Everyone has a name.
Some are unique; many are common. Many of us take for granted the names we were given, and do not realize that they are powerful labels which can define us and how we are perceived by others for the rest of our lives.
Though we at The Gatepost would imagine all parents are well-intentioned when naming their newborn, the great tragedy of naming a baby is that the child has absolutely no say in how they will be identified by the rest of the world. While this is usually not an issue – most individuals will have no qualms over their given names – there are members of our society who have been bestowed names that signify a gender to which they in no way relate.
According to an April 2011 Williams Institute survey, 0.3 percent of Americans self-identify as transgender. These individuals have been marginalized, victimized and ignored for far too long. Transgender Americans are at a disproportionately higher risk of suicide. In a survey conducted by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and National Center for Transgender Equality, 41 percent of the transgender Americans who responded to the survey said they had attempted suicide before. That is a shockingly high figure and it’s even more chilling when one considers that only 4.6 percent of the overall U.S. population has attempted suicide.
While a preferred name option will not eliminate all the discrimination against transgender members of the FSU community, at the very least, it is a step in the right direction toward equality. The preferred name option legitimizes the right to choose how one would prefer being identified. Having the option of a preferred name will help those who are transgender from being outed. This provides a layer of security and personal protection for those who feel they need it.
It should be pointed out that the preferred name option benefits not only the transgender members of the FSU community. As Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Sean Huddleston pointed out, this is an option for everyone, including international students who may prefer to go by a nickname.
The Gatepost’s editors are proud of FSU for it’s implementation of the preferred name option. It can often be difficult for the members of an underrepresented group to have their voices heard, which makes it all the more important that the issues facing them be addressed and remedied.
The preferred name issue may seem trivial to some. However, this is a small and important victory in the larger battle against discrimination and exclusion. That FSU has chosen to take a progressive stance in creating an environment in which all of it’s community members are able to be who they want to be is commendable.
So what’s in a name?
A lot. And that matters.