We use names to present ourselves to others and associate our names with how we see ourselves.
However, sometimes our given name is not the name we associate with — this is especially true within the transgender community. Because a person should always be comfortable with their name and their preferred identity, our campus community must address students by their preferred names. But approving a name change at UT can often be a hassle for transgender students, as UT does not have an option to add a preferred name online and fails to use preferred names on important documents.
UT needs to update to an online name changing system that will allow students to use their preferred name in all circumstances. This can help make transgender students feel more comfortable on campus, and give them the rightful opportunity to be themselves.
When UT does not use a student’s preferred name in the directory or on class rosters, it can often create unneeded confusion and frustration for transgender students. Map Pesqueira, a radio-television-film and American studies freshman, said although he had his legal name changed in May 2018 just before attending UT, his previous name was on all his records during orientation.
“All of the documents they gave me didn’t have my preferred name,” Pesqueira said. “It was really disheartening.”
Currently, the University requires students to set up name changes through in-person appointments. Universities such as UT-Dallas, UT-Arlington, Texas Tech University, University of North Texas, Texas State University and University of Houston all have an online name changing system, but UT-Austin has failed to implement this easier and more efficient process.
Furthermore, Pesqueira acknowledged how difficult it can be for transgender students when their preferred name does not appear on class rosters. Being referenced by a name you don’t identify with can be both embarrassing and frustrating.
“It is extremely important for UT to acknowledge our identity and understand that we need to be respected just like everybody else, and that goes with using the correct name,” Pesqueira said. “Whether it’s our chosen name or the name given on our birth certificate, that’s the name that is a staple to our identity.”
There is no need to add extra steps such as an in-person meeting that make the process unnecessarily complicated.
Not only is it harder to get a name change acknowledged on this campus, but students are not able to use a preferred name on their diplomas. This can make transgender students feel embarrassed to showcase their diplomas or feel like their degree is somehow invalid. Because schools such as Columbia University and Texas Tech allow students to use their preferred name on diplomas, UT must prioritize making this change as well to create an inclusive environment for transgender students.
“I struggled a lot at UT to get the name I gave myself to be recognized on documentation, because they don’t always have the option for a (preferred name) and that’s not fair,” Pesqueira said. “It’s so important because someone’s identity makes up every part of someone, and it’s the person they present themselves as.”
Just because a name isn’t on a birth certificate doesn’t mean it’s invalid. UT must make sure students are comfortable when presenting their identity and help to empower all transgender students on campus by making important updates to the name changing system.
Nayak is a communication sciences and disorders freshman from Austin.