National Beat Reporter
On Sept. 12, UC Santa Barbara took a major step in classrooms by allowing students to begin choosing their pronouns on the Gaucho On-Line Data (GOLD) website. In taking this step, UCSB has followed the lead of many other prestigious universities by acknowledging the pervasive issue of misgendering.
“Our trans and non-binary students are experiencing a lot of misgendering in the classroom,” said Craig Leets in an interview with The Bottom Line. Leets is the Director of the Resource Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity (RCSGD) at UCSB.
“As a way to try and reduce the amount of misgendering that happens by instructors and by peers we wanted to figure out how to get pronouns into the learning environments on campus,” he continued.
Students enrolled in classes on GOLD now have the option to choose between the pronouns “he/him/his,” “she/her/hers,” “they/them/theirs,” “ze/hir/hirs” along with options like “Other,” “I do not use a pronoun,” “I use all gender pronouns,” or “None.” They can update these preferences on the “My Personal Info” page, which can be found under the “About Me” tab.
GOLD’s decision to allow students to choose their pronouns is the culmination of a process that began in 2016 when the Trans Task Force began to ask what the school could do to get pronouns into university systems, according to Leets. The Trans Task Force is a group of students, faculty, and administrators that advocated to make the university more welcoming to all genders — specifically those that are gender non-conforming. Although the idea emerged three years ago, it wasn’t until last spring that this movement took full force.
On Jan. 1, 2019, California passed the Gender Recognition Act, which allows Californians to have a third legal gender designation on their birth certificates and other official documents. The third gender is “x,” which is supposed to represent non-binary individuals.
“Every person deserves full legal recognition and equal treatment under the law and to ensure that intersex, transgender, and non-binary people have state-issued identification documents that provide full legal recognition of their accurate gender identity,” the act states.
With the passing of this new act, the Gender Recognition Act Task Force was created at UCSB, headed by Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, Margaret Klawuun. The task force suggested that the effort to allow for more inclusive pronouns move forward after the passing of the Gender Recognition Act in the spring.
“[The passing of the act] was really helpful and honestly a tipping point in allowing this project to move forward,” Leets said. The passing of this act gave the school and students more initiative to create gender inclusive options on online databases.
Following the recommendation of the task force to push this project onward, UCSB’s IT Board, the group in charge of GOLD, gave final approval to finally kick-start the project over the summer. “It took a lot of work this summer,” Leets admitted.
The IT Board received help from other departments on campus, including the Office of the Registrar, Student Information Systems and Technology (SISNT), and Letters and Science Information and Technology (LSIT). With every department working as a cohesive unit, students were finally able to update their pronouns on Sept. 12, just two weeks before the 2019-2020 school year began. As of Sept. 20., students and faculty can see those pronouns on Gauchospace as well as eGrades.
Within the first two weeks that this feature was made available, Leets said that 4,000 students had already updated their pronouns.
“I think it’s just another step forward in our campus being welcoming to trans and non-binary people and shows that we want all of our students to succeed,” he said. “Students from underrepresented or marginalized groups face additional barriers. For trans and non-binary people, one of those barriers is being consistently misgendered.”
Leets want to raise awareness of pronouns and their importance, noting that every student has them, not just trans or non-binary people. “Our message right now is everyone should fill this out, [because] all students have pronouns,” he said.
If students do not update their pronouns on GOLD, the roster will remain blank, as there is no default pronoun. There is an ongoing push to continue encouraging students to update their pronouns spreading more awareness of misgendering in the process. Members of the RCGSD plan on tabling in the arbor to encourage more students to update their pronouns on GOLD.
While pronoun data is currently only available on eGrades and Gauchospace, via the inputted information on GOLD, the RCGSD hopes to eventually expand to other UCSB-specific IT systems such as the library database, housing and advising. Leets said that pronoun options are eventually going to be made available to faculty as well.
“We’re just reducing another barrier that is in place that causes an extra challenge for some of our students at UC Santa Barbara.”
Oct. 16 is International Pronouns Day and the RCSGD and other groups will be tabling in the Arbor throughout the day to raise awareness about misgendering.
Illustration by Esther Liu