OPINION: Chosen name changes a good start


I used to not like my first name.

It’s not a bad name. There are plenty of Kevin’s around the world who I’m sure are proud of the name they have. The references to Kevin Bacon, AKA apparently the only semi-famous person named Kevin, got a little old after a bit though.

What I had a problem with was how my first name contrasted with my last. My last name is full of culture and meaning, and it is beautiful to me. Compared to it, my first name just looks like a random pairing of syllables that just barely works.

I’ve accepted it now, but if there were some kind of system back in elementary school that allowed me to be addressed by a different name, I probably would’ve changed my name, and then quickly changed it back. I’m very indecisive.

However, I’m just one situation. A big part of our identity is tied to our name. The likelihood of us getting that job we applied for sometimes, or the level of success we achieve, or even the gender people assume us to be, ties to our name.

The last one is especially important. In the LGBTQ community and other communities, there exists the term “dead name” which refers to when someone starts to go by their chosen name rather than their given name. This is a milestone for every person who chooses to undergo this transition. In essence, it marks the birth of a new life for that person under a new identity.

Wichita State recently took steps in supporting those individuals’ chosen names by offering students the option to request a name change by going to the registrar’s office in Jardine Hall. Students will be able to change their chosen, or “myWSU Name,” up to two times per academic year, and WSU will change Blackboard, diplomas, ID cards and class rosters to reflect that name. They will even give the chance for students to change their WSU email to also match that.

It is no doubt a step in the right direction, if a little late to the game. There are also some confusing guidelines to when a student’s legal name will be used, such as when sending communications to families of the student or when publishing official lists to the public. 

If there are laws that specifically prohibit the chosen name to be used, it’s understandable why the university would have its hands tied, but at first glance, there does not seem to be much reason as to why the legal names would be necessary.

The legality of names is tricky. In Kansas, there’s a fairly lengthy process to change a legal name that involves petitioning a district attorney, filling out paperwork, and in some counties, notifying your local news publication of the change, even having to note when that publication publishes the notice three times. The process is just a little excessive.

Regardless, this is a great addition to campus. Validating the chosen name is validating the life the student chooses to live. It validates the student’s identity, which is an instrumental first step to feeling comfortable and welcome on campus.

This certainly isn’t the final step. Additional training by faculty and staff to be aware and understanding of LGBTQ+ students should be mandatory. The university should also look towards more diversity hires of professionals in that community. Gender-neutral bathrooms should also be put in every building.  

At least progress is being made. None of us should feel uncomfortable with our identity.