By Lianna Hubbard
Nina Reich, a transgender woman and FSW freshman, wore an ankle-length cranberry skirt, gray sweater, and Pokémon scarf to Gender Sexuality Alliance’s Gays-giving on October 21, an outfit she bought just for the occasion, an abrupt departure from her usual jeans and T-shirt.
“Right now, I can just be myself in that room,” she said while sitting outside the Gays-giving meeting room, where donated food filled the tables and conversation filled the air. “If I changed my name and made it official, I would get to be myself across the campus. I would just be Nina. Period.”
Reich has not come out to any professors, classmates, or her family. Outside of GSA, she is known by her deadname. A deadname is the name a transgender person is born with that they no longer identify with.
“I could never wear this and act the way I do anywhere else but here,” Reich said. “This is a time when I feel alive.”
FSW is working on a program that would help Reich be herself on the rest of the campus.
By next semester, students will be able to change their name in Portal. They will see their changed name in their course schedules, Portal, and on class rosters.
“It’s all in trying to make sure we can accommodate the needs of any type of student,” said Jason Dudley, IT’s vice president and chief information officer. “We don’t want to force them into a particular group.”
The name-changing program will be brought to Canvas by the end of June.
Reich feels hope with the new program.
“Seeing my name on an official school document, it would mean I would get to be out here,” Reich said. “For people fresh out of high school or transferring, they would get to start off [with their real name].”
Ariana Zuza, a dual-enrolled freshman and trans woman, is one such high school student.
Although she is out in her high school, the baggage of her old name hangs over her.
“Most people in my high school kind of forgot and just call me by my deadname,” she said. “My band teacher doesn’t call me by my first name. He addresses me by my last name.”
When Zuza began her dual enrollment at FSW, she wanted a fresh start.
“It’s like a different school and people don’t know me by my deadname. So I can just come out as transgender and it not be a huge surprise.”
Before classes began, Zuza emailed her FSW professors, letting them know her gender identity and name so that she wouldn’t be deadnamed in class. Even though her professors have been understanding, the system the school uses to identify students has not.
While taking attendance, her professor projected the class roster on the whiteboard at the front of the classroom. Her classmates called off their attendance. She panicked when it got to her name.
“They left the names up on the board and everyone could see my deadname,” Zuza said. “It was really embarrassing.”
Despite all of Zuza’s precautions, she was still deadnamed in the classrooms.
For Zuza, the program will save her a lot of time and stress.
“Being able to change [your name] through Canvas would save a lot of trouble of having to email your professors and tell them and have your classmates see your deadname in group projects,” said Zuza.
A non-binary student and GSA member, Kissy Anderson, is tired of the trouble.
“I give my professors two chances. I put Christiny [their deadname] and then Kissy in parentheses next to it on the first two assignments. And then from then on its Kissy and that’s it,” Anderson said.
Anderson plans on changing their name as soon as the program is available.
“Our birth names are something we’re branded with our entire life. But our given name is us. That’s something so meaningful to finally have acknowledged.”