The Oakland Post

The life of a transgender student

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The life of a transgender student

Cheyanne Kramer, Managing Editor

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It’s day one. Like many freshman students, the one sitting next to you is nervous. The professor calls out everyone’s names, saying they want to put names to faces.

The student next to you sinks down. Your professor calls a name, a feminine one and the student sighs.

“Actually, sir, that isn’t my name. I prefer to go by something else.”

The professor writes down the student’s name and class resumes. For the rest of the semester, that student next to you is “other.” They’ll always have a preferred name, you don’t understand why.

Until 2016, this was the case for many transgender students at Oakland University. Students would be forced to tell a group of strangers they were transgender, or they could lie, use their birth names and reject their identities.

In 2016, Oakland announced it would adopt a preferred name policy. Issued in two phases, students are now able to change their name on MySail, ADMNET and Moodle.

In partial thanks to the preferred name policy, Oakland has been ranked the best university for LGBTQIA+ students in the state.

Ranked with four-and-a-half stars out of a possible five, Oakland dominates the Campus Pride Index in fields such as LGBT policy inclusion, academic life and housing life.

Currently, University Housing allows students to live in gender-inclusive rooms, and mark on their applications that they’re willing to live with those who have a gender or sex different than their own.

Some universities, however, have LGBT floors or designated housing. Hansen Karyakose, vice president of administration for the National Residence Hall Honorary (NRHH), believes this could prevent LGBT students from integrating with other students in housing.

“I don’t know if an LGBT floor would be a great idea because you want to integrate LGBT persons throughout housing, so secluding them to one floor, even if they were ok with it, and it should be up to them if they want to room with an LGBT person,” he said. “A floor wouldn’t be great, because you aren’t exposing other cisgender people and heterosexual people to the community.”

Grace Wojcik, the director of the Gender and Sexuality Center, offered another reason why OU is an accepting campus: the SAFE training that takes place.

SAFE training, or Students, Administrators and Faculty for Equality, is a training session put on by the GSC where participants go over terminology and the process behind making recommendations to counselors on campus.

“We give them action steps of how to best support LGBT peoples,” Wojcik said. “We talk about the student organizations, the employee resource group, things like that.”

There are three different LGBT centric student organizations on campus, though only one is currently active. The Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) has been at Oakland in varying forms and under different names for decades, and is the one active student organization.

The other two, the LGBT Media Club and Transcend, are both inactive, though Wojcik said if students are interested in reviving them to contact her, as they could be revived for the fall 2018 semester.

Oakland’s website says student names can be changed on Google. This is partly true, as students can change what shows up when they send emails, but unlike any other Google account, students cannot actually change their name on Google.

While Karyakose’s name appears as Hansen on emails, when looking at his “name” on Google, it still shows his birth name.

Despite the university claiming it is possible to change one’s name on Google, Karyakose said he was given an excuse, rather than a solution.

They said they send names to Google, apparently, and I guess they can only send my legal name,”

— Hansen Karyakose

“They said they send names to Google, apparently, and I guess they can only send my legal name,” he said. “Without a legal name change, I can’t change my name on my Google account. On Forms, Sheets, anything I share with anyone else, my legal name comes up.”

In addition, the preferred name policy does not cover changing one’s name on their OU ID card, which presents other struggles for students.

Karyakose said it’s something he uses often, whether for buying food or going through Night Watch, and it can out a student who is transgender when they don’t wish to be.

The Oakland Post erroneously reported in 2016 that ID cards would be included in the preferred name policy. Anders Engnell, one of the then-students behind the preferred name policy, said “the Student IDs were connected to the Name Service on campus, which on the implementation plan would be launched sometime next year.”

At the time, Wojcik was under the impression that ID cards would be included come January 2017.

For whatever reason, this never happened. To this day, unless a student has a legal name change, their ID cannot be changed to match with their identity.

1 Comment

One Response to “The life of a transgender student”

  1. Theresa Rowe on April 4th, 2018 7:38 am

    Google recently released an update to the university GSuite products to populate a student entered preferred first name through the products. Hansen worked with us to test and verify. We continue to implement preferred first name where legal name is not required and where a vendor’s product provides a solution. We are interested in hearing about your technology experiences. Theresa Rowe CIO

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