Community members advocate for preferred names on student IDs

Two SFU community members, in collaboration with members from SFPIRG and Out on Campus, have started a campaign to create a university policy which would allow students to have their preferred names on their student ID cards.

Lucas Crawford, Ruth Wynn Woodward lecturer in the Department of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies (GSWS) and a transgender individual himself, is embarking on a campaign with GSWS student Nathan Lyndsay to make self-identification more comfortable for transgender students at the university.

The issue concerns the university’s current policy which does not allow students to use their preferred names on their IDs. According to Crawford, this is not feasible or even always safe for transgender students.

“The problem with the current lack of policy I would say is it is one of safety, and one of access, and one of choice. And by that I mean that it should be up to a transgender student when and if they want to disclose their transgender status to other people,” Crawford said.

Beyond formal activities, such as registering for classes or paying tuition, students at SFU use their ID cards in places such as the library, the bookstore, and the cafe. These are all situations in which a transgender student might have to disclose “a really intimate piece of [their] past, [their] old name,” said Crawford.

In addition to transgender individuals, the ID issue also concerns international students who may prefer to be called by a different name, as well as students who go by names other than those on their birth certificates.

Lyndsay told The Peak that the only place he has ever seen his preferred name appear is on the online Student Centre and on his email.

“I looked into it, emailed some people in the department, and they told me that the university requires that you use your legal name on your student ID because it can be used as a secondary piece of legal ID,” he said. “I can understand that, but I think there should still be a trans policy.”

Although legally changing one’s name might seem to be a solution to the problem, Lyndsay explained that many students can’t afford to undergo the process.

He echoed Crawford’s concerns that the current situation carries a risk factor for trans individuals: “It makes it unsafe. It puts someone at risk of being outed, [facing] violence, feeling uncomfortable, having to explain your identity to people. You don’t always want to be on the defensive all the time.”

To cast a spotlight on the issue, the two threw an ID Modification Party with Out On Campus on September 17. At the event, students were encouraged to laminate over their current student ID cards, replacing their “wrong” names with their preferred names. “I think [the event was] a first step to a long-term solution that needs to happen,” Lyndsay said.

Next week, Crawford and Lyndsay are meeting with Tim Rahilly, associate vice president, students, and Mark Walker, SFU’s registrar, to propose changes to the university’s policy.

Crawford said he believes the university could have an effective policy in place for students arriving at SFU in fall 2015.

Regarding the meeting next week with administration, he said, “I’m hoping that we can show them just how exciting for SFU it would be to take the lead on this issue, and I hope that we can [work towards] figuring out how to move forward with the new initiative.”