The University of Nebraska-Lincoln strives to be a safe and healthy place for all students, and the LGBTQA+ Center and the UNL Women’s Center want to ensure that all students are referred to by their prefered name and pronouns.
The University of Nebraska’s Policy on Chosen Name and Gender Identity was signed by NU President Ted Carter on Sept. 15, 2020 and went into effect this fall. Students can identify a chosen name by accessing their student information system with no documentation needed. From there, the student’s chosen name will be used “wherever possible in the course of University education, business and communication,” according to the policy statement.
Pat Tetreault, director of the LGBTQA+ Center and Women’s Center, said students could always change their name within MyRed or by going to the Office of the University Registrar, but now it is a part of a bigger policy that also includes gender identity.
The policy recognizes that gender is a spectrum, Tetreault said, and there are a lot of students, staff and faculty who do not identify on the gender binary.
UNL’s LGBTQA+ Resource Guide defines gender as: “A person’s psychological sense of being masculine, feminine, androgynous or something else outside this gender binary. This gender identity does not necessarily have to coincide with someone’s gender expression.”
Tetreault said becoming more comfortable with pronouns can help individuals feel accepted on campus.
JD McCown, assistant director of the LGBTQA+ Center and Women’s Center, said the biggest part of getting comfortable with using pronouns is practice.
“We want to make sure that we're respecting people's pronouns and not messing up, particularly not messing up in front of them,” McCown said. “We want to make sure that we're doing that work ourselves in our own time because people do mess up.”
McCown said MyPronouns.org is a great resource to get comfortable with pronouns and find frequently asked questions.
Mack Gonzalez, outreach coordinator for the LGBTQA+ Center and a senior English major, said it is important to remember that mistakes happen, but the biggest thing is to think about how someone reacts when they misgender someone.
“Acknowledge that you made the mistake, but then you just move on,” Gonzalez said when explaining how to handle misgendering someone.
Gonzalez said that if a student is having a hard time using someone’s preferred pronouns, going through practice sentences incorporating the correct pronouns will make it easier to remember the correct pronouns.
Tetreault said she remembered learning about different states that were providing nonbinary gender markers on driver’s licensces and how it started to expand over the United States.
“If there are states that allow for nonbinary gender markers, then that means we [UNL] are obliged to recognize and honor that,” Tetreault said.
Tetreault said learning about gender and different terms to discuss gender identity is key to campus being a safe and inclusive space for individuals.
“So in the same way that anybody wants their identity respected, that’s basically what this is about,” Tetreault said. “I realize not everybody understands it, but I think that what’s more important is acceptance.”