The Department of Gender and Women’s Studies stands with trans and nonbinary students, staff, and faculty at the University of Illinois, who each deserve to be recognized and referred to by their proper names and pronouns. Deadnaming as well as misgendering withhold recognition of another’s personhood. These practices can humiliate and hurt trans and non-binary persons and create an educational and living environment that is at best unwelcoming, and at worst hostile and traumatic. Names and gender identities are not trivial aspects of personhood, but are crucially a matter of mental well-being and personal and community safety. Deadnaming can actively endanger people by outing them as trans or nonbinary without their knowledge or consent.
In 2021, transgender and nonbinary persons, especially youth and students, are faced with widespread legislative attacks on their rights in the United States. In 31 states, at least 140 bills have been introduced that aim to criminalize or restrict gender-affirming practices by a wide array of actors, including trans youth, their parents, doctors, and teachers. These bills, some of which have already been passed through hostile state legislatures, primarily limit or deny access to health care and sports, with particular mandates for public school systems from K-12 through to secondary education. These bills signal an escalating and coordinated assault on transgender and nonbinary persons and their right to merely exist. Especially in this current political context, the University must be vigilant in ensuring the safety and well-being of trans and nonbinary students, staff, and faculty.
We call on the University to change its policies and practices to ensure that deadnames are no longer circulated in place of students’ proper names within the U of I system infrastructure, whether it be mass or departmental emails, assigned Zoom handles, mandatory COVID testing procedures, academic transcripts, commencement ceremonies and diplomas, or other records. We further support calls for the University to provide long-term mental health care access that is both competent and affirming for trans and nonbinary students, staff, and faculty. Lastly, we call on the University and also each other to be proactive in shaping a campus/community that actively affirms trans and nonbinary people and that prevents gender-based discrimination and harm.