Campus, News

Transgender, nonbinary students report difficulty changing legal sex — Part 2

Petition created by Boston University student Alex P. after the University did not allow them to change their legal sex to “X” in BU records. Other transgender and nonbinary BU students have also experienced difficulties with University sex identification rules. ILLUSTRATION BY HANNAH YOSHINAGA/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

In addition to problems with SHS, trans and nonbinary students have expressed frustration over the University’s policies regarding sex identification. 

Alex P., a nonbinary student, created a petition and shared their experience in an Instagram post on Aug. 16. The post detailed their experience switching their sex to “X” —  a third gender option legally recognized in 20 states for driver’s licenses and 15 for birth records for individuals who do not identify as exclusively male or female —  on their birth certificate in their home state of New York. The post said that it was a 10-month process involving three separate rejections.

The post then went on to detail how when Alex tried to update their sex in the University’s records, BU refused to do so.

The post read that a University official told them that although BU acknowledges different forms of gender expression and identity, they must have only legal binary male/female sex of students for University records and federal reporting. The post said Alex made repeated efforts to follow up and see if they could speak to someone who could make the change but did not hear back after the initial reply.

While the “X” identification marker is recognized in Massachusetts, Colin Riley, BU’s spokesperson, said that BU is able to list only the binary male/female marker because the University’s Student Information System — the system that includes the Student Link and Faculty Link— cannot currently accommodate another marker. 

However, Riley wrote that the system update scheduled for completion in the Fall of 2023 will allow more options for pronouns and gender identity. 

“We recognize that that’s a shortcoming of the system, and are working to address that,” he said.

Students can update their name on Blackboard, their Kerberos username, name on their email and their Terrier/ID Card. The BU directory does not let students replace their legal name but allows them to add a “nickname” that will appear in place of their legal name in some settings.

Alex said when they tried to learn more about why they couldn’t change their sex identification they were met with silence from the University. 

“After two months, there’s just radio silence from their end,” they said. “I just kept thinking about how wrong it felt and how I probably wasn’t the only one to deal with this, so I ended up taking initiative and going public about it.”

Alex said since posting on Instagram they have been met with immense support from the BU community. The petition has gained more than 2,700 signatures, passing its goal of 2,500 since being posted.

They added that several nonbinary students at BU have reached out sharing personal stories of difficulty getting their sex identification changed. 

“They had the exact same issue and it was just so frustrating and so much work and so humiliating for them that they ended up just keeping quiet about it and taking it from BU,” Alex said. 

El Snow, a trans-masculine junior in the College of Arts and Sciences, tried changing their sex in BU’s records in 2019 but said they knew the University would not change it to X, as it is on their state ID. 

“I think that it’s really disheartening to see,” Snow said, “and it’s really disheartening that this is BU Administration’s policy surrounding changing legal identification and changing identification in general.” 

Snow noted the hypocrisy of BU’s outward appearance of supporting the LGBTQ+ community, but lack of support in reality for the students.

“It’s especially frustrating to see BU come out with things related to Pride Month and things related to being able to support queer students on campus but then not have any actual tangible policies that do that supporting,” Snow said.

Meg Romine, a senior in the College of Communication who is nonbinary, said they have experienced “invalidating language” when communicating with BU Housing about gender-neutral housing selection.

“They were sort of like, because you will be living with other females and you are down as female in our records, you will just be in general selection,” Romine said. 

They noted in particular the complications of working within a system that lacks markers beyond the male/female binary, and their frustration with having no way to change their records.

“No one gave me any way that I could go about changing the gender that they had on record, it was just this is what it is, this is what you filled out when you came here, and that’s not going to change,”  Romine said. “It would make a lot of things so much easier for students if they just had a way of just validating us within the system.”

Alex added that students need to continue holding the University accountable in order to see a change.

“The only way that trans and nonbinary students can be heard is through publicly holding large institutions such as BU accountable,” Alex said, “and putting public pressure on them until BU decides that their image isn’t worth risking upholding antiquated policies that work against trans and nonbinary people.”

For Part 1 on trans and nonbinary student’s difficulty with Student Health Services, see here.

Alex P. pointed to the following list of resources trans and nonbinary students can access:

  • How to change your name on Blackboard: Click the tab on the left side where your name appears to access your profile. Click the pencil tool on the Full Name line under “Basic Information” to change it. Select done when finished.
  • How to change your BU Kerberos login name: Submit a request through BU’s IT Help Center to change the name, the fee is $50 but is waived for legal name change and other unique circumstances, according to the website. The email name can be updated by clicking the google icon in the right corner of the email page, selecting “Manage your Google Account,” then select the tab “Personal Info.” Once there, the name can be changed by clicking on the current name and saving changes. The gender (as well as who can see it) can also be changed here.
  • How to change your nickname in the Boston University Directory: The link allows you to add your real name as a “nickname,” though it will not allow you to change the name the University has in the system for you. It also gives the option for you to allow your real name (the nickname) to appear in place of your name in some places, such as email To and From lines.

 






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