campus life

Welcome To Tulane, Where Your Professor Outs You As Trans

“I hadn’t gotten my name change yet, so beforehand I e-mailed [the professor],” says transgender Tulane University student Max Wallace of his first day of a new semester. “He e-mailed me back confirming that it was not a problem, and then in class called out my birth name. Finally, he called out my chosen name and looked at me and said, ‘Oh, you wanted to go by Max, right.’” Not to mention, Tulane doesn’t have gender identity included in its equal opportunity and anti-discrimination policies, which means students must have a legal document to register a name change — or rely on the kindness of faculty, administrators, teachers’ aides, office staff, food court workers swiping your ID, security guards, and pretty much every person on campus with a modicum of access to your identity to respect your privacy. [Tulane Hullabaloo]

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  • Lynn

    Tulane’s lack of official protection for gender identity needs to change. I’m not sure how easy doing so will be. Perhaps the article in the student newspaper will help.

    However, if Max’s concern was being outed as trans, the newspaper, by publishing Max’s photograph, did it far more than the professor. What I am wondering is if Max agreed to that photo, and if not, did he realize that by appearing on a public transphobia panel that he might be photographed?

  • den

    Good Grief. Professor’s are known for being absent-minded you know. My policy on the first day of class is to call out the last name and for that person to tell me the first name they want to go by. I don’t do it for trans people, but I guess it would work for them as well. I do it for someone with the first name of Bernard or Gladys or other annoying names our parents sometimes give us. I think this is a non-story. Sometimes things in life are just mistakes. The professor probably simply forgot about the email until he called out the name. It happens. A “sorry about that” should have been sufficient, in my opinion.

  • Flatfoot

    @den: You are ignorant to compare calling a trans person by their birth name instead of their real name to calling a cisgender student by a birth name instead of a nickname. For trans students, a birth name can out them, which could have any number of consequences including, sadly and all too frequently, death. So, while this may have been “an absent-minded professor”, the professor clearly has no cultural competency in this respect and the school is in dire need of updating its policies!

    Please don’t insult the trans community by making excuses and poor comparisons.

  • Rich

    Pull the stick out of your ass. It was a mistake. It happens. Quit with the victim mentality already.

  • JAW

    @Flatfoot: flatfoot… you got it all wrong… Den said that he/she used last names on the first day of class, and asked the student what first name they wanted to use. it sounds like he/she does that for ALL students, not just Trans.

    I am sorry that Max had an issue with the prof. BUT…. Max also is in transition, and sounds like Max registered for the class using his former name. Perhaps if Max had taken care of the name change, both legally and at the school, the issue may not have come up.

    I understand that transitioning is Very difficult for the person, but, it is also difficult for others involved. If the prof had continued to use the wrong name or made comments like “I only use the name that I was given when you registered” I would fault the prof….. BUT perhaps the prof made an honest mistake. We would really need to hear the profs side of the story, as well as others in the class to see how it came down.

    There is enough hate coming at those of us that are part of the sexual minority, that we do not need you to add to the hate the way you did to Den.

    Shame on you flatfoot!!

  • den

    @Flatfoot: I wasn’t comparing it – I was saying that I do that for all my students. I haven’t – to my knowledge – had a trans student yet, but I think the way I do things would take care of the problem. I just call out the last name and have the person answer with the first name they’d like to go by. The fact that it would help trans students just makes me more likely to continue the practice.

    I agree with JAW – no sense being so snotty to someone who is on the same side. I make my classes safe for all my students and have no doubt that a trans student would feel that way. My point was – that professors get a lot of emails from students and it’s understandable if he slipped as he went down his roll the first day of class. For the post to make it sound like the professor was intent on outing the student is silly. While most professors try to help students as much as we can, a name on a roster is not really our responsibility but the responsibility of the student if that’s not what they want to go by. Yes, the professor should have remembered or made a note – but the fact he didn’t shows no real insensitivity to the issue, just inattention to the request of a student.

  • reason

    With faculty meetings, preparing course materials, organizing teachers assistants, sorting thorough hundreds of e-mails, and all the other general stressors of the first day it is no surprise that he just read the name on the roll sheet. Unless the person specifically told the professor that they were trans and spelled out the importance the professor likely didn’t put two and two together to realize the negative impact. They receive so many trivial email including people just writing to introduces themselves. If they had realized the consequences, I can assure you they would have made a note. I am gay and I can guarantee you that wouldn’t have crossed my mind and I would have been liable to make the same error. It even took me a second to realize the importance of what happened after I read it. The words were likely already off his tongue before the e-mail even popped into his head. It sounds like you are a trans person and you are likely hypersensitive to things like that, but it just isn’t salient to most people with millions of things on their mind. I am embarrassed to say that I had to look up cisgender, do most people know what that means? I knew cis meant on the same side from studying symmetry but that could mean a lot of things in front off gender. Whatever the case, I am know cognizant of the importance of the name thing and will make sure I never fall into the same trap.

  • DR


    Enough with the victim mentality.

    Sounds as though this was an honest mistake, no malice behind it.

  • ousslander

    Legally change your name and there will not be problem.

  • Skeptical Cicada

    @ Flatfoot

    I’ll tell you what I find offensive as someone who is not transgender: you making up the goofy name “cisgender” for me and shoving it down my throat without my ever having adopted it myself.

    Objection number one is whoever came up with the absurdity doesn’t even understand that the “cis” prefix is a geographical term meaning “on this side of.” What, so I’m “on this side of” gender? What the hell does that even mean?

    When I want your help naming me, I’ll ask for it. Or would you prefer we just start renaming transgender people whatever we’d prefer to call you?

  • Steve

    “However, on the first day of class, the professor called out Wallace’s birth name, and overtly feminine name. When Wallace finally acknowledged, the professor announced tot he class “Everyone, welcome our first ever trans student. How about after class you all get to know her – erm, I mean him – with these baseball bats and shotguns?”

    Fortunately for Max, that’s not the story. Unfortunately for Queerty and Flatfoot, that again isn’t the story. Look, I can udnerstand that Wallace must have been embarrassed or felt uncomfortable, but honestly, you can’t expect a university professor to remember one student out of the hudnreds that they teach. This isn’t a case of transphobia, its a case of “I’m sorry, I forgot.” Just because something bad happens to a member of the LGBT community doesn’t mean it was on purpose. If a gay couple died in a car crash, would you blame their mechanic of cutting the brakes?

  • scott ny'er

    Agree with most folk here. Honest mistake, it seems like. The world also does not just revolve around the Trans student, the teacher seems to have a lot on his/her plate. And the prof that posted, his way seems like a good way around all 1st name preferences.

  • Alex

    is the pic related?
    because he looks uncannily like me, and I’m trans in the opposite direction. :]

  • Xtincta

    He looks like Adam Lambert, but less smug.

  • Michael

    Asking somebody to do you a favor is an imposition. Sometimes, you get lucky, but mostly, you do not. If this was really that important Max, Max should have taken the time to visit the Prof, rather than send an email.

  • Dollie

    @Michael: Calling a trans gentleman by his chosen first name is not a “favor,” but the considerate thing to do. However, I also agree that the prof. is probably not transphobic- the response to the email sounded nice. Honest mistake.

    Sidenote, he’s a cutie!

  • missanthrope


    And yet it keeps happening again and again to trans people, it’s not a “mistake” and stop blaming the victim.

  • Pete

    LOL! What a freak!

  • Mike in Asheville

    @No. 18 Pete

    Pete = asshole! LOL, asshole!

  • Max W.

    Hi all – this is the individual noted in the story.

    Just to clear a few things up: I did, in fact, very plainly spell out the importance and fragility of the situation in the e-mail I sent to my professor, including how upsetting it would be if the class was revealed my birth name.

    I had another professor accidentally call out my birth name upon forgetting, but remembered and then continued roll and called out my chosen name a few names down, as to keep birth name unconnected. Simple problem fixed.

    Upon e-mailing my professor afterwards, he sent me a rather condescending e-mail in response. The problem with the name change is that I didn’t at that point have $1,000 to spend on a legal process, as many transfolk don’t. The immediate issue here is that I do have to unfortunately rely on the kindness of those people who I have never met, indulge them in painful and incredibly private information, and hope that they respect it enough to give me a second’s worth of effort.

    Also, yes, I did the panel understanding my actions. I am not stealth, and in fact am very open about my trans status, but I get to make the decision of how and why I let it be known. That’s no one else’s business but my own, just as any gay, bisexual, or otherwise queer or intersex person has a right to that disclosure. Hope that makes things more clear.

  • pika

    @Skeptical Cicada:

    oh, dear….
    now, how ’bout them heterosexuals screaming out loud “how dare you call me a heterosexual! i do not identify as heterosexual. i’m just normal.”

    skeptical, please educate yourself.

  • pika

    @Max W.:

    kudos to you Max for standing up for your rights. :)

  • Max W.

    @pika: Thank you, Pika. That means a lot. :)

  • Thea M.

    I look forward to the day when we no longer have the need to have brave people like Max be placed in the spotlight for educational purposes. As a consequence of bringing attention to this very misunderstood part of our world community, judgement is passed on his emotional health and personal appearance. Just ridiculous.

    As far as claims that he is suffering from a “victim’s mentality,” the professor didn’t have to do use Max’s birth name maliciously to merit Max mentioning this story. I find that simple ignorance, sans malice, needs to be addressed MORE than malicious ignorance…with people who simply don’t understand what a big deal it is, you can actually get somewhere. Using Max’s birth name was probably a simple mistake, because the professor didn’t understand how important this issue was to Max. What made this such a nasty experience was the email follow-up after the class, where the professor was not apologetic or even accountable. The professor was rude and condescending. Had that email exchange been more civil, this story probably never would have been brought up.

    Just so everyone knows, he is a humble, sweet guy that isn’t looking for celebrity. He was not paid for his participation in the trans panel (where that picture was taken), nor for the interview with the Tulane Hullabaloo.

    He’s just made of awesome.

  • Thea M.


    Yes, Pete. You are a freak.

  • Ella

    @JAW: I am a student who was in the class, and I was really offended on Max’s behalf. The professor said something like “[birthname], but you prefer Max, right?”, which sounded to me like he was trying to show how cool he was by both knowing Max’s birthname and his chosen name.

    I am a cis person whose name is often mispronounced and I go by a nickname. I care less than most people about what I am called, and I thought the professor was way out of line in how he handled the situation. I would also like to say that Max handled the situation with astounding grace, quietly acknowledging his presence and not making an issue in front of the class.

  • Steven

    @ousslander: You say this as though it’s an easy thing to do for anyone who wants to. Legally changing one’s name is not a simple process in all states, and in some it can be rather expensive. For example, here in Louisiana, it’s $479 – not exactly in most college students’ budgets (or most people’s, for that matter). I’m sure most people don’t know this. But to tell Max that it’s his own fault for not changing his name is not really fair, considering how arduous and cost-prohibitive the process can be. Besides, just because you change your name legally doesn’t mean the university complies. I changed mine two years before I even applied to college, and discovered when I re-enrolled 8 years later that my original name was on record, somehow.

  • Tiff

    I love Max and Thea! Nuff said!

Comments are closed.