Combating Deadnaming and Misgendering
College is a time and place of intense self-exploration and discovery. Some arrive with their names and pronouns all figured out. Even so, with surgeries and makeup and whatever you prefer, people make assumptions that aren’t always correct. I try to keep in mind that it isn’t always malicious, but personally it can be difficult to advocate for myself and correct people.
I’ve experienced my fair share of misgendering. I didn’t have a preferred name until about a year ago, and I’m honestly still unsure about the name I chose. Unfortunately, when I came out as nonbinary, I had a lot of explaining to do, but I was lucky enough to have a supportive family who tried to understand and adapt.
The problem I usually come across is the singular/plural dilemma. Sometimes people don’t understand the use of “they/them/their” to refer to one person. This isn’t a new thing: You’ve probably done it before, just inadvertently.
Fortunately, Arcadia is becoming more inclusive as we speak up for ourselves and our identities.I generally try to use gender neutral pronouns to refer to people I don’t know until told otherwise. Ask. Don’t assume.
Fortunately, Arcadia is becoming more inclusive as we speak up for ourselves and our identities. I was offered the opportunity to participate in a beta testing for name changes. Those involved in the testing completed a form to switch our legal names for our preferred names on our Knight cards, Canvas, possible second diploma, etc.
Of course, medical documents are a separate matter, but the staff in Student Health Services has always been kind and respectful to me, asking for my preferred name and pronouns and using them consistently. This experience has given me hope and some confidence in advocating for myself in other situations.
One thing that everyone can start doing to make things less scary or taboo is putting your pronouns next to your name in Zoom classes, or introducing yourself with your name and pronouns if you’re meeting someone in person. It will become a common and expected practice as more students, faculty, and staff do it. It’s important to address people how they want to be addressed, which means asking. I generally try to use gender neutral pronouns to refer to people I don’t know until told otherwise. Ask. Don’t assume.
One institutional development that might help combat transphobia or exclusion and ignorance is having a committee similar to the Anti-Black Racism Initiatives Project Team (ABRI). Arcadia has stated a commitment to addressing discrimination and inequality; it’s time for action in areas that affect the LGBTQ+ community as well. That means students, staff, and faculty working together to make this community a safe, inclusive, and positive environment.