Deadnaming is the use of the birth or other former name (i.e., a name that is "dead") of a transgender or non-binary person without the person's consent. Deadnaming may be accidental or used to intentionally dismiss, deny or reject a person's gender identity. There is disagreement as to the extent to which deadnaming is inappropriate, and disagreements within the LGBT community as to which measures are appropriate to take to avoid deadnaming.
Individuals seeking to avoid being deadnamed may face administrative or bureaucratic obstacles to changing their names. The question of how to handle past names of famous individuals who have transitioned gender identity since first entering the public eye is complicated, and published authors who have transitioned face the additional obstacle of their former name being included in bibliographic metadata records that are nearly impossible to update. Some websites and organizations have implemented policies to avoid deadnaming, such as standardizing the use of preferred names rather than legal names, or formally banning the practice of deadnaming.
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The concept of deadnaming has elicited considerable controversy. Supporters of transgender identity normalization argue that deadnaming is part of the hostile environment experienced by trans individuals. Deadnaming can also be done accidentally by people who are otherwise supportive of trans individuals, such as supportive family members or longtime friends who have not yet become accustomed to using an individual's new name. Repeated failures to avoid deadnaming, however, can be seen as a failure to practice allyship. Deadnaming can be overt aggression or subtle microaggression indicating that the target is not fully recognized as a member of a society.
Christopher Reed, a professor of history and scholar of queer culture, argued that objecting to deadnaming "inhibits efforts toward self-acceptance and integration". Grace Lavery argued that the freedom to deadname is not covered within the principles of academic freedom. Disputes surrounding the legitimacy of deadnaming have led to disputes within the queer community, with some stating that deadnaming itself is a tangible harm, and others arguing that the move to prevent deadnaming is tantamount to "re-education camp".
Queer scholars have theorized that trans people insist on preventing deadnaming in part as a strategy of self-assertion for what is to come: "by insisting on the primacy of the present, by seeking to erase the past, or even by emotionally locating their 'real self' in the future, that elusive place where access (to transition, health care, housing, a livable wage, and so on) and social viability tend to appear more abundant." Correcting deadnaming by third parties is cited as a way to support trans people.
Attempts to stop being deadnamed can sometimes result in significant bureaucratic and administrative obstacles for trans people. The legal name change itself costs time, money and effort. Changing corresponding information such as names, emails, class schedules in some institutions (such as school) can be difficult.
Notable figures such as authors, actors, musicians, activists and other well-known people run into an issue of their deadname appearing in metadata and old internet records. Some web platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and Gmail allow a certain number of name changes per user profile, allowing for any number of reasons for a name to be changed, while having fixed metadata, such as a deadname on a published book with an ISBN, is next to impossible to remedy. Some academic publishers and scientific journal publishers have a deadnaming policy allowing trans authors to fix their metadata, reflecting their preferred name. In the case of publications with a fixed identifier, oftentimes trans authors follow what female authors switching from maiden to married surname and vice-versa have sometimes done, which is to republish their creative work, or works, as new editions with their preferred name while trying to take old ones with the deadname out of print. Some media metadata web platforms may still portray the deadname as the primary author and edition.
On March 12, 2021, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction announced that its student information system would display each student's "preferred name" rather than birth name, which would eliminate deadnaming on state reports, student report cards, and teacher grade books.
In response to actor Elliot Page coming out as transgender, media streaming service Netflix removed Page's deadname from its metadata in the credits of movies the actor had appeared in as female, including The Tracey Fragments, Juno, Hard Candy and others. Writer Grayson Gilcrease, who investigated the situation, speculated that Netflix's actions were the result of Page's popularity in the TV series The Umbrella Academy. The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) changed its rigid policy on cast names in 2019, allowing actors and actresses to change and remove birth names and deadnames from their official profiles. This move came after trans actress Laverne Cox pointed out deadnaming on Amazon subsidiaries like IMDb as being "the ultimate insult", with GLAAD spokesperson Nick Adams agreeing and calling deadnaming an "invasion of privacy", sparking a protest over the practice of deadnaming in media metadata. IMDb released a statement saying, "IMDb now permits the removal of birth names if the birth name is not broadly publicly known and the person no longer voluntarily uses their birth name. To remove a birth name either the person concerned or their professional industry representative simply needs to contact IMDb’s customer support staff to request a birth name removal. Once the IMDb team determines that an individual’s birth name should be removed – subject to this updated process – we will review and remove every occurrence of their birth name within their biographical page on IMDb." It is not yet clear whether other Amazon media metadata platforms like Goodreads or the main Amazon shopping website will update policies on deadnaming. IMDb changed metadata for Elliot Page in 2020 to reflect his preferred name, even on lesser-known productions; for example, the 2003 Lifetime Movie Network TV movie Going For Broke, about a family affected by a parent's gambling addiction, now features the preferred name "Elliot Page" in the credits list for the role of character Jennifer Bancroft.
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