Why is it important to use a person’s lived name? Why might some individuals use lived names and not legal names?

For most people their legal name will match their lived name, but for some people their legal name is different than their lived name. It is important to use a person’s lived name because:

  • Using correct names and pronouns shows respect, acceptance, and honors individual agency. 

  • Names hold meaning and value and are an essential part of our identity.

  • Names are a core part of how we are introduced and how others understand us.

  • For transgender and nonbinary people, choosing a lived name is a critical part of asserting their humanity and existence.

  • Respecting and using a person’s lived name fosters an inclusive community.

  • Our job is to center each person with the name they use and navigate our interactions with respect and intentionality.

There are many of us who are benefiting from using our lived names. Some individuals may use lived names and not legal names because:

  • It is a name that accurately reflects a person's gender identity, including trans and nonbinary people, people whose gender identity is different than indicated on official documents.

  • An international scholar/student selects another name for campus use.

  • People whose lived or preferred name is a variation of their legal name (e.g., international students, faculty, and staff who have adopted Anglicized names.)

  • It is a name that reflects a cultural or familial preference/practice.

  • It is used for safety reasons, such as survivors of abuse or trafficking.

  • It is a professional name on published works.

  • It is a pen name an author uses or married people who had a legal name change but prefer to use the name under which they have published academic works.

  • It is a nickname.