Empowering students with chosen names and pronouns

November 29, 2022

Empowering students with chosen names and pronouns

Starting your first day of classes at college can be stressful enough without the added discomfort of having to correct an instructor about your name or pronouns. At best, it’s an awkward moment. At worst, it can cause serious harm by outing a trans or non-binary person in front of an audience without consent.

Deadnaming, the process of using the legal name of trans and non-binary folks who have chosen a different name, has been a major problem for many post-secondary institutions across Canada. Unfortunately, the way that many systems are designed to administer post-secondary education relies on the use of legal names to create class lists to share with instructors and peers.

NorQuest has not been exempt from this challenge. And to improve the safety and learner experience for trans and non-binary students at NorQuest and to follow through on our commitment to We Are Who We Include, we have put our minds together to design and implement new system changes that will prevent the future deadnaming of trans and nonbinary students on classroom platforms of Moodle and Blackboard collaborate.

“This might seem like simple changes to an online form, but it’s about so much more,” says Eric Chan, Lead of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in NorQuest’s Office of Equity. “By allowing students to make their own choices, we empower them to have control over the names they share with their instructors and peers.”

While these changes will have immediate impact on the safety and learner experience of trans and nonbinary students, the benefits of these changes extend to all learners. Many students may have complex relationships to their legal names for a variety of reasons. International students sometimes have names that do not follow the western first name/last name format. Any awkward or uncomfortable use of a name should be alleviated with these changes.

Additional changes have also been made to allow learners to select their chosen pronoun. New options beyond the traditional gender-based pronouns have been added to allow students more choice for displaying their chosen pronouns.

Creating a safe and inclusive learning environment for trans, non-binary and gender fluid students is a responsibility that we all share. These changes represent our continued commitment to building a gender inclusive NorQuest for all.

Image by bublikhaus on Freepik