What name is on your diploma? Your contract? Your tax return or your car registration? Does it matter? No longer to the University of California.
The University of California announced today (Nov. 17) that it has adopted systemwide gender identity and lived name options for UC-issued documents and information systems. UC’s new Presidential Policy on Gender Recognition and Lived Names, which acknowledges gender identities other than man and woman, is another milepost in the University’s commitment to equity and inclusion for all.
“The University of California continues to fully embrace diversity in our country,” said UC President Michael V. Drake, M.D. “We believe this policy is a step toward an even more inclusive community and, in turn, will help build a stronger, more vibrant society.”
If you prefer to be called “Al,” that’s cool. At a party, I’ll call you any darn name you want, because it doesn’t really matter to me and if it matters to you, it’s no skin off my nose. Whether it’s a “milepost” in creating a “strong, more vibrant society” is up to you.
Under the new policy, University students, employees, alumni, retirees, vendors, medical center patients and other affiliates completing university-issued documents may choose from man, woman or nonbinary gender identification options. In addition to gender identification, individuals may also state a lived name that differs from their legal name.
Ah, that “legal name.” What about those medical center patients whose past medical files are kept under their legal name instead of their “lived name”? Sure, a patient who comes in with LOC and has a deadly allergy to some common substance might be known as “Betty,” but what are the docs to do about accessing their medical history before administering a substance that will kill them?
A lived name is a self-chosen personal or preferred professional name instead of one’s legal name. The individual’s lived name will be the default, while their legal name — if different from their lived name — will be kept confidential and not published on UC documents or displayed in information systems that do not require a person’s legal name.
How does one determine what requires a person’s legal name? The problem isn’t whether people, whether transgender or just hep to the jive, prefer to be called by a name other than the one mom gave them at birth. Many people do, and most of us understand that people use nicknames or derivatives names in our daily lives. Ain’t no big thing, and doesn’t change who you are. Is your legal name Andrew? Some may call you Andy. Some may even call you Drew. But people will likely understand that your legal name is Andrew.
But what UC is doing here is blurring the lines beyond names that people prefer to be called, and should be called by friends, associates and professors, for no better reason than courtesy. Are you sure you want that name on your diploma, though? What will you do when you go for a job some day and they can’t match up a name with the registrar’s list of graduates and a social security number? What about getting a credit card, an apartment, a car loan? What about getting a job?
It’s one thing if someone has committed to changing the entirety of their life to a new gender, new name, new identify, which California permits under its Gender Recognition Act (SB 179), but the new UC policy reflects no such limitation. If you want to be called “Al” rather than “Betty,” they will do so. And you will suffer the consequences if it turns out that your choice wasn’t quite as cool a commitment to inclusion as you thought in your sophomore year at Berkeley.
This is not to say that you can’t claim to be a space alien named Cthulhu if that’s what cranks you up. Who cares, except the people who avoid you for being . . . odd? But when the shifts that start on campus and ultimately tend to wind their way into real life ignore the problems they generate, who are you going to yell at?