USJ Program discusses importance of name and gender marker changes 

“The Power of Name Change: Working with Members of the Trans Community” a discussion on the importance of name and gender marker change was held at the University of Saint Joseph on Saturday, March 23. 

The well-attended event, held both on the USJ campus and virtually, was led by Dr. Gina Rosich, chair of USJ’s Department of Social Work and Equitable Community Practice, and three guest speakers: Betsy Linehan, Sister of Mercy Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) Committee chair; Rev. Aaron Miller of Metropolitan Community Church of Hartford, and Pat Aidan Whittel, transgender awareness advocate and a USJ alum. 

The discussion focused on gender identity development and the importance of supporting name and gender marker document changes from professional, ethical, personal and theological standpoints. 

“Transition is a vulnerable time for trans-identified individuals. Social name and pronoun changes reflect ownership of identity. They are powerful symbols. Name change in itself has a rich Judeo-Christian biblical history. Name and Gender Marker change to legal documents represents a further significant milestone for transitioning individuals, as these are tied to human rights,” said Dr. Rosich. 

Discussed during the program were the importance of name change in the transition process, and how the Trans ID project serves as a structural intervention with mental health and human rights implication. Guest speakers spoke about their own personal journeys and reflected upon how their faith and Mercy values and ethics relates to hospitality, and treating people with dignity and respect, fostering love and inclusion, and expanding our understandings of human diversity. 

“The Power of Name Change” was highly attended both here on campus and virtually by our Eastern Connecticut students. The packed room included students, faculty, and licensed professionals in the community,” said Dr. Rosich. “Clearly from the turnout, gender identity, spirituality, and the rights of trans people are pressing issues. As more individuals seeking to transition benefit from many kinds of support, it behooves us as educators to prepare the next generations of social workers and provide ongoing education to those already in the field. Events also send a broader message to the community that trans people are loved and respected.” 

The Power of Name Change was made possible by USJ’s Department of Social Work and Equitable Community Practice, Counseling Department, and Department of Philosophy, Theology, and Religious Studies and is supported in part by the Allyn M. and Mary V. Munger Lecture Fund at the University of Saint Joseph. 

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