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Editorial – No student should have to play the name game

by The Concordian January 10, 2012

For some time now, Ben Boudreau, a second-year sciences student at Concordia, has been pushing the administration to allow trans students to be identified by their preferred name on all university documents, rather than by their legal name. Boudreau’s cause merits more awareness, and ultimately, widespread support.

In December, The Concordian published an article detailing Boudreau’s struggles to have the name “Ben Boudreau” appear on his transcript. The struggle was all the more important because Boudreau, quite understandably, did not want his legal name – a name that doesn’t identify him at all – to be used by professors taking attendance. He has since been working alongside CSU councillors as well as with the 2110 Centre for Gender Advocacy to shed more light on this issue and have the Senate do something about it.

Boudreau’s plight was again highlighted last week on CBC Daybreak, when he recounted how he has had to email all of his professors at the beginning of each semester to let them know that while his transcript may say something different, they should address him in class as “Ben.” He went on to say that while reactions from some professors were generally positive, one teacher responded to him by saying “God still loves you.” One would hope God loves everyone, if you happen to believe in God, but that’s a whole other matter.

During the Daybreak interview, Concordia spokesperson Chris Mota indicated that at the moment, there is very little the university can do when it comes to guidelines regarding names on transcripts, explaining that the Quebec government requires universities to use a student’s legal name on all official documents.

Here, of course, lies the major problem. The Quebec government has still not caught up to the fact that there are many people in today’s society, be they trans students or students with foreign names preferring to go by something else, who do not wish to use their legal name. Ever. It is a name that should never be associated with them, as it no longer describes the person they have come to be.

The process to change legal names is a whole other bureaucratic battle, one that could take longer than a student’s time at university. So while that red tape is being cut, the Quebec government should recognize that students have a right to their own name, and allow them to use it whenever and on whatever document they like.

In the meantime, Mota said on Daybreak that students like Boudreau can explain their situation to the Office of the Registrar and have them alert the professors. But Boudreau said he went through that very process, without much success, as can probably be said for many other students who tried the same route. At the end of the day, Boudreau says it’s a matter for the judicial system. If the Quebec government doesn’t get its act together soon, perhaps he’s right.

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