Zoom Fails Queer Students

Zoom has been a helpful tool for schools across the country dealing with educating students during a global pandemic.

The easy accessibility that made the site so popular during these times became a problem when Youtube pranksters began asking their teenage audience to send them the links to their classes. They would film themselves joining these classes and disrupting them. It became such a problem that Zoom made a system that allowed teachers to “authorize” their students’ accounts to make sure only the students in their roster would be allowed access to the class. 

This wouldn’t be a problem except for one glaring issue. Before students authorized their accounts they were allowed to put a name that they would like to be called which is found underneath their camera, but after they authorize their account, the name that comes up is the student’s full legal name. In the order of last name then first and middle name.

A lot of people don’t see a problem in this. They don’t see how this could affect anyone other than exposing a mildly embarrassing middle name. But in our gender nonconforming society this small difference can cause dysphoria, being outed, or even possibly being picked on or bullied. 

For many gender-queer students the name that appears on their Zoom accounts is their deadname. A deadname is the birth name of a gender-queer person that goes by another name. Their birth name may not align with the gender they identify. Being deadnamed can be damaging to the person and should be avoided whenever possible. 

Zoom’s current authorization method deadnames gender-queer students every time they log in. For “passing” gender-queer students, they may be outed by their deadname. Other students may purposefully deadname a student to make them feel bad or as a way of bullying them. 

As our society shifts away from gender norms we must update our systems to be inclusive to everyone.  This problem has a simple solution. If Zoom brought back their “nicknames” then it can give these affected students a chance to be called by the name that makes them feel comfortable. To have the name that they chose be displayed. It would still block these pranksters and wouldn’t disrupt class. All it would do is help gender-queer students.

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