College is a lot of work, right? So imagine that you’ve finally got that slip of paper with the oh -so desired Indiana University seal to sanctify the finalization of your academic career and it has the wrong name on it. Wouldn’t you be offended, irritated, even unarguably frustrated? What if the name displayed on the diploma was one that once belonged to you, but no longer does? What’s in a name? Well, for some perhaps not much, but to others, it means everything. Our names are part of our identity.
Imagine the disgust Justus Eisfeld felt when his request to receive a diploma with his new name, reflecting his new gender, was denied by Universiteit van Amersterdam in 2004; the year that Eisfelt transitioned and legally changed his name and gender. He has fought for the past six years to obtain a new diploma from University and the decision was finally made to grant him one this past January.
Some may say, “Why even bother wasting six years on a piece of paper with a name that used to belong to you? After all, you are still you.” Sure that could be the argument made for some women who eventually marry and take their husbands’ last name or even hyphenated, but not in this situation. This is acknowledging the rights of a transperson. Would it be believable to walk into a male doctor’s office and see a diploma awarded to Ms. Sally Jane Doe? I will admit that I would feel confused and wonder if this person is actually qualified to treat my symptoms because Dr. Jacob Doe may really just be Sally’s brother. This may be an incredibly biased and unfair statement, but it is candid none the less.
Because trans people already face an incredible amount of discrimination in the workplace, it can be furthered by having credentials under a previous name that does not match one’s current gender. Justus was quoted in the article stating that “hopefully the illegality of trans discrimination in all EU member states will receive more attention. Knowledge is a first step towards a change of practice.”
I attempted to research this topic within the United States but could not find any information regarding our institutions and their policies.
From now on all trans people in the Netherlands will be granted new diplomas (if desired) with their new names on them. I know that if I had to go through all of the hard work to obtain a degree that I would certainly want it to display the correct name.