English senior Taylor Moore had to develop an online campaign for a final project in her feminist theory class, she knew she wanted to use social media and digital activism to have a real impact on students, particularly transgender and non-binary individuals.
As someone who is passionate about transgender issues, when Moore heard some concerns her transgender friends had about the University’s application process, she decided to create an online petition in hopes of reforming UT’s admissions application process.
“For college-aged transgender students, it’s really hard because most of them are just beginning to transition,” said Moore, who is cisgender — someone who identifies with the sex they were assigned at birth. “I kind of listened to a lot of them, and [the petition] was something everyone agreed upon.”
A little over a week ago, Moore launched the petition on Change.org, asking UT-Austin’s Board of Regents to add ‘gender identity’ and ‘preferred name’ options to admissions applications, where prospective transgender and non-binary students would be able to have their names and genders accurately addressed on the first step in the admissions process.
The University currently allows transgender students to update their preferred names and gender preferences on UT records without any medical documentation. However, updating records is difficult for many transgender and non-binary students because of a lack of information about the process, Moore said.
Philosophy junior Audrey Ferguson, who helped Moore with her project and the petition, said she found few answers from University officials about how to update her records as a transgender woman.
“The whole thing was kind of difficult,” Ferguson said. “No one could give me a straight answer.”
Ferguson said she was only able to find the information she needed when she went to the University’s Gender and Sexuality Center, where staff told her students have the ability to update their gender and name preferences without medical documentation — proving a sexual reassignment surgery, for example — under current
“They told me that’s something you can do, when I’ve never heard that,” Ferguson said. “Everyone’s told me that [the University] runs off of the state in how they view gender markers.” Both Ferguson and Moore said another way the University could address transgender and non-binary student concerns is making information about updating records more readily available and the entire process more transparent for incoming students.
In the next few weeks, Moore said she plans to reach out to both Student Government and the University about any possible paths to systemic changes.
Incoming SG President Kevin Helgren, psychology and neuroscience senior, said he would personally support Moore’s effort and believes it would be a good idea for Moore to reach out to SG.
“While I don’t identify as transgender, I am definitely empathetic of the request,” Helgren said. “I think it’s kind of a big and widespread issue that would take a lot of discussion and conversation, but I’m excited to hear students are interested in pushing this forward.”Moore said she hopes by the end of the semester there will at least be a dialogue about how the University’s admissions process affects transgender and non-binary students.
“There’s a lot of hardships they have to face,” Moore said. “If there’s anything I can do to make their lives any bit easier for them, then that would be great.”