Students can choose their pronouns or 'X' for school records, NY governor declares

Governor Kathy Hochul recently announced that all 64 State University of New York schools must allow their students to choose the name and pronouns they want on their college records.

Students also have the opportunity to mark 'X' for their gender on official college documents, rather than male or female.

Governor Kathy Hochul recently announced that all 64 State University of New York (SUNY) schools must allow their students to choose the name and pronouns they want on their college records, including on college diplomas, school profiles, class rosters, and student email addresses.

Students also have the opportunity to mark "X" for their gender on official college documents, rather than male or female.

Reign Bey, a student at SUNY Binghamton, told Campus Reform that "the real issue comes down to the gender and pronoun part."

"Forcing people to speak about you in a manner that they find unnatural is wrong. It's forced speech based on irreality," Bey said. "You can't and shouldn't be able to control how someone speaks about you, especially if you're not involved in the conversation." 

As stated in SUNY’s June 8 press release, this policy change is in line with SUNY’s mission to "ensure that transgender, gender non-conforming, and non-binary students' identities are fully reflected and represented" and “create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive campus for students within the LGBTQIA+ community,”

"Every person, regardless of their gender identity or the name they choose to go by, deserves to have identity documentation that reflects who they are," Governor Hochul said in the press release.

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SUNY Interim Chancellor, Deborah F. Stanley, stated that this policy is “the next concrete step toward ensuring SUNY's current and future transgender, gender non-conforming, and non-binary students feel embraced and uplifted,” while alleging that there has been an “unprecedent effort to roll back LGBTQIA+ rights and opportunities.”

In 2021, SUNY passed a resolution requiring gender-neutral bathrooms to be implemented on its campuses, while also releasing a 25-Point Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Plan which includes the recommendations of closing equity gaps, embedding racial equity into curriculum, increasing diversity of staff and faculty, and strengthening the role of the Chief Diversity Officer on all SUNY campuses.

This follows a trend of universities providing their students with the option to pick the name and pronouns that will be used on their college records.

As Campus Reform reported in July 2021, students and faculty at the University of Washington petitioned against having to use their legal name on diplomas—citing a “safety issue” for trans students—even though the university already implemented a policy allowing the use of “chosen” names on class rosters and ID cards.

As of June 2022, at least 788 colleges let their students use chosen names, allowing them to discard their “legal/dead” names, while 242 colleges permit their students to dictate which pronouns they want to be referred to on class rosters.

Additionally, the University of California Berkeley Law is hosting two Gender and Name Change Workshops, appealing to “trans & GNC folks,” where they offer help from attorneys on how to “fill out and file paperwork for court-ordered name and/or gender marker changes” in order to update government documents.

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Berkeley Law Assistant Dean of Communications Alex Shapiro told Campus Reform that this workshop is a “Student-Initiated Legal Services Project… through which students volunteer to provide legal services under the supervision of attorneys from the East Bay Community Law Center.”

Other schools have threatened disciplinary action for individuals who do not refer to students by their preferred gender, name, or pronouns.

In September 2021, Campus Reform reported on Point Park University’s Misgendering, Pronoun Use, and Deadnaming policy, which states that “action could be taken” if students do not comply.

In December 2021, Campus Reform covered Columbia University releasing a video warning its students that refusing to call others by their preferred pronouns violates the university’s non-discrimination policy.

Campus Reform reached out to SUNY, UC Berkeley Law, Governor Hochul, and Chancellor Stanley for comment; this article will be updated accordingly.

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