University of Minnesota  FAQ

Implementation of the Administrative Policy on Equity and Access: Gender Identity, Gender Expression, Names and Pronouns


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Please use the contact section in the governing policy.

  1. Why was this policy drafted?

    The policy responds to requests from students, staff, and faculty members for information about their role in creating an inclusive environment for transgender and gender non-conforming community members.  We anticipate that University members will continue to have questions about how to navigate this relatively new, complex, and fast-changing area. The administrative policy and these FAQs attempt to answer many of the questions that University community members have asked and to provide transparency around the University’s approach. 

    Incorporating this information into an administrative policy, rather than into another form of guidance, provides a highly visible, accessible, and centralized resource that is based on input gathered through the University’s extensive policy consultation process.

    The policy also expresses the University’s strong commitment to providing a safe and welcoming environment for all community members regardless of gender identity or expression. A policy-level statement is particularly important given the vulnerability of transgender and gender non-conforming populations to discrimination, harassment, and threats to their safety and well-being.  Research shows that individuals from transgender communities face high levels of discrimination that often harms their health and safety, as well as their ability to thrive at work and school.[1]  In one of the largest national surveys (N = 27,715) of the experiences of transgender people, 46% of participants reported being verbally harassed in the previous year due to being transgender, one in ten participants reported being physically assaulted in the previous year due to being transgender, and almost half (47%) of participants reported being sexually assaulted at some point during their lifetime.[2]

  2. Why is it important for people to have the option to share, and for me to use, their specified names, pronouns or other gendered personal references?

    Using the specified names, pronouns and other gendered personal references of others conveys a basic level of respect for them and their identities. Some individuals do not identify their gender within the binary system assumed by many languages. For example, not every individual identifies as a man or a woman or uses pronouns like “he/him/his” or “she/her/hers.” “They/them/theirs” might be their pronouns. Regardless of how someone identifies, it is important to acknowledge, respect, and refer to them by their specified name and pronouns.

Sharing specified names, gender identities, and/or pronouns

  1. How do I share my name, gender identity and/or pronouns with University members or units?

    University members may specify their names, gender identities, pronouns or other gendered personal references without being required to provide documentation.

    University members can choose whether and how to share their specified name, gender identity, and/or pronouns with their unit, supervisors, colleagues, instructors and/or classmates.  For example:

    • When introducing oneself, one can say: “My name is [insert name] and my pronouns are [insert pronouns].”
    • A student may email a faculty member and say: “In class, I would like to use the name [insert name] and be referred to with she/her/hers pronouns.”
    • University members can include their pronouns in their signature line: “Pronouns: [insert pronouns].”
    • University students, faculty and staff can specify their name, gender identity and/or pronouns in MyU. See One Stop Student Services: Personal Information page for more information about these processes for students.

    For further guidance, contact your campus LGBTQIA+ resource (see FAQ #24).

  2. When I specify my name, gender identity, and/or pronouns in MyU, where else and with whom is that information shared?

    Students can learn about how the specified name, gender identity, and/or pronoun information in MyU  is used by visiting One Stop.  Please note that if you grant someone guest access to MyU (e.g., a parent or guardian), they can see your specified name(referred to as “preferred name” in PeopleSoft).

    Employees can learn more about how the specified name, gender identity, and/or pronoun information in MyU is used by visiting the My Info tab in MyU.

    Not all University systems are connected to each other and not all information in University systems is automatically shared with other University members, including instructors and supervisors.  Therefore, even if you have provided a specified name, gender identity and/or pronoun information in one system, not all University members will be notified or have access to this information.  In addition, if you change your specified name and/or pronouns mid-semester, you should not assume that your instructor will be notified of that change.

  3. Can I change my name or photo on my U Card?

    Yes. Your U Card can reflect your specified name if you have entered it into MyU at least 24 hours prior to visiting the U Card office. If you would like to replace your U Card with a new one to reflect a different name or photo, you may have to pay a replacement fee.  See the U Card Office for your campus or your campus LGBTQIA+ resource for more information.  If the replacement fee presents a financial barrier to you, please contact your campus LGBTQIA+ resource and/or the Twin Cities campus Gender and Sexuality Center for Queer and Trans Life at [email protected]. On the Duluth campus, please visit this page.

  4. If I change my name, gender identity, and/or pronouns in MyU, will my parents/guardians find out?

    Parents/guardians have limited access to the information on MyU.  If you grant a parent (or other person) guest access to MyU, they can see your specified name (referred to as “preferred name” in PeopleSoft), but they cannot see your specified pronouns and/or gender identity. You have the option to determine what personal information is available to your parents, guardians, and other designated guests through MyU.  For more information about what information is available to a parent (or other person) who has guest access, please contact One Stop Student Services.

  5. Can I change the name associated with my email address?

    For current and recently active employees and students, the University’s email account uses the PeopleSoft “preferred name” field when associating an internet ID with a name on your University email account.  To update the name associated with your University email account, please input your specified name as your “Preferred” name in MyU.  If this is not functioning properly or you want to request an internet ID or email address change, contact the OIT Service Desk.

    For other University community members (e.g., alumni) who are receiving emails from a University unit, please request a change directly with the unit.

    Please also note that many people keep local address books in the Google address book associated with their University email account.  The name used in the local address book will override the name used by the University’s email system.

  6. I have shared my specified name, gender identity, and/or pronouns with my unit, colleagues, and on MyU. How do I share this information with other University systems and groups?

    If you would like to share this information with a particular individual, office, or system (such as MyU), you should communicate this information directly to that individual, office, or system. Please be aware that sharing this information with one individual, office or system (such as MyU) may not result in that information being shared with other University systems or members.

    If you would like a person with whom you share this information to share it with others (e.g., with other colleagues in your unit, classmates, etc.), please discuss this request specifically with the person. If you do not want the information shared with others, please indicate that specifically.

    For information on how specified names (preferred names in MyU) that have been entered into MyU are shared with other individuals and University systems, please see the preferred name web page on onestop.  Please note that certain individuals with system access may have the ability to see information about specified names, gender identities, and pronouns that has been entered into MyU. 

    For information about how to input your specified name, gender identity, and/or pronouns into University systems, please visit One Stop Student Services: Personal Information or MyU and/or contact the system or group that you would like more information about.

    See also FAQ #4, above.

  7. Will the name and pronouns included in my email signature block or in my out of office message be shared outside of the University community, including in response to a public records request?

    The University is a public institution subject to Minnesota’s public records law, the Government Data Practices Act. As a University employee, your name (including the name used in your signature block) and email address are public data that may be released in response to a public data request. Your gender identity is considered private data, not subject to release in response to a public data request. In most cases, the University considers your pronouns to be private data, even when included in an email signature block.

    Still, by including a name and/or your pronouns in your email signature block, you are providing that information to anyone you email and to anyone who might receive your out-of-office message. Individuals may assume that by including a name and/or your pronouns in your email signature block, you do not consider that information to be private. And so, your emails might be forwarded to other individuals, in and outside of the University. In addition, the name included in a signature block could be released (e.g., in response to a public data request) along with other documents that include your legal name. Therefore, you should be thoughtful about what information you include in emails, including in email signature blocks.

    Please contact your human resources representative or campus LGBTQIA+ resource if you have concerns related to public release of your information included in your signature block.

Programs, activities, and facilities

  1. Where can I find gender-inclusive restrooms or locker rooms?

    For gender-inclusive restrooms on the Twin Cities campus, please visit the Inclusivity button on the Twin Cities Interactive Campus Map.  For gender-inclusive restrooms on the Duluth campus, please visit the Duluth Gender Inclusive Bathrooms Map (PDF).  For gender-inclusive restrooms on the Morris campus, please visit the Morris Campus Map.  For gender-inclusive locker rooms and restrooms on other campuses, please contact the program or facility you wish to access.

  2. Why doesn’t the building I work in have gender-inclusive restroom options?

    The University makes efforts to make gender-inclusive restroom options available when possible.  At the same time, the University must comply with applicable building codes, including codes that require buildings to have a designated number of “female” and “male” restroom spaces and related restroom fixtures.  In making alterations to current spaces, the University also must consider technical feasibility and accessibility for individuals with disabilities pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act.  At times, complying with these other laws, rules, and/or requirements makes it difficult for the University to make additional gender-inclusive restroom options available in a particular building.  If you have questions about possible alterations in your building, please contact the Facilities Management Team Manager for your building. For information about the nearest available gender-inclusive restroom, please see FAQ #10.

  3. Are there housing options for transgender and gender nonconforming students?

    Yes. For questions and information about the available options, please contact the housing groups on the applicable system campus:

    Campus Housing Contacts
    Campuses Contact
    Crookston Residential Life 1110 Centennial Hall
    2900 University Ave
    Crookston, MN 56716
    [email protected]
    Duluth Housing and Residential Life 149 Lake Superior Hall
    513 Niagara Ct
    Duluth, MN 55812
    [email protected]
    (218) 726-8178
    Morris Residential Life 600 East 4th Street
    Morris, MN 56267
    [email protected]
    Phone: 320-589-6475
    Rochester Residential Life 318 1st Ave, SW
    Rochester, MN 55902
    [email protected]
    Twin Cities Housing and Residential Life 210 Delaware Street SE
    Comstock Hall
    Minneapolis, MN 55455
    [email protected]

    You can also contact your campus LGBTQIA+ resource for more information.

Asking and collecting data about names, legal sex, gender identity, and pronouns

  1. How can I learn about the pronouns, gender identities and/or names of my colleagues, classmates and peers?

    University members can ask their colleagues, classmates, and peers about their names and pronouns in a respectful way.  For example:

    • When welcoming new employees, students, or guests to a meeting, class, etc., you can say, “Hello, my name is [insert name] and my pronouns are [insert pronouns]. Please introduce yourselves by sharing your name and pronouns if you are comfortable doing so.”
    • When introducing yourself, you can say, “Hi my name is [insert name] and my pronouns are [insert pronouns]. May I ask what your pronouns are, if you use them?”

    When determining whether, when, and how to ask about names and/or pronouns, consider the following strategies:

    • share your own name and pronouns first;
    • ask at the time of onboarding a new employee, during introductions at a meeting, or during class introductions;
    • ask everyone in the group the same questions (e.g., as described above), rather than only asking those individuals whose pronouns you have a question about;
    • do not limit an individual’s choice of pronouns or require an individual to share their pronouns.

    Course instructors should refer to the specified names of students (often called “preferred names” in University systems) that are included on course enrollment lists.

  2. My colleague, classmate, or peer shared with me their specified name, gender identity, and/or pronouns. With whom can/should I share this information?

    Abide by the wishes of the individual who is sharing their personal information.  If the individual expresses that they want the information to remain confidential, do not share that information with others.  If you are unsure or have reason to believe that the individual sharing the information prefers that it remain confidential (e.g., in a situation where the person’s name, gender identity, or pronouns differ from those they used previously), ask the individual to clarify whether the information may be shared.

  3. When do I have a legitimate reason to ask individuals about their gender identities as part of a data collection project?

    At times, University units or members may want to collect information from individuals about their gender identities. When determining whether you have a legitimate reason for asking individuals about their gender identities, consider the following questions:

    • What is your specific reason for collecting this information? How do you plan to use this information?
    • Is the data essential to your purpose? If the data is not essential, consider removing the question.  If the question is not removed, consider making the question optional and offering individuals the option to write in their gender identities.
    • How will the data on gender identity be used and reported?
    • Where and how will gender identity data be stored and protected?
    • What legal or University policy restrictions might there be on collection, storage, or use of demographic data?
  4. What information should be provided when asking individuals about their gender identities as part of a data collection project?

    Where possible, a University unit or member who is collecting information about University members’ legal sexes, sexes assigned at birth, and/or gender identities should explain at the time of collection the reason for collecting the information and how the information will be used. The reason and explanation should be reasonably accessible and understandable to the University members from whom the information is being requested.  For example, a statement near the question requesting the information could explain: 

    • “[Insert name of researcher or research project] is collecting data about gender identity as part of its [insert name of study] in order to study health disparities between cisgender and transgender people.”
    • “[Insert name of unit] is collecting data about gender identities of the members of [insert name of unit] in order to help learn about the demographics of the unit to assess recruiting, hiring, and retention efforts over time.”
    • “[Insert name of unit or program] collects information about the gender identities of the members/participants in [insert name of unit or program] in order to meet the needs of its members/participants and to guide our work to make the [insert name of unit or program] more welcoming.”

    The use of only binary gendered language choices (“male” and “female”) is discouraged, as these are limited options that do not provide accurate choices for those who have different gender identities. 

    Allowing individuals to select more than one gender identity and providing blank spaces for individuals to identify their gender identity is encouraged.

    In cases where there is a legitimate business need to request an individual’s sex assigned at birth or legal sex, we recommend that the information be labeled as “sex assigned at birth” or “sex indicated on legal documents”/”legal sex,” and not as “sex” or “gender.”

    It is rarely permissible to ask about an individual’s sex assigned at birth.  One exception could be in a health care setting, when asking about an individual’s sex assigned at birth could impact services or treatment.

    For further guidance and support, please visit the Gender and Sexuality Center for Queer and Trans Life’s site or contact your campus LGBTQIA+ resource.

  5. How do I know whether I have a legitimate reason for requesting information about gender identity from the custodians of University data (e.g., from Human Resources, the Office of Institutional Research or Academic Support Resources)?

    The custodian of the University data will determine whether there is a legitimate reason for releasing this data.  In making this determination, the data custodian will consider a number of factors.  For example, aggregate information about gender identity can generally be shared, such as the total number of students reporting a particular gender identity.  Requests for individual private information about students, including about their gender identities, is governed by FERPA. To obtain such individual private information about students, requesters must demonstrate that they are a school official with a legitimate educational interest in the data. Additional criteria may also be considered such as the benefits to students of sharing the data with other systems, or the risk of harm to students if the data is shared.

Other questions about the application of the policy

  1. My unit/instructor/facilities are not providing me with the support I think I should be receiving under this policy. What do I do?

    We encourage you to talk with your supervisor, advisor, unit leadership, and/or your human resources representative about the support you need.  If your concerns are not resolved, please contact your campus equal opportunity office.  You can also make a report through U Report/Ethical Advocate.

    For support and resources, please contact your campus LGBTQIA+ resource.

  2. I keep forgetting to use the correct pronouns and/or specified name of my colleague/peer. What should I do?

    We recognize that some of the expectations set forth in the policy are new concepts that will require education and learning, and that misuse of pronouns is often unintentional and not malicious.  Apologize and continue to make efforts to learn and treat your colleague/peer respectfully, including by using the correct pronouns.  There are many valuable online resources to learn about pronoun usage and is a helpful start.

  3. I keep forgetting to use the pronouns of my colleague/peer. Is my conduct discrimination or harassment?  Will I be disciplined?

    Unintentional and occasional misuse of a pronoun will not constitute discrimination on the basis of gender identity or gender expression and will not result in discipline. However, malicious and repeated misuse of pronouns that is intended to degrade or humiliate someone could, depending on the circumstances, constitute discrimination or harassment based on gender identity or gender expression in violation of Board of Regents Policy: Equity, Diversity, Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action (PDF).  Violations may occur when conduct based on gender identity or expression: (1) is unwelcome; (2) is severe, persistent, or pervasive; and (3) unreasonably interferes with an individual’s employment or educational performance or creates a work or educational environment that the individual finds, and that a reasonable person would find, to be intimidating, hostile, or offensive.

    Violations of Board of Regents Policy: Equity, Diversity, Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action could result in discipline.

  4. Does the expectation that I use individuals’ specified pronouns infringe on my right to free speech?

    Nothing in this policy is designed to, nor will be interpreted to, interfere with principles of academic freedom or free speech.  The goal of the policy is to educate and inspire our community members to conduct themselves in a respectful manner.

  5. What happens if someone acts inappropriately in a gender-specific space (e.g., restroom or locker room)?

    Use of restrooms and locker rooms is for legitimate reasons.  Misuse of restrooms or locker rooms could violate University policies, including Board of Regents Policy: Sexual Harassment, Sexual Assault, Stalking and Relationship Violence (PDF), and result in discipline.  If you have witnessed or experienced misconduct in the restroom or locker room, please report the misconduct to the unit overseeing the restroom or locker room space (e.g., your residence hall director, the Facilities Management Team Manager for the building, your supervisor) and/or to your campus equal opportunity office. 

  6. I am uncomfortable sharing a restroom, locker room, or dorm room with others. What are my options?

    The University understands that members of our community may prefer private restroom or locker room spaces for a variety of reasons. To accommodate community members who prefer private restroom or locker room spaces, the University offers single use restrooms and locker room spaces.

    The University’s housing offices are skilled at working with students with a variety of housing needs.  The housing offices are available to assist individuals who have concerns about their housing options or situations on an individualized basis.  Please contact your campus housing representative if you have questions or would like more information.  See FAQ #12.

  7. What do the words “transgender”, “gender non-conforming”, and “cisgender” mean?

    Transgender is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth. The term transgender is not indicative of gender expression, sexual orientation, hormonal makeup, physical anatomy, or how one is perceived in daily life.

    Gender non-conforming is a broad term referring to people who do not behave in a way that conforms to the traditional expectations of their gender, or whose gender expression does not fit neatly into either a female or a male category.

    Cisgender is a term used to describe a person whose gender identity aligns with the sex assigned to them at birth.

  8. Is it okay to use an individual’s specified name to refer to them instead of using their specified pronouns?

    Yes. For a variety of reasons, individuals may prefer to refer to another person by their specified name, rather than by their specified pronouns. This is an example of a way to respect and accommodate different perspectives consistent with the University’s values of free speech and academic freedom.

  9. Who can I contact for more information and assistance?

    Resources are available on the Gender and Sexuality Center for Queer and Trans Life’s site, Allies. For additional support and guidance, please contact your campus LGBTQIA+ resource:

    Campus LGBTQIA Contacts
    Campuses Contact
    Crookston Office of Student Affairs
    Duluth Office of Diversity and Inclusion Phone: 218-726-8444 E-Mail: [email protected]
    Morris Resource Center for Gender, Women, and Sexuality
    Rochester Diversity and Inclusion
    Twin Cities Gender and Sexuality Center for Queer and Trans Life Phone: 612-625-8519 Email: [email protected]

[1]      Mccann, E., & Brown, M. (2018). Vulnerability and Psychosocial Risk Factors Regarding People who Identify as Transgender. A Systematic Review of the Research Evidence. Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 39(1), 3-15.

[2]      James, S. E., Herman, J. L., Rankin, S., Keisling, M., Mottet, L., & Anafi, M. (2016). The Report of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey. Washington, DC: National Center for Transgender Equality.