Scientists Changing Names and Gender Expression

Scientists Changing Names and Gender Expression


For some time now, inclusion and diversity have been important topics of conversation in the workplace. However, they are still affected by unconscious bias. Trans people are particularly affected by this. Generally, a person is referred to as trans when their gender identity—how we perceive our gender ourselves—does not match the gender assigned at birth. This includes non-binary people, where gender identity is neither male nor female.

When someone decides to transition, i.e., begins to live life according to their gender identity, it is important to be perceived and accepted accordingly in everyday life. Many people discard their assigned gender and change their first name and gender entry in official documents. Ideally, the chosen gender is subsequently accepted by all.

The majority of those affected have a conflict-laden relationship with their former name, which is why a name change is often extremely important. While universities around the world have started to change name and gender entries in databases and on certificates as needed, until recently, the old name generally remained on scientific publications. For those affected, this meant a forced outing with every academic CV submitted for job applications or grant proposals, making one’s gender identity the subject of a process that should only be about professional qualifications.

Tanja Junkers, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia, and Lisa Pecher, Wiley-VCH, Germany, describe this problem and report that Wiley-VCH, ACS Publications, and RSC Publishing now facilitate retroactive name changes in journals. The new guidelines allow the original article to be changed directly without annotation. An official record of the name change is not required for this.

For trans authors, this development affirms the self-determination of their identity and leaves the decision to disclose their old name entirely up to them. The new guidelines also apply to name changes due to marriage, divorce, or religious conversion, which underscores that other groups of people often benefit from the inclusion of minorities.


Update (April 1, 2021)
The title has been corrected.



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