It’s time to stop deadnaming students

By Adrian Subaykan

Walking into class and seeing a substitute teacher is absolutely terrifying as a trans student. Some teachers say they give a certain list to call out when taking attendance instead of the names on Skyward, yet substitutes often use the Skyward list anyway. I’ve had peers who have to talk to substitutes before class even starts to let them know about their name situation, and they still say the wrong name.

Within the first couple weeks of school, I had a substitute teacher for my advisory class. Being deadnamed in front of peers that know you by your preferred name is devastating. Having to worry about whether people will see me differently because of it or if transphobes will use it against me terrifies me. Dreading what was coming, I knew she would call out my deadname, and I’ve always tried to get it over with quickly. However, having such a unique deadname, I’m almost always asked irritating questions revolving around my ethnicity, nationality or pronunciation of the name, and I hate dealing with it. 

Many trans students desperately want to get their names changed in Skyward, but can’t due to transphobia expressed in our homes. There are teachers who go out of their way to get these substitutes to say the right name by giving them another list of preferred names to use instead, but they almost never use it. It’s a problem that needs to be fixed. There are so many trans students with similar experiences here at Terrace. It would be nice if more substitute teachers could put in a little bit of extra effort to read out our preferred names instead of embarrassing us in front of our peers.

The time our teachers put in to give us the best possible experience is thrown out the window when a substitute teacher decides to ignore the part of their notes where it says to call out from the seating chart or a separate list they made. 

“There are seating charts for each period. To avoid deadnaming students and mispronouncing their names please refer to the seating chart and mark all empty spaces absent,” Angelo Comeaux, the photography, graphic arts, film and video teacher, has written in his attendance notes for substitutes. 

In the first Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA) meeting this year, a student in one of Comeaux’s classes shared that they’d already had a substitute that did not comply and deadnamed them. 

Jennifer Widrig-Hodges, the adviser of the GSA club, has been trying to encourage other teachers to take attendance with seating charts. Her chart consists of every students’ preferred names and last names with their pronouns underneath. To prevent confusion or mix-ups, she has each name written in pencil instead of typed out.

History teacher Erin Grambush also gives her substitutes the correct list of names, written out by the students to ensure their preferred names are included and then transferred to a typed version. Grambush spoke to me personally after she had a substitute to ask if the teacher deadnamed me.

Sophomore Faye Sandstrom has also had the same experience with name issues. In their experience, substitutes will ask students to correct them if they have the wrong name or pronunciation, but they don’t see a point in correcting them because there’s a good chance they would forget.

There’s multiple methods of taking attendance that takes pressure off students and is more convenient, including calling last names only. I’ve had a few teachers, including a substitute, who did this and would then ask students’ preferred names after calling out their last. Another strategy that I’ve seen a few teachers use is to go up to students individually. When this happens, I tell them my last name and they almost always ask if I have a preferred name.