Respecting Gender Identity
A recent post in Inside Higher Education (January 25, 2022) notes that colleges and universities are now tweaking campus information systems to respect preferences for both name and pronoun use. They add that the Common Application began asking students what name and pronouns they use during the current admission cycle, meaning about 900 colleges now receive applications from students who are identified by names and pronouns of their choosing in addition to their legal names and genders assigned at birth.
While the post was intended to address challenges in outdated information systems, it is important that professionals working with young people prepare for reporting that acknowledges this shift. There are several reasons for doing so. First, there are times when young people and their parents disagree about what name and pronoun should be used in a report that may be provided to medical, school, or criminal justice personnel. When a person is an adult, they clearly should be able to have a document that reflects their gender identity. When the child is still under parental authority, it becomes more complex.
Second, writing is much more complicated. Having been trained in Standard American English, many of us find it quite difficult to use they/their/theirs in a document about the life of an individual. It will be important both to adjust to changing notions of gender and appropriate ways of reporting information. An intake form may have to accommodate “legal” name and personal preference. A report may have to document birth name and gender as well as preferred name and gender. Reports historically had to acknowledge women’s name changes as they married, divorced, and sometimes remarried. It will be important moving forward that practitioners carefully decide how they want to use names and pronouns.
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