In an effort to become gender-inclusive, the Common Application, a virtual application that allows prospective college students to apply to over 900 schools including Binghamton University, revised its 2021-2022 application.
The Common Application has changed a question asking students to identify their “sex” to “legal sex” and added questions that enable students to indicate their preferred name and pronouns they use. These changes, going into effect in August, will allow schools to address transgender and gender-expansive students correctly.
The updated questions reflect efforts made by colleges and universities across the world, including BU, to accommodate trans and gender-expansive students. According to Ryan Yarosh, senior director of media and public relations at BU, the University has a chosen name policy that allows students to change the name displayed on their ID card, class rosters, email and more.
“We applaud recent changes to make [the Common Application] more inclusive,” Yarosh wrote in an email. “At [BU] we understand and fully support the needs and concerns of transgender students and their families.”
Christianna Friedrichsen, an admissions counselor at BU, pointed specifically to the new option to add pronoun sets as a policy that, along with BU’s chosen name policy, will have a huge impact on making the admissions process more gender-affirming.
“While the admissions committee reviews applications, we always strive to refer to students and address students in the way they choose to identify,” Friedrichsen said. “By implementing this process, we will now be able to address emails, acceptance letters and more to the student’s name they have chosen.”
While the Common Application’s new option to indicate one’s name and pronouns was met with overwhelming approval by the queer community and its allies at BU, some noted that the change from “sex” to “legal sex” may generate problems. Kelly Clark, director of BU’s Q Center, explained that trans and gender-expansive people may have legal documents that conflict with one another.
“We might have a student whose birth certificate has one thing, but who has had an opportunity to change their driver’s license,” Clark said. “So which one of those is legal?”
For Clark, this oversight emphasizes the need to consult individuals in the trans community when trying to foster gender-inclusivity.
Hadiya Sergeant, an undeclared freshman, said the opportunity to indicate one’s name and pronouns on the Common Application and in BU’s systems will be very helpful for students, especially for those trying to figure out their relationship with their gender identity.
“I think the whole decision is definitely a game-changer for sure,” Sergeant said. “It’s startling when the people you trust and love call you by the way you want to be called and use the pronouns that make you feel happy and accepted, but then have to hear your ‘dead name’ every day when a professor calls attendance. Knowing that there’s an option to change your birth name or pronouns on school documents and email addresses would really take off pressures on these students.”
A student who wished to remain anonymous said they believe these changes signify a step in the right direction.
“From my perspective, I feel like actions such as these demonstrate the success and hard work that the LGBTQ+ community and its supporters have put in,” the anonymous student said. “I also believe that this shows how society is moving in the right direction when it comes to being more accommodating and open to other people, allowing more people to be comfortable with themselves. Although our society is not as accepting as it should be, having a large institution [like the Common Application] making these more progressive changes is worth noting.”
Clark echoed the sentiment that asking for someone’s legal sex is often not necessary and could potentially be harmful. She explained universities are required to report the number of men and women enrolled at the school to the federal government, and regulations only allow these two-gender orientations to be reported. For her, the lack of understanding within the federal government indicates change needs to occur above the university level.
“[Generation Z] is constructing gender in a completely different way,” Clark said. “Our systems are created around whatever the social construct of the day is, and you do not recognize how gendered our systems are until you have folks who don’t fit in the systems. That’s where we are right now.”