URBANA – Donned in a blue and orange cap and gown, Cyrus Arnieri had prepared for his graduation ceremony at the University of Illinois longer than most.
As a transgender student, Arnieri says he had been corresponding with the University for months to ensure his preferred name was called at the ceremony.
Despite legally changing his name in April, Arnieri says his deadname was announced.
“My deadname rang in my ears,” Arnieri said. “My moment was ruined.”
‘Deadnaming’ is the use of a transgender or non-binary person’s birth name instead of their preferred name.
Arnieri was allowed to walk again the next day using his preferred name. But, he says the university needs to value the preferred names of future graduates.
In order to advocate for future transgender and non-binary students, Arnieri organized a protest held Saturday to demand better treatment from the university– something he says is long overdue.
“I refuse to see another trans student have one of their proudest accomplishments turned to dust,” Arnieri said. “I refuse for this university to continue to ignore and disrespect its transgender and queer student body.”
The protest was co-organized by Linds Flood, a non-binary student at the university.
Flood says they had issues all year getting their preferred name to show up on Zoom.
Because of this, Flood says they had to go to many classes with their deadname on the screen.
“Why do I have to sit here and deal with this when I’m just trying to learn?” Flood said. “It’s just such a small thing to do.”
University spokesperson Robin Kaler said via email that some students did not have the opportunity to provide their preferred names so they could be used at the ceremonies.
Kaler said there will be a greater effort to use preferred names for future graduates.
“We value every student, and we will continue to improve our systems so we demonstrate to each graduate how much we value them,” Kaler said.
As a rising senior, Flood says they hope the university will take steps to ensure transgender and non-binary students like them won’t have the same problem at their graduation ceremony.
“This is just one more thing to tack on to the list of neverending inconveniences,” Flood said. “I just want people to be able to be happy and accepted.”