Students May Now Indicate Their Preferred First Names

In September, the Registrar’s Office rolled out a streamlined way for students to indicate a preferred first name for use at Western. Since then, over 200 students have indicated a preferred first name. Doing so automatically changes the student’s first name appearing in many Western locations, including class rosters, email display names, Western Cards, and unofficial transcripts. Details are available on the Registrar’s Office website.

Providing the ability to indicate a preferred first name was motivated by Western’s commitment to respecting the identities of all students, including transgender students.  It responds to requests made by transgender students, an AS Board of Directors Resolution, and a recommendation of the President's Taskforce on Equity, Inclusion and Diversity approved by President Shepard.  The Equal Opportunity Office, Registrar’s Office and Administrative Computing Services collaborated to create this new process.  These offices are also working to create a mechanism for students to indicate their preferred gender pronoun, which will be shared with faculty on Web4U.

You can read more about the importance of this update below.

Students’ legal first names remain in the Student Information System (Banner). If you have access to both legal first name and preferred first name information, please follow these guidelines:

  • In conversations with the student, use their preferred first name.  In conversations about the student, use their preferred first name unless there is a legal or clear administrative need to use legal first name.

  • Respect the student’s privacy.  Again, absent a particular legal or administrative need to do so, do not disclose the student’s legal first name to others.  This is particularly important to respect the privacy of transgender students, whose gender expression may not match the gender associated with their legal first name. 

If you are interested in training for your department about using preferred names and best practices to support our transgender students, please contact Laura Langley in the Equal Opportunity Office or Taya Winter in the Registrar’s Office.

Why is it Important to Allow Students to Indicate a Preferred First Name and Pronoun for Use at Western?

Referring to people using the names and pronouns with which they identify is a basic matter of respect.  The ability to indicate a preferred first name can be helpful to any student who wishes to consistently go by a first name other than their legal first name.  Indicating a preferred first name and pronoun can be particularly helpful to some transgender students.

  • Transgender students whose gender expression does not match the gender associated with their legal first name are unwillingly “outed” when their legal names are read aloud in class.  If students are able to indicate a preferred first name, this unintentional outing can more easily be avoided.  Indicating a preferred first name and pronoun will also prevent students from having to disclose their transgender identity, for example if a student must personally inform professors of preferred name and pronoun at the beginning of the quarter.

  • Undesired disclosure of one’s transgender identity can cause significant stress, and may also expose the individual to intimidation, harassment or violence.  Nationally, transgender people experience discrimination and abuse at high levels.  Past experiences with discrimination or assault may influence how transgender students experience having their transgender identity unwillingly disclosed at Western.

  • In a recent nationwide survey of transgender people, 35% of respondents reported harassment and bullying at higher education institutions (Grant et al., 2011, p. 39).

  • In a 2009 Student Climate Survey conducted at Western, over 15% of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender student respondents reported experiencing discrimination on campus in the past 12 months (Equal Opportunity Office, 2010, p. 7). The survey did not separately analyze the experiences of transgender Western students.  But in a national 2010 study comparing the experiences of transgender college students with the experiences of cisgender lesbian, gay, bisexual and heterosexual students, “transgender students reported more frequent encounters with harassment and discrimination as well as a significantly lower sense of belonging within the campus community” (Dugan, Kusel, & Simounet, 2012, p. 732).

  • Respecting people’s gender identities is consistent with Title IX, Washington State law and University policy.  State law and Western’s nondiscrimination policy explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression.



Dugan, J. P., Kusel, M. L., and Simounet, D. M. (2012). Transgender college students:  An exploratory study of perceptions, engagement, and educational outcomes. Journal of College Student Development, 53(5), 719-736.

Equal Opportunity Office, (2010).  Student Climate Survey 2010 Summary Report. Bellingham, WA: Western Washington University.

Grant, J. M., Mottet, L. A., Tanis, J., Harrison, J., Herman, J. L., and Keisling, M. (2011). Injustice at every turn:  A report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey.  Washington:  National Center for Transgender Equality and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

Page Updated 11.22.2017