“John,” “Amelia,” “Jasmine,” the Greer staff would announce from the kiosk when their food was ready. I watched the employee hesitate when it was my turn. I already knew what was coming. “Grilled CC.”
In the sea of Claires and Charlottes, I am no longer a person. I am Grilled CC.
The phenomenon occurs when I swipe my OneCard at the Greer or the Koch and the system registers my legal name, Xinni Chen, rather than my preferred name: Sunshine. Instead of asking for my nickname or trying to pronounce Xinni – which most people butcher anyways – the staff simply refer to me as my favorite order.
So, to the Greer staff members, I’m not Sunshine, the student. Sometimes, I’m Cheese Quesadilla. Sometimes, I’m Mocha Frappe. Shake a Magic 8-Ball, and you’ll get a different identity every time.
Though this issue may seem trivial (it’s just your food order at the Greer), it does not just happen in the Greer and I’m not alone in wanting Deerfield to use my preferred name. A sizable group of the student population identifies with a name different from their legal ones. The legal titles range from extended versions of their nicknames (Alexandra and Alex) to non-American spellings (Xinni Chen and Sunshine) to a nonbinary student’s dead name. Students do not always go by their legal names, and the Deerfield system needs to reflect that.
Even when students have explicitly asked the school to use our preferred names, Deerfield fails to accommodate us. Whether that is in the Greer, in the Koch, on our OneCards, on Canvas, on our emails, on rosters, and on the stickers outside our rooms. They continue to use names we no longer identify with. They continue to use names we are not comfortable with.
Zed Deas ’23 said, “I thought no one would know my dead name and I could start the school year as Zed. Whenever I went to the Greer, they would butcher my dead name and scream it at the top of their lungs and I would have to go get it. People who didn’t know my dead name would ask me why they’re calling me that and it has gotten so bad that I just pay in cash most of the time. If I don’t have cash, I just won’t buy anything.”
For nonbinary and transgender students, the names reflects their identities as they understand them. By failing to use their preferred names, the school ostracizes these already marginalized students, causes further gender dysphoria, and disincentives students to come out in fear of being called their dead names.
In a similar vein, some international Deerfield students may choose to identify with an anglicized Western name, and first or second generation immigrants may prefer a shortened version of their long legal names. While some make this decision to reduce the feeling of “foreignness” and avoid mispronunciation, it is still a personal choice Deerfield should respect.
“Every time I order at the Greer, they call me Chicken Tenders,” Tioba Akinjaiyeju ’22 said. “It’s just rather degrading and impersonal. It feels like I’m not part of this school, or it’s not important for you to call me by my name, and it’s been like that ever since I got here.”
Greer orders are just a microcosm of the larger issue at hand. I understand that OneCards may serve as student IDs and might need to include our legal names for security purposes, but in more casual environments like the dorms and cafes, students should have the liberty to express themselves with a name they feel comfortable with. By restricting our ability to express ourselves, Deerfield undermines our agency to determine and define our shifting identities.
Over the past year, however, Deerfield has made strides to become more inclusive. For the last few years, I meticulously spelled out my legal first name every school meeting to the attendance takers who scrambled to find it amongst the long list. This year, I was pleasantly surprised to discover my preferred name appearing on the attendance sheets at the first school meeting. It was a small detail, but I felt the school finally recognized my needs.
Though DAinfo and the school meeting attendance sheets now reflect our preferred names, the school can and should do better for a community that prides itself in inclusivity. They should actively use our preferred names on our emails, on rosters, in Greer and Koch orders, on the stickers outside of our dorm rooms, on Canvas, and on other attendance sheets. If the school asks for our preferred names during enrollment, why have they not used it?
I joke about this matter with my friends, but Grilled CC is not my name. Cheese quesadilla is not my name. My name is Sunshine. Please use it.