One of the most routinely irritating parts of transition is dealing with the problem of having two names, and generally really disliking one of them. Legal name change is a natural part of the process, but it’s not necessarily something most of us do early on. So we’re stuck trying to navigate the world being called one thing, and our legal documents stating something drastically different. The impact of this can be anything from the minor irritation of hearing the name you’re trying to get away from to the potential major difficulty of being forcibly outed in an uncomfortable or unsafe situation.
Because of this being able to set a preferred name in a set of records can be of great benefit to trans folks (and to anyone else who just happens to hate their legal name). In particular, allowing a preferred name while in college allows students to avoid the complications of having to out themselves to every single professor to be referred to by the name their comfortable with. Additionally, if they are allowed to use this same name on IDs and in email, it can save a world of complications when dealing with other students and university staff. Since most college records are driven by a student number, rather than a name, the addition of a preferred name shouldn’t cause any registration or grading complications, nor increase the potential for fraud.
The option for a preferred name is available at a still small percentage of universities in North American, but the numbers seem to grow every year. It’s wonderful to see the folks at McGill taking a step forward for the inclusiveness of their campus and showing their commitment to their LGBT students. With any luck, we’ll see more of this from other universities in the very near future.