LoboWeb now gives students and staff the option to set their preferred pronouns and gender identity. 

This is phase three of the Affirmed/Preferred First Name initiative, an initiative that has been a collaborative effort by the LGBTQ resource center, the division of equality and inclusion, information technologies and the office of the registrars.

The Affirmed name initiative is covered under UNM policy, as per Frankie Flores, the LGBTQ Resource Center Coordinator. 

“If an individual is not being honored in their identity or they are not being addressed with their correct pronouns — that are now on the roster — and are being mis-gendered, they can file a complaint with the Office of Equal Opportunity,” Flores said. 

Maria Oliver-Chavez, the Program Assistant at the LGBTQ Resource, center gave her perspective on the initiative as a transgender woman who legally changed her name years ago. 

“At another university I went to before I legally changed my name, I was going by Maria and it was super nerve-wrecking having to email or talk to professors having to say, ‘Hey this is my legal name that’s on everything, but please don’t call me this, I prefer to go by this other name,’” Oliver-Chavez said. 

Once a student changes their name and pronouns to reflect how they see themselves, those changes will reflect on class rosters. 

Flores discussed the alarming percentage (42 percent) of trans students at UNM who have “either experienced a suicide attempt or suicide ideation. A lot of that is not being seen, not feeling like they are recognized for how they see themselves.”

Flores told the Daily Lobo about a situation several years ago where they were giving a lecture in a Women’s Studies class and they asked everyone what their pronouns were. Not everyone did and they said that it was ok because they were not going to force anyone to do anything they didn’t want to do. 

Flores then went on to say, “I got an email later that night at midnight and this individual was planning their suicide. They were forty years old, had two children, and were waiting for their financial aid dispercment to come so they could get money for their family, and then they were going to end their life.

“This individual had always known that she was a woman but had never been asked ‘How do you see yourself?’ and it was that moment of validation that saved her life. So, when we say this is life-saving, it isn’t just lip service.”

Flores also explained that this makes for a safer campus, and that outing a transgender person can be deadly to someone.

Flores said, “Outing someone in that way in a public space can be very dangerous. Transgender people are still attacked and killed for existing, so this provides a level of safety that other universities aren’t really doing.” 

Maria Oliver-Chavez spoke about how this initiative can really help transgender students as well, “there are a lot of people who are not outright transphobic or homophobic, but they will give you weird treatment. This makes the process a lot easier for transgender students. You only have to do it once online.”

“It is trans-inclusive, but not trans-specific,” Flores said, “There are so many people who go by a middle name or a different professional name. It is creating access for all individuals and helping make sure the campus is more inclusive.”

Anna C. Evanitz is a freelance reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted by email at news@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @ACEvanitz.