Whenever someone pronounces my surname wrong, I smile, correct them, and jokinglyexplain how vowels hadn’t yet been invented when my ancestors came to the Western world. But despite the jokes I make in regards to my name, I fully understand how significant titles such as names are to our own identities.
Just recently, Lucas Crawford, lecturer in the Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies Department, and SFU student Nathan Lyndsay, suggested a change to SFU’s age-old policy of printing legal names on students IDs. This change could spell a further step towards equality and safety for all individuals at SFU, especially transgender students.
Many transgender students often change their names, yet the process to legally change one’s name in British Columbia is extensive and often expensive. The name change alone will often warrant a criminal record check, a new birth certificate, or the like. More often than not, it’s more efficient to keep a legal name on your documents, while being publicly referred to by a different chosen name.
However, requiring a legal name on an SFU ID poses problems for transgender students, namely that they may be subject to scrutiny or violence, and are made uneasy when having to explain themselves.
Universities must be prepared to correct archaic policies that discriminate against students.
While Simon Fraser University has always been a progressive hub for social equality, reality is a harsh mistress. Harassment and abuse can occur at any time, from subtle acts of discrimination to blatant attacks. As a student who believes in an environment of equality for all people, I strongly believe that SFU students should be able to choose what name is printed on their ID card. This way, such harassment may be avoided.
A new identification policy would also bring about practicalities for students with foreign names. As a child, many of my friends with names originating from their mother-language, had to go by their westernized first names. It was simply easier for Westerners to pronounce, and the troubles of watching people stumble over a foreign name often outweighed any doubts in their minds. In choosing their own names, foreign students would still retain their dignity and identity as individuals.
As our society grows to be more progressive, all universities must be prepared to correct their archaic policies that may discriminate against students. While allowing students a preferred name on their ID card may seem a small change, it’s a step in the direction of social tolerance and comfortable maintenance of one’s identity.