Editor’s note: IC View, a magazine published by Ithaca College, recently used a picture of a college employee taken before he transitioned. The editors have since apologized.
When I first heard that someone was using a pre-transition photo for the IC View, I felt drawn back to a moment in high school. I had just come out publicly, and was adamant that my name be used and all old images be removed. Another student and I were awarded for excellence on a standardized test, but while his name and information was correct, mine had my old name and incorrect pronouns. Despite the hard work and time I had dedicated to earn this award, my school was not putting in the time and effort to respect my gender identity. They fixed it after I confronted them, and I figured that it was just a part of being trans in high school.
However, after IC View’s mistake, I couldn’t figure out how this happened. In a school that prides itself on being LGBTQ+ friendly, where we have at least eight times more transgender people than the average national population, I expected much better. The reason I came to Ithaca College was because it was lauded as a trans-friendly campus, and the work of the LGBT Center supports that title. However, the college administration needs to catch up. It is never acceptable to use someone’s pre-transition information, be it their deadname, their photos, or their pronouns, in any situation, especially in a professional environment. The IC View is nationally distributed and is sent to the colleagues, friends and acquaintances of IC community members.
Deadnaming, or referring to someone’s time before transition, has a number of negative effects, even when it isn’t seen on the national scale. First, it invalidates the progress a trans person has made since coming out, which is often a source of security and pride, and when their progress is negated by being viewed as unchanged, it can be disheartening. Coming out and transitioning is no easy feat, and when people do not respect these parts of someone’s identity, it is very disheartening to the individual, their friends, and any other transgender people who now see that they may not be respected for who they truly are. Second, especially in situations like this, it is a huge violation of privacy. Often trans people take great measures to remove them from public view, and pulling the pictures or names out from years or even decades ago shows that someone was purposefully looking for pre-transition era information. This again invalidates a person’s transition, but it also shows a lack of respect for someone’s private and most personal information. Individuals who face their deadname or old photos can feel invalidated, alone, and stripped of privacy.
For this to have happened to anyone is unfortunate, but for it to have happened to someone who has spent so much time and effort on improving this school shows how far the IC administration still needs to go before we can confidently say that we are entirely accepting and knowledgeable about queer issues. If even one trans person had been asked about the article, this would never have happened, and the fact that the featured individual was not even contacted about an article about their efforts spits directly in the face of journalist practices. In a school that produces such a massive student-run publication as The Ithacan, beginner’s journalism mistakes should not fly under the radar like this.
I am glad to see the progress IC View is outlining in how they will fix this issue, and am also happy that they have personally issued an apology on behalf of the college to the affected person. I hope that this event, horrible as it was, has opened the eyes of the administration to see that they must be much, much more cautious and aware of how they speak about transgender individuals. Additionally, I hope the college has realized how many LGBTQ+ people and allies there are on campus who are passionate about our rights, so that in the future, they can think of this reaction before having another blunder like this.