Transgender students who have fought hard for the right to use their chosen names instead of legal names are celebrating a decision by college administrators to allow chosen names for college documents and records.
Southwestern College is the first in San Diego County to allow its students to use their chosen names on class rosters, waitlists, grade rosters, WebAdvisor, Blackboard and Canvas, said Dr. Malia Flood, dean of Student Services.
“We knew that it was important to our students and we wanted to make a safe and welcoming environment for them,” she said. “The next step is getting the word out to students and out to faculty and staff, and letting them know that this is available for students.”
Chosen names help improve safety for transgender people — America’s most assaulted and murdered population — by reducing the chance that they will be unintentionally outed by faculty when they call role.
Dan Cordero, president of the SWC Sexuality And Gender Acceptance Club (SAGA), has been a vocal advocate for chosen names. Cordero, a transgender man, said gender variant students who could not afford to legally change their names had to contact professors ahead of time to let them know about their chosen names and pronouns. That did not always work, he said. When a professor calls students by their legal names instead of their chosen names, Cordero said, it causes invalidation to students’ identity and makes them feel uncomfortable and distressed in class. That impacts their academic performance and also endangers their safety on campus, he said.
“It comes down to physical and emotional welfare of the students at the end of the day,” Cordero said. “So I’m glad that Southwestern College is taking a step in the right direction to implement positive changes for the students.”
Cordero said he hopes the college will take more proactive steps to respect and protect transgender students.
Cordero has led the effort to allow students to use chosen names for years, since he was outed unintentionally by professors calling roll during the open class of the semester. Prior college leaders said IT could not make the change, but Flood and college president Dr. Kindred Murillo insisted it could be done.
To indicate their chosen name, students must type it in a space for a chosen name on their CCC Apply application or go to the Southwestern College Admission and Records Office and fill out a short form in person. Their chosen name will then show up on all rosters and other school-related documents.
Students’ chosen names will not appear on federal documents that require the legal name. These include financial aid, transcripts, diplomas, student health services, international students and EOPS/CARE/Guardian Scholars. Cordero said the Trump Administration will likely make it impossible to change federal rules for the time being.