In the UK if you wish to be known by a different name you can change your name at any time. There is no legal procedure to follow – you simply start using the new name. You can change your forename or surname, add names or rearrange your existing names.
With the exception of degree certificates (see below) and pension schemes, a written notification of intent to transition is sufficient for the gender and name on staff and student personnel and academic records to be changed.
If a person discloses their status as a trans person, or gives notification of their intent to transition during employment or education, you need to discuss and agree the date from which their name and gender is changed on all personnel or student records, website records, payroll details, identification passes etc. This is necessary to enable the person to go about their daily life as a staff member or student without their birth gender being known.
Refusal to change a trans person’s title, name and gender on student or staff records could constitute gender reassignment discrimination. Asking students or alumni for medical evidence is not appropriate, as trans people do not have to be under medical supervision in order to be protected by the law.
A trans person does not need a gender recognition certificate (GRC) in order to change their name and title and it is unlawful to ask for one.
It can take several years for a trans person to obtain a GRC and in order to qualify they must live permanently in their new gender for at least two years. A GRC enables the person to have a new birth certificate (which does not disclose the fact they have changed gender), if their birth was registered in the UK, and to be legally recognised for all purposes in their new gender role, including marriage and civil partnership. Once a person has obtained a certificate they do not have to disclose their past to anyone.
In consultation with trans staff and student groups, prepare a list of possible records, documents and identification badges that will need to be changed if a staff member or student notifies the institution of their intent to transition. This can then be used to support the transition process and serve as a checklist.
No records should be changed without permission from the staff member or student concerned. Some individuals may only wish to change their name on their records and not their gender, and in this case the same procedure should be followed as for other name change requests, such as changing a name following marriage.
Institutions may also wish to consider how they can allow students and staff to choose a gender-neutral title such as ‘Mx’ or perhaps provide the option of choosing no title, rather than switching between traditional gendered titles.
Degree certificates and pension schemes
Degree certificates are legal documents therefore legal proof of a change of name is required in order to issue or to reissue a degree certificate in a name different to the name in which the student originally registered. Forms of legal proof of a name change can include:
- statutory declaration of name change
- deed poll certificate
- birth certificate
Any costs associated to acquiring a proof of name change should be covered by the institution, not the individual. However, it is within an institution’s discretion whether to charge trans students or alumni for a replacement degree certificate. Any fee charged should not be more than what would normally charged for replacement documents.
References to a trans person’s former name, gender and trans status
Any material that needs to be kept that is related to the person’s trans status should be filed so that it is inaccessible to anyone other than an agreed person. This should include any document that links a person’s present name and gender status with a different name and gender status, such as records of absence for medical assistance, birth certificate and documentation of name change.
For example, these records could be placed in a sealed envelope and attached to a new file with instructions such as, ‘Confidential: personnel manager only’ or ‘Confidential: head of student services only’. The personnel manager or head of student services should allow staff to view the information only if they require it to perform their specific duties and only with the permission of the person concerned.
Once a trans person receives a gender recognition certificate, they have the right to request that all references to their former name and gender are removed from old records to ensure their former identity is not revealed. All records held on paper file must be found and replaced with new records, and relevant information transferred to a new cover. For example, if a student has changed their name, their original offer letter will need to be replaced with an offer letter in their new name. Where information is stored in a format that cannot be changed or replaced easily, such as PDFs on microfiche, consider producing the document in a new format (as you would for similar documents that have been lost/damaged).