No Good Options: When Your Name Change Indicates a Gender Change

Today’s post is the second in a three-part series here at Tenure, She Wrote exploring the complexity of name changes and choices in academia.

When you’re trans, getting your name changed is a huge ordeal. You have to file it with the court, have it published for x amount of time in a local newspaper, hopefully get it approved by the court, then deal with social security, banks, DMVs, the lot. It’s a pain and very bureaucratic, but there are processes to follow. The same isn’t true for an academic publication record, particularly for those of us who transition later in our careers.

Your publication list is a huge part of academic life, and if you transition after having some manuscripts published you have to face a choice on every CV and every grant application from that point forward: Include past publications under an old name and risk discrimination for being trans, or leave out past publications under an old name and risk not getting the job or grant for seeming like you don’t have enough experience. It’s a catch-22, and right now there are no good answers.

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Creating a Healthier Academia

This past week I was lucky to be able to attend the Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference, which is one of the (if not the) largest gatherings of transgender and gender non-conforming people in the world. With over 3,000 attendees, it’s one of very few spaces where trans people are in the majority.

In its thirteenth year of providing space for trans people and health care providers.

In its thirteenth year of providing space for trans people and health care providers.

It’s a strange feeling, suddenly being surrounded by others like you. One that I seem to share with many other trans people in STEM, based on how few trans people raised their hands when a session chair asked, “How many of you have met another trans person in your field before this workshop?” The session was hosted by an organization called oSTEM, or Out in STEM. During the workshop, we brainstormed ways to make the fields better for trans people: ways of calling out inappropriate behavior, how academic curricula fail trans students, role models and lack of overlapping social circles, and how to create a healthier environment. I want to focus on that last one a little, because there were a lot of important points that came out of it.

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