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Graduation: A Trans Perspective

by Anthony Belotti

Throughout high school, my dead name had been used many times. Yet, my heart never stopped racing in reaction or anticipation at every award ceremony and substitute calling roll.

My school, like countless others, requires trans students to come out by themselves and without support.

To explain why this is a problem, one of my peers was a stealth trans girl, post top operation. A group of students found out her birth name through a substitute. As a result, she had to change classes because of the constant threats and taunts that followed. For me, as a non (probably never) stealth trans person, the risks may not be as high, but I have been in classes of students that begged to hear my "real name," and as soon as they did, that was the way they referred to me. After being dead-named at my senior award ceremony, the school feels "legally obligated" to recite my legal name at graduation. I explained exactly why this is a problem (more emotional labor). At graduation practice, my class was told "everyone deserves to have their name said correctly,” so when it was my turn to explain my name's pronunciation, I said my chosen name. After threatening legal action, they agreed to say my chosen name, but they outed me to the entire community by printing my dead name on pamphlets.

It is truly disgusting that this level of transphobia was so casually passed to me without notice.

For all legal purposes, the school is required to print my legal name on the diploma, however, there is no law stating nicknames or chosen names cannot be said to address a student. I cannot fathom the number of trans youth that have walked before me with their dead name. Only five people attended my graduation party, as the pamphlets outed me as trans to many of my friends’ families.

The broader picture of trans people at graduation is one of a more dismal turnout than that of our cisgender counter parts.

Trans people and LGBTQ people, especially those with unsupportive homes and schools, are more likely to drop out, have a lower GPA, and miss more school/school functions (LGBTQ School Climate Report). And given our particularly high suicide and murder rates, there is another reason I believe the term "dead name" was coined.

To me, the phrase has always reminded me of trans youth who died before they changed their legal name, as it then becomes their dead name. A name that never fit correctly, yet people forced it on them, even onto their tombstone.

Graduation is supposed to be a time to look back on high school as well as look on to the future. But as I look behind me, the majority of what I see is dysphoria, transphobia, and a lot of uncomfortable situations caused by the first two listed.

I struggle to find professionals like me in any careers, let alone in the profession I am interested in. Being marginalized with an administration like this one means that I am never sure when the next opportunity will be robbed from me.

It is so disheartening to have transphobia coming at you from every level and angle possible.


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