Administrative Policies

AD84 Chosen Identity Policy (Formerly Preferred Name and Gender Identity Policy )

Policy Status: 

Active

Subject Matter Expert: 

Keith Brautigam, 814-867-6207, kab65@psu.edu

Policy Steward: 

Vice President for Administration

Contents:

  • Purpose and Scope
  • Definitions
  • Preface
  • Policy
  • Further Information
  • Cross References
  • PURPOSE AND SCOPE

    This policy promotes and supports an open and inclusive environment through the establishment of a chosen name, gender identity, name prefixes, pronouns, and sexual orientation for use within University systems, where feasible. Not all University information systems, databases, and processes may be able to store or display these identifiers, and there may be situations that require use of the Legal Name or Legal Sex. Therefore, individuals who utilize a Chosen Name or Chosen Gender within University systems should always be prepared to reference their Legal Name and Legal Sex, as well and to provide corresponding identification when necessary.

    This Policy does not apply to Penn State Health or the Pennsylvania College of Technology. 

    DEFINITIONS

    Chosen Gender: A deeply held, internal sense-of-self as being masculine, feminine, a blend of both, or something else. Chosen gender may include the name individuals use to convey their gender identity and may or may not coincide with the sex by which an individual is identified on their government identification or in legal documents (see Legal Sex).

    Chosen Name: The name a person would like others to use when addressing them, instead of their legal name, whenever possible. See Legal Name, Nickname and Professional Name.

    Gender Transition: An individual’s process of developing and assuming a gender expression to match their gender identity (see Chosen Gender). A gender transition can include one or more of the following: coming out to one’s family, friends, and/or co-workers; changing one’s name and/or sex on legal documents; changes to outward appearance, such as clothing, hair, makeup, and jewelry; hormone therapy; and possibly some form of surgery.

    Legal Name: The person’s full name as identified on government identification or legal documents.

    Legal Sex: The person's sex as identified on government identification or legal documents.

    Mx: An honorific or prefix that does not indicate gender. Used as an alternative to gender-specific honorifics such as Mr, Mrs, Miss, or Ms.

    Nickname: An informal name usually, but not always, based on an individual’s legal name used in place of legal first or middle names.

    Professional Name: The name an individual is known by in a professional capacity. May encompass first, middle, and last names.

    Penn State ID+ Card: Used to identify individuals who are part of the Penn State community. Note: the Penn State ID+ card is not a government issued document (such as a driver’s license or passport) and therefore is not a legal representation of a person’s identity.

    Sexual Orientation: Part of an individual’s identity that encompasses the behavior and social affiliation resulting from sexual and emotional attraction to others.

    PREFACE

    Chosen Name: This mechanism is intended for those who wish to utilize a name of their choosing instead of, or in addition to, their legal name for one of the following reasons:

    • Individuals who prefer being known by a nickname.
    • Penn State employees who use and wish to be associated with a professional name.
    • Individuals who are gender-fluid or who are in the process of gender transition.
    • Individuals who have a safety concern.

    Chosen Gender: This mechanism is intended for those who wish to use a Gender Identity instead of, or in addition to, their Legal Sex.

    Sexual Orientation: This mechanism is intended to allow those wishing to disclose to the University their sexual orientation for visibility and representation in university demographic data. This is voluntary and will not be displayed publicly, but may appear within internal applications, such as academic advising, student information, or human resources systems.

    POLICY

    Chosen Name:

    The Pennsylvania State University recognizes and strives to support the need or preference for members of the University community to refer to themselves by a name other than their legal name. As long as the use of this name is not intended for the purposes of avoiding legal obligations or misrepresentation, the University acknowledges that a chosen name may be used where possible in the course of University business.

    An individual’s relationship with the University and the underlying reason for using a chosen name will determine, as set forth below, which name components (first, middle, last) may be used, as well as how the individual will be listed in the University’s public directory, IT systems, and on the Penn State ID+ Card.

    • Nickname: Individuals who wish to use a nickname may self-designate a Chosen Name comprised of first and/or middle names. The Chosen Name will be displayed as the person’s primary name in combination with the legal last name.
    • Professional Name: Faculty, staff, and technical service employees who wish to use a professional name may self-designate a Chosen Name comprised of first, middle, and last names.
    • Gender Identity: At the request of the Gender Equity Center or the Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity individuals undergoing gender transition, who identify as gender fluid, or whose last name may connotate a specific gender may designate a chosen first, middle, and last name.
    • Safety: Individuals whose safety is deemed to be at risk may, with approval from University Public Safety, designate chosen first, middle, and last names. The Chosen Name will be displayed in the University public directory unless the entry is omitted altogether at the request of University Police and Public Safety.

    The Chosen Name will be used when feasible in University information systems, communications and informational materials, except as set forth below:

    • Where the use of the legal name is required for University business or legal needs, including, but not limited to:
      • Financial, medical, and law enforcement documents
      • Transcripts and diplomas
      • W-2 forms, I-9 forms, and payroll documents
      • Visa/immigration documents
      • Information provided to airlines for issuing tickets
      • Employment related documents and personnel files
      • Background check documents
      • Insurance documents
      • Sponsored Research or Research Protections
    • When a University information system, database, or process is not able to display or otherwise make use of a Chosen Name.
    • Where a specific use of a University information system, database, or process requires display of the legal name.

    Individuals who utilize a Chosen Name within University systems should always be prepared to reference their legal name and provide corresponding identification when necessary. University Policies, AD85 Title IX Sexual Harassment, and AD91 Discrimination and Harassment and Related Inappropriate Conduct, provide guidance on situations where an individual has been treated in a disrespectful or harassing manner.

    The University reserves the right to refuse a Chosen Name and Prefixes. Instances that may result in this prohibition, include:

    • Arbitrary or repeated name changes
    • The use of language deemed inappropriate or offensive
    • Names or prefixes that may be used for fraudulent purposes, including misrepresenting marital status or professional qualifications
    • Other situations deemed inappropriate per University Policy, AD96 Acceptable Use of University Information Resources.

    Prefixes

    • Dr.
    • Mr.
    • Miss
    • Mrs.
    • Ms.
    • Mx.
    • Prof.

    Chosen Gender, Pronouns, and Sexual Orientation

    The Pennsylvania State University recognizes and strives to support the expression and self-identification of gender identity, pronoun usage, and sexual orientation. As long as the gender assertion is not intended for the purposes of avoiding legal obligations or for misrepresentation, voluntary self-identification options at this time include the following:

    Gender Identities

    • Agender
    • Different Identity
    • Gender Nonconforming
    • Genderqueer
    • Man
    • Non-binary
    • Transgender Man
    • Transgender Woman
    • Woman

    Pronouns

    • he, him, his
    • she, her, hers
    • they, them, theirs

    Sexual Orientation

    • Asexual
    • Bisexual
    • Gay
    • Heterosexual or straight
    • Lesbian
    • Pansexual
    • Queer
    • Questioning

    If selected by an individual, chosen prefixes and pronouns will be added to the person’s entry in the University’s public directory to facilitate communication based upon the person’s preferences. Sexual Orientation will not be displayed publicly, but may appear within internal applications, such as academic advising, student information, or human resources systems. While the use of chosen pronouns and prefixes are recommended and encouraged wherever possible, the University cannot guarantee that chosen pronouns and prefixes will appear in all cases and in all communications. It should be understood that even when a Chosen Gender has been entered in various University information systems, Legal Sex will be used wherever required by University business or legal need.

    Specific examples that may require use of Legal Sex include, but are not limited to, the following:

    • Financial, medical, and law enforcement documents
    • Transcripts and diplomas
    • W-4 forms, I-9 forms and payroll documents
    • Visa/immigration documents
    • Information provided to airlines for issuing tickets
    • Employment related documents and personnel files
    • Background check documents
    • Insurance documents
    • Federal reporting

    FURTHER INFORMATION

    For questions, additional information, or to provide feedback related to this policy, please contact the Office of Information Security. For questions and support related to sexual and gender diversity, students may contact The Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity or the Gender Equity Center. Faculty and staff may contact the HR Labor and Employee Relations Office. For questions relating to safety and/or other concerns, faculty and staff may contact the Affirmative Action Office.

    CROSS REFERENCES

    AD85 - Title IX Sexual Harassment

    AD91 - Discrimination and Harassment and Related Inappropriate Conduct

    AD96 - Acceptable Use of University Information Resources

    Most recent changes:

    • May 5, 2022 - The term “Chosen Name” has replaced “Preferred Name” throughout the policy. Edits made to the POLICY section to highlight different types of name changes based on an individual’s situation and relationship with the University. Verbiage added related to the use of self-selected prefixes, pronouns, gender identities, and sexual orientation. DEFINITIONS section added to provide a shared understanding of terms used. Formerly titled Preferred Name and Gender Identity Policy.

    Revision History (and effective dates):

    • August 30, 2021 - The term “Chosen Name” has replaced “Preferred Name” throughout the policy. Edits made to the POLICY section to highlight different types of name changes based on an individual’s situation and relationship with the University. Verbiage added related to the use of self-reported pronouns. DEFINITIONS section added to provide a shared understanding of terms used.
    • October 9, 2018 - Updated name and link from Center for Women Students to Gender Equity Center under Further Information; updated link from retired policy AD80 to AD95.
    • April 5, 2017 - Major changes have been made throughout the entire policy. Verbiage added to provide guidance regarding gender identity within the University's information systems. Edits made to the POLICY and PROCESS sections to better clarify compliance with policies and procedures related to the management of person identity information.
    • January 27, 2014 - New policy.

    Date Approved: 

    April 3, 2017

    Date Published: 

    April 5, 2017

    Effective Date: 

    April 5, 2017