Students can now change their registered gender in the University Student Information System, University Registrar Emily Shandley announced in an email to the Yale community Wednesday.
The policy change arrived two months after the Trans Rights Coalition at Yale — a newly formed group of Yale-affiliated organizations — launched a petition calling on University President Peter Salovey to uphold, protect and reinforce trans rights at Yale. According to the email, students may change their gender online at any time, and it may differ from their legal sex. If students wish to update their personal data on Yale’s Student Information System, they will have three gender options: M for male, F for female and N for nonbinary. Students have the option to fill in any additional information regarding their gender in a text box.
This change in the university system comes just months after The New York Times reported a leaked memo from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that defined gender as an immutable biological trait under Title IX law.
“Recognizing the importance for students to be able to identify their gender beyond the standard binary options for legal sex in University records, the Office of the University Secretary, the Office of Provost, Information Technology Services, and the University Registrar’s Office, worked together to draft a policy for gender identity at Yale and to build the technology infrastructure to support a self-service option for student to change their gender, on their own, at any time,” Shandler wrote in an email to the News.
Dean of Yale College Marvin Chun said that this addition helps University technology “catch up with current understanding and practice of gender.”
Students have requested a simple way to update gender identity in University records for years, Associate Director of the Office of LGBTQ Resources Andrew Dowe told the News. Dowe added that the new system streamlines students’ ability to update their University records and will save time and energy for the many students who will use it.
While the University is federally required to maintain information about students’ legal sex in admissions records, access to gender identity information in the University’s student records will be limited to individuals that have “a legitimate business or educational need for this information,” according to the University website. But these individuals will still need to request access to gender identity information through the University registrar.
While some students interviewed praised the change, Casey Odesser ’20 objected to the fact that Yale neglected to remove any reference to the gender binary. Odesser said that forcing those who identify as gender nonbinary or nonconforming to disclose their identity could be dangerous, especially in light of recent attempts by the Trump administration to legally fix the gender binary “as an objective truth from birth.”
“I wonder for who’s benefit this new feature serves, the students or the university,” Odesser wrote to the News. “If Yale cared to support gnb/gnc students, they might consider materially divesting from the gender binary, rather than providing an additional category to an already essentialized construction.”
Odesser added that gender identity is “relational and situated, fluid and unstable” and that Yale’s new initiative reflects “a deep lack of understanding of the realities of gender subjectivity.”
Still, many students welcomed the new policy.
“The University’s recent addition of a system within which students can easily change their own gender identities to best reflect their own understandings of themselves is a shockingly powerful and even revolutionary change relative to how simple the solution itself is,” Abigail Clayton ’19, who identifies as agender, wrote to the News.
Clayton said that the small change will go a long way to alleviate the additional burdens that noncisgender students carry as they move through their Yale careers. Clayton added that the creation of this new system represents the university “taking an active step” to advocate for students and that they are “thrilled” to see this kind of a policy change.
Sasha Carney ’22, who identifies as nonbinary, commended the University’s steps to make students’ gender choices viewable only on a “need-to-know” basis. They added that this precaution “hopefully won’t lead to unnecessary outing.”
“This is a great step towards making records systems, that can often be very complex and restrictive to navigate, that bit more validating for trans Yalies,” Carney told the News. “It’s great that it’s easily accessible and requires no legal documentation.”
Transgender Day of Remembrance was commemorated on Nov. 20.
Jever Mariwala | firstname.lastname@example.org