From the excitement of a new environment to the grandiose expectations of a new life chapter, it's no secret that going to university is an invigorating time in every prospective student's life. Though, your choice of which Canadian institution to attend is rarely an easy one, especially if you identify under the 2SLGBTQIA+ umbrella.
There's already so much to be mindful of: tuition fees, social events, local cost of living, accessibility, part-time job opportunities, you name it; and if you add navigating the very personal concept of gender identity and expression into the mix, you very well could give yourself a headache before your queer self lands at your dream school.
However, in recent years we have seen a growing number of colleges and universities celebrate the diversity of 2SLGBTQIA+ folks by being more inclusive. One of the initiatives to help queer students be more confident of their gender identities offers students the chance to use a chosen name while attending their institutions.
This not only removes the burden of trans students coming out every time someone new looks at their file (such as professors and other students) but also helps them avoid being addressed by their deadname. It creates a climate of gender identity inclusivity for 2SLGBTQIA+ students and staff, particularly trans persons.
Fortunately for all prospective students, new and returning alike, we compiled a list of the main universities in Canada with a chosen name policy.
What is a chosen name?
According to John Hopkins University Gender & Sexuality Resources' page on supporting chosen names and pronouns, the institution defines "a chosen name (sometimes known as a preferred name, a nickname, or a name-in-use) [as] the use of a name, usually a first name, that is different from a person’s legal name."
We might also add that it is considered polite to use someone's chosen name when referring to them, or talking about them.
From artists using pen or stage names to folks using their middle name rather than their first name, the use of chosen names are vast, but no matter the reason, the decision to use them needs to be respected.
Basically, deadnaming your acquaintances is not cool, peeps.
Why is it crucial for universities to have a Chosen Name policy?
Chosen Name policies are a great way for educational institutions to support the rights and wellbeing of their 2SLGBTQIA+ student body and employees, especially those in transition. It helps their gender identity to be expressed or explored more freely.
These policies encourage a feeling of belonging to the institution, and also reduce the chances of microaggressions against typical victims of misgendering and bullying.
Media relations officer at McGill University, Shirley Cardenas, noted that the Montreal institution wishes to "ensure that all members of [the] campus community – including 2SGBTQ+ students, faculty, and staff – not only feel safe expressing who they are, but also feel welcomed, validated, and recognized."
Cardenas also acknowledges that there is a long way to go in order to meet that objective at McGill, and the same can be said of various other Canadian universities.
Which students benefit from Chosen Name policy?
Besides trans students pre-legal transition, chosen name policies benefit various other groups, such as international students who choose to alter the spelling of their Latinized or Anglicized first names.
Indeed, a spokesperson from the University of Toronto even highlighted to Narcity the need of a chosen name policy for "domestic violence survivors who needed to be enrolled with a different name," as well as the general goal to affirm "everyone’s lived experiences and identities."
Is a legal transition required for the Chosen Name policy?
Short answer: no.
Long answer below:
Chosen name policies exist so that both students and staff can use their preferred name before — or without the need of — a legal transition.
While a plethora of higher institutions around the globe have adopted such preferred or chosen name policies in recent years, not all Canadian universities and colleges have jumped on the train just yet.
There are, however, other types of name change policies that require an official alteration of legal documents and the University of Ottawa has one of them.
While the university in Canada's capital does have a policy for students to change their name on official records, it is not currently possible to use chosen name before a legal transition.
Thus, the only people who could alter their names at the university are one's whose official documents reflect the change.
Other institutions, namely the University of Alberta, are currently in the process of creating even more inclusive policies to their existing ones.
Which universities have a Chosen Name policy in Canada?
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If you or someone you know is struggling with harassment or discrimination related to gender identity or sexual orientation, please reach out to a trusted peer, parent or health care professional or refer to these resources available across Canada. If you need immediate assistance, please call 911 or go to your nearest hospital. Support is available.