Parker: My Wildcard is now the truth…but


Illustration by Lily Ogburn

“NBWays” is a column that discusses the trials and tribulations of transgender and nonbinary student life on NU’s campus.

Riley Parker, Columnist

I did it. After the staff of Northwestern’s Gender and Sexuality Resource Center (GSRC) reached out to me via email, I was able to go to the Wildcard Office with a friend to correct the names on our cards, changing them to our preferred ones for free. I couldn’t stop smiling the entire rest of the day. Who knew basic respect could be so gratifying?

The relative speed at which the process occurred was somewhat reassuring. The Wildcard Office’s September reluctance vanished, replaced completely by April amicability. With the GSRC behind me, I suddenly had no issues. I had my card reprinted easily, as did others who had encountered similar roadblocks. I should celebrate, right? Not quite.

I’m not quite satisfied. Yes, I’m glad I succeeded, but I can’t help but rue the lengths it took to get something that I theoretically could have accessed all along. I was repeatedly told that my Wildcard could only ever bear my legal name. I even met the same sentiment when I emailed the Office of the Registrar last Fall Quarter, only to meet the same response. Why was I told that changing the name on my card would be impossible when the GSRC’s assistance made it not just possible, but easy? What happened?

My interactions with the Wildcard Office last Fall Quarter involved a series of point-blank “no’s.” I made an in-person appointment and the Wildcard Office attendant said no. I emailed that office and the reply was a no. I contacted the Office of the Registrar and they said no. A “no” doesn’t have any wiggle room. It is an absolute statement of policy. Faced with such a concrete refusal, I gave up. The Wildcard Office website was silent on the matter. I didn’t think there was anything else I could do. It didn’t occur to me to contact the GSRC staff.

In retrospect, it seems ridiculous that I had no idea the GSRC could help me; after all, it exists to combat queerphobic and transphobic discrimination. However, its actual campus presence acts primarily as a comfortable, casual and invaluable safe space for queer students. I thought people just went there for movie nights, not to solve impossible problems. Nobody ever said to me that I could reach out to the GSRC if I needed a policy change to accommodate my transgender identity. For a nervous freshman desperately trying to navigate the college landscape, the assistance that the GSRC could provide was not self-evident. 

From my perspective, the core dilemma I faced boils down to a problem with disconnection and poor communication within and between different offices at NU. The University is slowly making improvements. For instance, the Wildcard Office website has, during the past two weeks, updated its FAQ page to address chosen names. Now, any student like me who scours the Internet for answers will find a path toward fixing their ID. 

While this action is much appreciated, it’s also the bare minimum. I’m not confident that, even with the update, an unaware transgender freshman wouldn’t run into a situation similar to my former one. Simply adding a link to the GSRC website underneath the new FAQ would provide students an avenue for that aid. 

I struggle to not just pin my failure to reach out to the GSRC on my freshman naïvete. I keep defaulting to assuming that the entire affair must have been my fault because I didn’t know where to turn. Nevertheless, even naïve freshmen deserve access to resources they need to thrive, and they need to be told what those resources are and what they can be used for. It’s not productive to rely on students’ word of mouth; concrete steps should be taken to inform incoming and current students about what is available to them. Sometimes, these steps could be as incremental as adding a link to a webpage. In other cases, they could be recorded webinars or in-person events meant to educate students about their options. This approach could be applied across DEI offices, such as AccessibleNU and the Women’s Center, to create as widely informative a net as possible.

I love my reprinted Wildcard. Using it is now a thrill. I just wish that I could have had it sooner.

Riley Parker is a Communication freshman. They can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.