Should Students be Allowed to Change Their Names on Google Classroom?
Wake County is fairly progressive compared to a lot of places, including other counties in the state, so why haven’t they addressed kids’ concerns about the name that represents them in Google Classroom? It is not uncommon for a person to go by the name not on their birth certificate, whether it is a nickname, middle name, or chosen name that they go by.
This situation is particularly demeaning for transgender, nonbinary, gender fluid, or any other students who don’t identify with the gender given to them at birth. For these students, their dead name, a term used for their birth name which they no longer go by, is on display for their peers to see. This can lead to many issues with bullying and students being misgendered, on purpose or not.
I was able to speak with a student from Apex High School and get his opinion on the matter. Keeping his identity private, he states, “Basically, a huge challenge of being trans is staying safe, especially at school. If someone’s deadname is displayed on Google Classroom, and they ask to use a different name (either privately over email, or in class), they’re pretty much already outed to the entire class, which sucks. It compromises our comfort and safety as some students in the class usually aren’t accepting of trans people, and now they know. It’s scary to just have our deadname out there without really our consent. Being outed is a terrifying feeling, even if it’s around people we trust. Trans people, especially young kids, should have the opportunity to come out on their own terms, if they even want to. Giving kids the ability to change their names in online classes would keep young trans kids safe as well as keep their identity protected from people they don’t want to know about it. Personally, I much prefer keeping my identity to myself at school, so if this were to ever happen, that would be awesome! It’s awkward when people use the wrong name for me; I even had a teacher last semester use the wrong name on purpose. I haven’t gone by my deadname in almost three years, and I’m planning to eventually change it legally. So there’s no benefit to having it displayed to people without my consent.”
I’ve also spoken to a friend of mine who attends an art school in Durham County. He spoke to me about how he and some of his other friends found a loophole on zoom to change their name that was presented to the class, but the program was later changed so they could not continue to change their name before entering a class.
To a cisgender person, someone whose gender identity correlates with their birth sex, may not be able to understand this feeling, especially if they have no friends that have to experience this. It can be considered “embarrassing” or “frustrating” according to some and there was an overall consensus that it can make you feel belittled. These situations can make these students feel depressed, and during the world’s specific circumstances it’s very important to consider the emotions of others, along with mental health in general, and the dangers of a society that is not fully accepting. Even the littlest thing can make someone’s day or school year easier, which is why just allowing someone to present as who they are can be very fundamental to someone’s mental health.