A name can be one of the most defining features about a person, and whether it is assigned by you or by your family, it is an extension of your identity. It’s who you are.
Why, then, is it so difficult to change your name on UT services such as Canvas, UTMail and Zoom?
The University should make it easier for transgender students to change their online name. Easier name change options will help students feel more comfortable and help erase any confusion professors and peers may have about their names.
Deadnaming is when an individual calls someone else by their birth name when they have since changed their name. I am an online-only student who is currently in the process of changing my name, so it makes me feel connected and comfortable when people do not deadname me.
Liz Elsen, director of the Gender and Sexuality Center, said in an email that many transgender students feel at ease when they are not constantly deadnamed.
“When transgender students are allowed to use their chosen names, their risk of suicide and depression decreases,” Elsen said. “Allowing transgender youths to use a chosen name is one simple step that institutions can use to help young people affirm their gender identity.”
Even though it isn’t impossible to change your online name, it can be a rather frustrating process, especially through UTMail.
UT students can’t manually go in and change the name linked to their UTMail accounts. As such, you have to let everyone emailing you know that you use a different name than what it says on your account by sending individual emails yourself.
I receive around 20 emails a day. Emailing back all of these people and countless other contacts I’ve made would take at least a week, and with my busy schedule that isn’t feasible.
Additionally, that social situation is uncomfortable. No one wants to admit that the sender has made some sort of mistake with their identity, even if it is perfectly natural to do so.
Canvas and Zoom are much easier to tackle, simply because all a student or professor has to do is click on their profile and change it. However, I find almost every single day I have to manually change both my Canvas and Zoom name and pronouns because my name in my professors’ directory is still my deadname.
The Daily Texan covered this unfortunately common issue in 2019, and the process hasn’t changed much since then.
“We think it would be better if all students could update their own name whenever they want to online on their student profile,” Elsen said. “We have been working with the registrar’s office since 2014 for this to hopefully, eventually be possible.”
Kathleen Harrison, communications manager for the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost, said the Office of the Registrar is working on a new project to make changing names easier.
“We want to serve students and make it easy for students to reflect their name and personal information as they indicate,” Harrison said in an email. “By spring students will be able to select if they want their legal or chosen name on their diploma, and by this summer students will be able to choose if they want their legal or chosen name in the directory and other systems.”
These changes are a step in the right direction, but they do not fix the problems many transgender students run into on online platforms.
The Office of the Registrar at UT needs to create an easier way for students and professors to change their online names, as this complex process can completely deter students from trying at all, leading to an unhealthy student and classroom environment.
Gomez is a journalism freshman from Lewisville, Texas.