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The right to change

by Kalina Laframboise October 23, 2012 0 comment
The right to change

After an amendment to Concordia University’s policies, 12 transgender students have benefitted from the opportunity to register their preferred names on non-official documents such as identification cards and class lists.

Ben Boudreau, a third-year undergraduate science student, approached administration about modifying his information during his first year at Concordia. The university told Boudreau that it could not be done unless he legally changed his name.

Since Boudreau simply wished for professors to address him by his name so that he would not be outed in class, he worked with the 2110 Centre for Gender Advocacy so that he could go by the name he identified with.

Since the summer, students at Concordia have been able to fill out a form from the registrar’s office that allows them to go by their preferred names on non-official university documents such as attendance lists, student identification cards, their MyConcordia portal and in online courses offered by eConcordia.

Gabrielle Bouchard, the trans advocacy and peer support co-ordinator at the 2110 Centre, confirmed that the administration’s new policy had already helped 12 students wanting to go by the name they identify with. During a transgender issues workshop Thursday, Bouchard emphasized how facing difficulties in class regarding name preference can make “students strategize around these situations.”

Boudreau, who legally changed his name as the policy adjustment was in its final stages, was relieved to know that other transgender students have the option of going by their chosen name. Prior to his legal name change, Boudreau was sometimes ostracized in his courses and had to contact professors before the semester started in order to explain his situation.

“When you’re so afraid to go to class everyday in fear of being outed, it’s scary,” said Boudreau. “But at least stuff like this at school is great for a number of reasons, and I mean, if my administration will let me identify myself as I want to then maybe it will be easier down the road.”

What the policy does not apply to, however, is official transcripts or diplomas students receive from Concordia. Official university documents maintain students’ birth names unless they have had it legally changed.

Terry Too, the project director of the Student Information System at the university, explained that this is due to the provincial government’s necessity for the legal name to be on official documents. Furthermore, it’s to ensure that there are no bureaucratic issues with future employers or post-secondary institutions by having a different name than the one currently filed with the government.

Too told The Concordian that he worried that some students may abuse the system that has already helped a dozen transgender students. The administration wanted to limit access just to transgender students so that other students do not misuse the service but didn’t want to put rules in place either.

“It’s a delicate balancing act to provide good services to transgender students,” said Too. “We’re trying to reach out and help students but we don’t want to put bureaucratic rules.”

Boudreau hopes that the adjustments at Concordia will provide a stepping stone to changes in the provincial system in order to facilitate the process of transgender individuals legally changing their names. For Boudreau, it took approximately a year to have his application approved after he provided documents from psychologists and doctors to explain the change, and cost him close to $500.

Furthermore, Boudeau hopes that other post-secondary institutions make similar adjustments to their policies so that transgender students feel welcomed.

“I have friends that won’t go to school because for whatever reason they cannot get their names or gender changed,” Boudreau said. “And it’s just so much humiliation everyday.”

According to Boudreau, the issues that transgender individuals face are far from over though. “The demographic is small but it really counts,” he said.

Photo by Madelayne Hajek

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