Texting with Queer and Trans Students: Names and Pronouns
The Importance of Using Someone's Chosen Name and Pronouns
College is a time of self-discovery, exploration, and transformation for many students, and for some that goes beyond the intellectual journey in the classroom to finding their gender. This change can come with a shift in language around how students are communicated with in and out of the classroom, new pronouns or a name that may change and evolve over time during their education and their life beyond school.
Queer and trans students face unique challenges and often discrimination. The support of their peers, professors, and administrators make a significant difference in their lives. A study at the University of Texas found that students who had their chosen names used at school, home, work, and friends had a 65% decrease in suicide attempts (Ref news.utexas).
Names and pronouns are often the cornerstone of identity within communication. When names are used, they often convey gender especially to those who may not be familiar with the person. But when students express that they are a different gender than they may be perceived, they are often met with harassment. A 2010 study by Campus Pride found that 63% of trans faculty, students, and staff at higher ed institutions studied hid their gender identity to avoid intimidation on campus (Ref campuspride.org). Those remaining individuals who do choose to express their gender identity gain a sense of safety, community, and respect when you use their chosen names and pronouns.
Signal Vine Supports Preferred Names and Pronouns
Each state has different requirements for name changes and navigating that process can be difficult. Some students may not want to legally change their name yet as they are still navigating their transition. IT systems and policies relied on by education institutions often only recognize legal names and don’t easily provide a way to use a student’s preferred name instead.
However, within Signal Vine, data fields can exist outside of this strictness and extra fields like preferred_name or pronouns can be added so those who are texting with students can pull up this information quickly and support students fully.
It can be difficult to know this information until a student provides it, especially if this is your first time talking with them. Mistakes happen, but the important thing is to acknowledge the correction and continue with the conversation with acceptance. Here is an example interaction:
Administrator: "Hey James, I noticed you haven’t completed your FAFSA. Do you have any questions about what you need to complete it?"
Student: "Actually my name is Mary."
Administrator: "Sorry about that Mary, I’ve made a note on your file so we won’t make the mistake again."
Student: "Thank you for that! My name and gender hasn’t been changed legally yet and I don’t know what to put on my FAFSA and other documents, can you help?"
Administrator: Good question --- have a minute to hop on the phone to discuss? We would be happy to help work through this.
In the situation above, the administrator called the student the wrong name, but by taking responsibility to better the student’s experience, they were able to get her to open up to them and find out the student was struggling with paperwork. Situations similar to this can aid in student retention and experience.
Unsure how changing your students' data will work in your integration? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and let us help you accurately update your students' information.
For more information on how you can help queer and trans students navigate on campus, check out these additional resources:
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