Students have to fight to have their names recognized. PHOTO: DEVIN JONES

Photo: Devin Jones

Transitioning at Rye: why we need a new preferred name policy

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By Sidney Drmay

A lack of preferred name policy at Ryerson creates barriers for transgender students who use a name different than their legal one.

Both forms—the Students Records Statutory Declaration Form for Change of Name and the Personal Data Change Form—can be found by following a trail of six hyperlinks on Ryerson’s website. However, the forms are outdated and have old information on them—most importantly, about where to drop them off. The first form currently lists POD64 as a drop off location, but this office is no longer open. There is also a requirement to get the name change notarized by a lawyer.

While other schools like Carleton and George Brown have comprehensive, one-stop name change systems and preferred name policies, Ryerson is lagging behind with a two-form system. Carleton allows students to submit a preferred name through the Carleton Central portal and, once approved, it will be changed across all of the school’s internal systems. Similarly, George Brown has a designated employee who processes name change forms, which allows for the change to be made across the entire system.

Students like Gabriel Holt, a second year science major, are saying that Ryerson’s current system causes undue stress, anxiety and forces people to out themselves as transgender on both forms, which can lead to discrimination and violence in trans people’s daily lives.

“You have to put the reason you’re changing your name, which is nobody’s goddamn business. It feels like you against the university and that’s a very scary prospect,” Holt said.

The Ryerson website does have a page to guide students on how to transition. However, the responsibility falls on the student to complete the steps with little to no guidance.

When Holt was in the process of completing the forms, he said he was instructed to bring them to two separate offices, one of which no longer exists. He tried several locations before finding the correct one.

But the process doesn’t end there.

Holt added that in addition to getting his name changed on his student records, he had to get a new username, a new OneCard, a new email and he had to talk to several placement coordinators.

“The shit you have to take from people, the number of times I’ve had to out myself as trans just to change my name was really damaging,” Holt said.

In an email, registrar Charmaine Hack responded to concerns about the need for a policy by stating that Ryerson has previously worked with the Trans Collective and is committed to reviewing their system surrounding preferred names, despite structural difficulties.

“The implementation of preferred name in the student administration system beyond the landing page in RAMSS self-service would require a wholesale change across the university, involving admissions, student records, OneCard, student fees, student financial assistance, academic departments and instructors,” said Hack.

Within Ontario, a legal name change can cost anywhere from $137 to $160, and unless an additional form is filled out, the name change will be recorded in the Ontario Gazette—the official publication for legislative decisions and proclamations of new statutes. This outs any trans person, should someone, including potential employers, go looking for the information.

Trans Collective coordinator Evan Roy has been working to improve the system through a preferred name campaign since the centre’s creation in 2014. Roy said the ideal outcome would be an online form that can be completed by students to allow the school to change names across all student administration systems.

“We have a new crop of students this year who feel that [legal name change] isn’t something that is necessary. We knew there was a way and there is a form but it is just another instance of what a trans person has to do to get recognition and get their identity validated by an institution that is oppressive to them,” Roy said.

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