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More than 20,000 people have signed a petition urging a Georgia high school to abandon plans to deadname a transgender student during their graduation ceremony.
Alan C. Pope High School, in Cobb County, Ga., rejected a request from Soren Tucker to use his preferred name during the ceremony, which is due to take place on May 26.
Tucker asked his counselor if the school could use his preferred name during the ceremony, even though his deadname will be on the diploma.
“She got back to me and said they couldn’t do anything about it because it had to be my legal name,” he told CBS 46.
In a statement, the administration said that they followed school protocol in rejecting Tucker’s request, with a spokesperson saying that “all official school business” requires “students’ legal names.”
“If any student or family changes a student’s legal name, we update that student’s official record which impacts, among other examples, their schedules, transcripts, and diplomas,” the spokesperson added.
But Tucker, who is currently applying to have his name legally changed, said he didn’t request that the school change his name on official documents or on his diploma, but instead say his preferred name while he crosses the stage during the ceremony.
“We are not asking for any sort of change on a legal document it’s simply the call list,” Tucker told FOX 5 Atlanta. “Which is just a piece of paper with names on it, we don’t even get our diplomas at the ceremony.”
Tucker noted that the school has previously used his name in the yearbook, on awards given by the school, and in playbills for school musicals.
One of Tucker’s friends and a fellow senior told FOX 5 the school’s reasoning was “kind of petty” and “doesn’t seem like a legal thing.”
After Pope High’s administrators rejected Tucker’s request, a Change.org petition was created to try and urge officials to reverse their decision.
“When asking to have his name read correctly while walking across the stage at graduation, senior Soren Tucker was refused outright,” the petition reads.
“Admin. is only allowing ‘legal names,’ on diplomas and on the call list for graduation (despite the call list being separate from the diplomas), meaning that Soren and other transgender students will be publicly deadnamed as they walk across the stage to receive their diplomas, a moment they’ve waited their whole lives for.”
It continues, “Despite being fully supported and correctly recognized by students and staff, the administration refuses to recognize Soren by his name. This is a BLATANT act of transphobia, and the students of Pope High School do not and will not stand for hate, prejudice, and discrimination against their students.”
At the time of writing, more than 20,200 people have signed the petition in support of Tucker.
“I didn’t expect it to really get any attention outside of our school or even the county,” Tucker told FOX 5. “In general for trans people, the name is something that’s very important because it’s very personal and it’s for many people, the first step towards sort of affirming your identity.”
Speaking to CBS 46, Tucker noted that the school choosing to read out his deadname could have repercussions for other transgender students.
“The more I thought about it, I know there will be people in future years, future graduating seniors that probably will have to go through something like this as well,” he said, “and I don’t want anybody to have to go through that.”
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