Transgender student IDs now allow preferred name, gender

Written By Francesca Dabecco

Every student at Point Park has an issued student ID with their photo and name. It serves as a key to access campus buildings, a way to check out books in the library and a means of purchasing food through a meal plan, to name a few of its purposes.

However, for some students, this simple indication of identification gives them access to something far more valuable: the freedom to be themselves.

Until the fall 2016 semester, students and faculty were required to use their legal first and last name on their student IDs. This was particularly problematic for transgender students.

“Students came to us last year and were asking about being able to use their preferred name in several aspects of the university,” Dean of Student Life Michael Gieseke said. “The biggest one at the time was student IDs for students who have formally changed their name, but not legally done so.”

That is when the university created the Preferred Name Policy, allowing any faculty, staff or student to identify with their preferred first or middle name that differs from their legal name outside of federal or state documents.

That change made a difference in the day-to-day lives of transgender students at Point Park: students like 20-year-old Max Namey, a sophomore forensic science major from Pittsburgh.

All of last year, Namey’s birth name was used on his ID and class rosters.

“I tried to get it changed at that point but was told I wasn’t allowed to do so unless it was legally changed,” Namey said. “It was pretty frustrating. Not just the ID, but before classes started, I would have to email all of my professors explaining my situation by outing myself.”

When Namey heard that Point Park was implementing the Preferred Name Policy for the fall 2016 semester, he went to get his ID changed the first day it was open.

“I wanted to get it taken care of as soon as possible,” Namey said. “It was a pretty easy process… she asked me what name I wanted on my ID and made sure it was spelled right. I had a new picture taken, and my new ID was printed within five minutes.”

Namey admitted that as a college student he doesn’t have the money to have his name legally changed and said, “seeing it on a printed ID was a really cool feeling.”

Namey is not the only one who feels this way. Senior behavioral science major Heather Leasure has also found the Preferred Name Policy to be beneficial.

“It is nice to be seen by the university as ‘Heather,’” Leasure said. “It helps me feel a sense of dignity, and it also allows me to not have to put myself in a position where I have to out myself.”

This sentiment is felt throughout the Point Park community and  is not limited to transgender students.

Silmari Munoz, the president of the Gender and Sexuality Spectrum Alliance (GSSA), worked in the ID center for three years. When she heard of the policy change, she was thrilled.

“It made us all at the GSSA very happy because it was definitely an issue,” Munoz said. “It was just a change that let students know that the school cares, and they are willing to listen.”

Gieseke notes that a feeling of acceptance by students was the most important detail of the Preferred Name Policy.

“Hopefully, it sends the message that we are open to all of our students,” Gieseke said. “We want everyone to feel like they have a place here and that they feel comfortable and accepted by the university.”

However, Gieseke admits that although the policy has worked well for IDs, it still needs improvement being implemented throughout all aspects of the university.

He explained that whenever a student has officially changed their name in the system, the database has a field for a “preferred name.” The problem, Gieseke said, is that not every office runs the preferred name section in their reports.

“We have just started meeting with the different offices at the university to ask them to do so,” Gieseke said. “Because once a student submits that preferred name change to the registrar’s office, their expectation is that it is getting disseminated to everybody.”

And while that is the university’s intention, it does not always happen. That is why, for the remainder of the semester and during the summer, Student Life will be meeting with every office that has direct interaction with students to ensure that they are consciously using students’ preferred names.

“Some are better with that than others,” Gieseke said. “So we are going to continue to create awareness for the staff of the university, before calling or emailing a student, that they use the preferred name.”

According to Gieseke, although the majority of students and faculty are overwhelmingly accepting of this policy, the reality is that there are more than 400 employees of the university.

“Does everybody agree with this? I don’t think everybody does,” Gieseke said. “But I hope that this proves that, as a university, we believe in inclusion, we believe in self-expression and all are welcomed.”