A month into the Winter 2022 semester and the McGill administration and the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) have begun preparing for the Spring 2022 graduation season, even organizing graduation photos and planning in-person ceremonies. For Ezra-Jean Taylor, U3 Arts, however, the prospect of finishing their degree in two semesters is stressful because she has been unable to change her name in the Minerva system, which means that currently, their diploma will not state their legal name.
Taylor is a transgender student who spent a year going through the process of legally changing their name, which they accomplished in 2021. While Minerva—the platform McGill uses for official student documentation—has an option for students to input their preferred name, changing a legal name in the system is more complicated, Taylor explained in an email to The McGill Tribune.
“I found some confusing information on how to change my legal name [on Minerva] and emailed the Office for Academic records,” Taylor wrote. “I was told I would need a court order stating my legal name has changed as well as proof of that name being used on ID.”
The process proved to be more convoluted than obtaining a court order. McGill requested that Taylor also provide a new Certificate of Acceptance of Quebec (CAQ) and student visa—both of which are issued by the Government of Quebec—demonstrating their new legal name.
“As far as I am aware, to reapply for the CAQ and student visa, you need to show McGill transcripts and a letter of admission,” Taylor elucidated. “You see where the issue is? If both groups need the other’s documents, nothing can be done.”
Jamie*, an events coordinator for Queer McGill (QM), told the Tribune in an email that while QM has not had any cases such as Taylor’s come to their attention recently, the struggles that trans students face in dealing with the university’s administrative system have existed for years. Specifically, Jamie noted that the systems in place put trans students at risk of being deadnamed—that is, referring to a person by the name they had before they changed their name—which can remind the person of traumatic experiences and induce feelings of anxiety and depression.
“Students often have issues where they are deadnamed in a variety of locations, such as when logging into MyCourses, accessing through Shibboleth, and others,” Jamie wrote. “McGill has made some small concessions to us, such as changing emails from alias emails to legitimate emails, but that is simply not enough for students.”
Taylor views the obstacles that they are facing as less of a problem on Minerva’s part, and more of a problem from McGill, whose actions and policies, in Taylor’s opinion, are behind the times and harmful for trans students.
“Being transgender in Montreal, and particularly at McGill, is quite isolating,” Taylor wrote. “There are groups and activities here or there, but nothing concrete that could help guide trans students through this process.”
SSMU’s gender and sexuality commissioner Grey Cooper underscored that transphobia is still very present at McGill.
“There are still frequent issues for students in regards to getting their names respected and used, being gendered correctly, and being able to navigate classes in a way that does not misgender them,” Cooper wrote in an email to the Tribune. “More options and ease in the access of name changes, medical support, and mental health support for trans students who have dealt with traumatic interactions due to transphobia, would help improve McGill for the trans community.”
Transgender students and other members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ can find varying types of support on the Project10, Queer McGill, and the Union for Gender Empowerment websites. Students wishing to address struggles they have faced in the McGill community can contact the SSMU Gender and Sexuality Advocacy Committee.
*Jamie’s name has been changed to preserve their anonymity.