Chosen Name, Gender Identity & Pronouns

At the George Washington University (GW), we believe and honor that all members of our community should feel they can fully show up as their most authentic selves. We acknowledge that for some members of our community, their legal name is not a reflection of who they are and/or how they identify. To create the most inclusive campus environment for every student, staff, and faculty member to feel they belong, we have a process that invites members of our community to change their chosen name on university platforms.

Using appropriate names and pronouns is an important way of establishing norms of respect with the students, staff, and faculty you work with. Additionally, using appropriate names and pronouns signals your commitment to be inclusive to and for everyone.

What is a chosen name?

A chosen first name is the name a student, staff, or faculty member wishes to be known by and referred to in the GW community that is different from their legal first name.

How and when should a chosen name be used?

Wherever possible, use someone’s chosen name, including informal conversations, email communication, and formal settings.  If you are creating a registration/signup form, allow the use of chosen name only unless there is some specific reason you need access to someone’s legal name.  Depending on which platforms you use, you may have access to a student, staff, or faculty member’s legal name. When a chosen name is indicated, we expect that you treat access to a legal name as confidential data and do not employ it unless there is a specific need for it to be used.  There may be circumstances (e.g., when conducting a background check, dealing with financial records, or sending postal mail) when a legal name is required.  Limit the use of the legal name when a chosen name is listed to necessary circumstances.  There may be times (e.g., when contacting family members or writing letters of recommendation) when someone may not want their chosen name used.  If you are hesitant about a particular context, you should ask the individual privately if there is an exception to using the chosen name and/or seek support through the Office for Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement.

Why would someone go by a chosen name and not their legal name?

While the most known and understood reason to go by a chosen name instead of a legal name may be to reflect gender identity, other reasons why someone might use a chosen name include personal safety reasons, choosing to go by an “Americanized” name, or distinguishing oneself from someone with a similar name.

What is gender identity?

Gender identity is the personal sense of one's own gender.  Gender identity can correlate with a person's assigned sex at birth (cisgender) or can differ from it.  Gender expression (e.g., through clothing, presentation) may reflect a person's gender identity, but this is not always the case and should not be assumed.

Some people may use the following terms to express their gender identity: agender, cisgender, gender neutral, queer, woman, transgender, gender non-conforming, man, trans man, trans woman, questioning.  

It is important to know that it is not your choice how another person identifies; you are responsible for respecting how they identify and referring to them in the ways they indicate are appropriate.

What are pronouns?

Pronouns are used instead of someone’s name in a sentence.  For example, “He wore his red shirt today.  Can you see him?” or, “They wore their red shirt today.  Can you see them?”

You should not determine someone’s gender identity by looking at them and should not make assumptions about a person’s pronouns based on your perception of their appearance.  Using someone’s correct pronouns is respectful and creates a more inclusive environment.

It is a good and inclusive practice to ask, “What pronouns do you use?” or “How should I refer to you when I am not using your name?” when you meet or communicate with someone for the first time.  You can also ask people to share pronouns when they fill out a registration form or information sheet.  You can make it easier and more welcoming for people to share their pronouns with you by sharing your own pronouns verbally, in communications, and in your email signature.  For example, “I am Dr. Eric Smith.  You can call me Eric, and I use he/him/his pronouns.”  When leading a group discussion, staff/faculty meeting, or starting a new semester in a course, student organization, or workplace environment, ask people to share their pronouns along with their names as a part of the discussion.  For example, “Let’s go around the group and do introductions.  Please share your name, your major, and your pronouns as you are comfortable.  I’ll start.  My name is Yvonne, I’m in BME, and I use they/them/theirs.”

It is important to know that it is not your choice how another person identifies; you are responsible for respecting how they identify and referring to them in the ways they indicate are appropriate.

Updating Your Chosen Name

Students, staff, faculty, and alumni are able to update their chosen first name through GWeb at any time. Entering a chosen first name will change the first name that appears internally at GW. Please be aware that use of a chosen first name will also change the first name displayed in the public GW online directory by default, though individuals have the option to edit the display to show their legal name only, or their legal name with their chosen name in parenthesis. Instructions for how to edit your directory listing are available online in the GW Knowledgebase

Individuals are able to change their chosen first name provided that the request is sincere and is not for the purpose of misrepresentation or fraud (e.g., using the process to avoid a legal obligation). Students, staff, and faculty should use their legal name when conducting university business. If students, staff, or faculty change their chosen name during a semester, they are expected to inform their faculty and/or supervisor directly and/or work with the Office for Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement for support by emailing [email protected].

In addition, students, staff, and faculty are able to indicate their gender identity and pronouns within university platforms.

Instructions to Update Your Chosen First Name and where your chosen first name will appear.

This process will update your first name in these GW systems within 24 hours:


Updates directly from GWeb:

​​​​​​Students/Alumni, Staff & Faculty

  • Banner
  • Microsoft 365
  • Google (email, calendar, & drive)
  • including new email addresses
  • GW Online Directory 
  • with personalized display options
  • Library Catalogs (Gelman, Burns, & Himmelfarb) 
  • MyCHC / PNC



  • Blackboard
  • Campus Labs/Engage
  • DegreeMap
  • Handshake
  • Salesforce & Emma email systems


Staff & Faculty only

  • Jabber
  • Saba Org Chart



Users have access to update their own profile name:

Students, Staff, Faculty

  • WebEx
  • Zoom
  • Box

Staff & Faculty only

  • FixIt
  • iBuy


Users must submit a request:

Students, Staff, Faculty

*this will not be automated as not all users want a new email address

Staff & Faculty only


WebEx, Zoom, and Box display names may be updated by the user following instructions provided in the links. 

Updating Your Legal Name

Please note that chosen first names are used solely for GW’s internal systems and the university does not have control over external platforms (e.g.,news outlets, social media).  Requesting to use a chosen name is not the same as legally changing your name through the court system, and does not change your legal name in GW’s records. If you'd like to update your legal name or legal sex, please submit the Biographical Update form found on the Registrar's website. If you have been employed by the university within the past two years, or are currently employed by the University, you should instead complete and submit the Data Change Request Form, along with supporting documents to [email protected]

Where is a legal name used at GW?

  • Official transcripts
  • Employment forms
  • Mailed documents
  • Payroll records
  • Tax documents
  • Financial aid documents and records
  • Verification requests
  • Third-party reports such as to the National Student Clearinghouse
  • Diploma

For support with the chosen name process or additional help understanding chosen name, gender identity, and pronouns, please contact the Office for Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement at [email protected].