I’m not comfortable with people knowing my legal name. I changed it for a reason. It didn’t fit me as a person or align with my gender identity. It was something I’ve hated ever since I was a kid.
Now as a college student, I find myself dreading bringing my friends to my dorm, or even just sending an email. I get anxious waiting for them to find out that Kit isn’t written on my birth certificate.
On my Algonquin College email, the display name is my deadname. For those unfamiliar, a deadname is the term used to describe a trans or non-binary person’s legal or given name.
My deadname has been revealed to several of my classmates and colleagues and has been used as if it were the correct name by the director of the Students’ Association and other people I’ve emailed for interviews.
Not to fault them entirely, it is the name displayed above the email’s content, but I always make sure to introduce myself as and sign off as Kit. Please read my whole email. Thank you.
Now, if you’re not familiar with signing guests into residence, you’re given a card the guest has to carry around in case security or a residence advisor (RA) notices they don’t live there. On it is written the name of the visitor, the arrival and departure date, the room number they’ll be staying in, along with the host’s name.
Three times out of five, my guests have been handed a card with my deadname on it.
I’ve tried everything from handing them my school ID that clearly displays Kit Gervais to double or even sometimes triple-signing my emails with the correct name, yet still I manage to get deadnamed.
The small wins I do get when signing guests in only come from specific front desk staff. Sometimes they get my name right and others just write my last name; both are acceptable to me.
A question I’ve been asking myself since the beginning of the year is, why did the college even ask for my preferred name if they’re not going to use it?
Sure, the name appears correctly on Brightspace and on attendance sheets, but I send emails more than any of my professors take attendance out loud.
This isn’t just my problem. Other students struggle with it.
“It pisses me off,” Em Baker, a hairstyling student, said. “I’ve reminded them enough times.”
According to residence life coordinator Raivyn Halcro, students’ preferred names are written in brackets next to their legal name in the computer system. Apparently, most staff are unaware of what those brackets mean.
Those few members of front desk staff who use the correct name seem to be former RAs. Halcro explained that the RA team is more familiar with the layout of the information system used in residence.
Why would this not be common knowledge to the rest of the team? Halcro made sure to call front desk management and relay my concerns about deadnaming, though it didn’t answer the question at hand.
Halcro provided me with a link to a form with instructions on how to get your name changed in the overall school system, like on Brightspace or email. Students can request to switch a preferred name or gender identity on their school documents —transcripts and credentials not included — by filling out the form and submitting it, along with a request to the registrar’s office.
“Request” is a term Halcro used loosely. There hasn’t been an incident, to her knowledge, of a student’s signed form being rejected.
Regardless, this is just another hurdle in the way for trans and non-binary students trying to receive their education relatively stress-free. The application itself seems unnecessary when there’s a specified slot for preferred name and gender identity on the documentation for admissions.
I always return to the question: Why did the college even ask for my preferred name if they’re not going to use it?
It’s something I haven’t had answered. Yet.