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DEADNAMING
 

Deadnaming a Trans Person is Psychological Violence

Why is Deadnaming Harmful?

Don’t Deadname Caitlyn Jenner

Deadnaming: Referring to Myself in Past Tense

Laverne Cox: Deadnaming and Misgendering Trans People

Words Matter: Deadnaming and Suicide

We Need to Stop Deadnaming Trans People

Video: Misgendering is an Act of Violence

Transition Challenges

 

"Deadnaming" is the act of referring to a transgender person's birth name instead of their chosen name. It is the practice of uttering or publishing the name that a transgender person used prior to transition.

 

Most of the time, an individual will pick a new name as soon as they begin to identify as the gender they know they are on the inside. This new name, in a way, marks the "death" of their old identity and the person they once were. With a new name, they signify a new, more truthful, and more fully realized phase of their life.

 

 

For many people who are transgender, undergoing a name change can be an affirming step in the transition process. It can help a transgender person and the people in their lives begin to see them as the gender they know themselves to be. It can also alleviate discomfort that may be associated with one’s old (former, previous) name.

 

Genderqueer (genderfluid) people may also elect to change their name (or pronouns) as a way of feeling more authentic and affirmed in their identity.

 

Transgender and genderqueer people really want other people to forget their previous name. Unfortunately, many people may struggle to adhere to a transgender person’s new, affirmed name. In some situations, other people may refuse to acknowledge the change altogether. And in situations that involve official identification, having a legal name that doesn’t align with one’s affirmed name can cause people serving in official capacities (administrators, employers, government officials, legal entities) to inadvertently refer to a trans person by the wrong name or gender.

 

 

Uninformed cisgender (straight) people might comment about a trans person’s “real” name, as if the new name a trans person uses is somehow less real than the one given to them at birth, when they were assigned male or female. It is seen as a verbally violent offense that attempts to invalidate a person’s authentic gender identity.

 

Deadnaming occurs when someone, intentionally or accidentally, refers to a transgender person by the name they used before they transitioned. You may also hear it described as referring to someone by their “birth name” or their “given name.”

 

Regrettably, deadnaming is often employed as a transphobic way to demean and deny a transgender person's true expression of self.

 

It can occur, intentionally or accidentally, anywhere in a transgender person’s life, from personal relationships to the classroom or workplace.

 

Deadnaming a Trans Person is Psychological Violence

Why is Deadnaming Harmful?

Don’t Deadname Caitlyn Jenner

Info: Transgender Issues

Deadnaming: Referring to Myself in Past Tense

Words Matter: Deadnaming and Suicide

Info: Preferred Gender Pronouns

We Need to Stop Deadnaming Trans People

Video: Misgendering is an Act of Violence

Info: Respectful Language

 

Why Deadnaming Occurs

 

--Someone accidentally (unintentionally, unconsciously) deadnames because they are used to using the old name and they are still adjusting to the new name. For example: John Doe calls his transgender sister, "Steve" by accident because he had referred to her as that for most of his life. He apologizes and corrects himself.

 

--Someone purposefully (intentionally, deliberately) deadnames to cause distress. For example: At school, while Jen was walking down the hall, Anthony walks by her and coughs "Steve." Jen gets upset and tries to correct Anthony, but he just walks away snickering.

 

--Someone purposefully (intentionally, deliberately) deadnames because of their beliefs. For example: Grandma calls Jen "Steve" because she stubbornly believes that Jen is still a boy.

 

 

Why Deadnaming is Harmful

 

When you refer to a transgender person by their non-affirmed name, it can feel invalidating. It can cause them to feel like you don’t respect their identity, you don’t support their transition, or that you don’t wish to put forth the effort to make this necessary change.

 

If you do so in front of people who are not in the know, it can effectively “out” the transgender person. This may or may not be something that they want other people to know. Not only can being outed cause stress, it can also subject that person to harassment and discrimination.

 

For transgender people, a name change is an integral part of their struggle to determine and affirm their identities. Deadnaming reminds the person of their former name (and former life) and invalidates their efforts to be their authentic self. It has the potential to bring forth painful or embarrassing memories and dig up a past that they would much rather forget. A transgender person experiences some dysphoria at the mere thought of anyone knowing their given name or assigned gender.

 

Some transgender people, after having self-determined their identity or after they have transitioned, no longer refer to themselves as transgender. Instead they simply refer to themselves by their correct and true gender.

 

Even if some acts of deadnaming and misgendering are due to insensitivity, carelessness, and ignorance, it can be viewed as a form of transphobia and as psychological violence.

 

Deadnaming a Trans Person is Psychological Violence

Why is Deadnaming Harmful?

Don’t Deadname Caitlyn Jenner

Info: Transgender Issues

Deadnaming: Referring to Myself in Past Tense

 

 

Using Trans Name: Matter of Life and Death

 

Using transgender people’s correct name is literally a matter of life and death. A new study found that transgender people who are referred to with the correct name are at a lower risk of suicide.

Stephen Russell of the University of Texas at Austin, et al., interviewed 129 transgender and non-binary people between the ages of 15 and 21. He asked them if they could go by their actual name at home, at school, at work, and with their friends, and also asked them questions about suicide.

Compared to participants who had to go by their birth name in all four domains, those who could go by their actual name were 34% less likely to report thoughts of suicide and 65% less likely to attempt suicide. Those who could go by their real names experienced 71% fewer symptoms of depression.

“I’ve been doing research on LGBTQ youth for almost 20 years now, and even I was surprised by how clear that link was,” Russell said.

The researchers found participants in three major cities and said that his sample was diverse in terms of socioeconomic class and race. They controlled for those factors when analyzing the results and also for social support.

“It’s practical to support young people in using the name that they choose,” Russell said. “It’s respectful and developmentally appropriate.”

This is another reason it’s important to fight discrimination at work, to force schools to respect trans students’ gender identities, and for people to refer to use the right names for the transgender people in their lives: for some people, it can be a matter of life and death.

[Source: Alex Bollinger / LGBTQ Nation / April 2018]

 

Words Matter: Deadnaming and Suicide

Info: Preferred Gender Pronouns

We Need to Stop Deadnaming Trans People

Video: Misgendering is an Act of Violence

Info: Respectful Language

 

Are You a Trans Ally?

 

What happens when you deadname or misgender someone? What message are you sending when you ignore someone’s preferred name or gender pronouns?

 

--I can hear you talking, but I’m not really listening to you.

--I know you better than you know yourself.

--I know what’s best for you.

--Being who you truly are is an inconvenience to me.

--I would rather hurt you than change the way I speak about you.

--Your sense of safety is not important to me.

--Your feelings of authenticity are not important to me.

--Your identity isn’t real and should not be acknowledged.

--Offending you is fine if it makes me feel more comfortable.

--Showing you respect is not a priority to me.

--I want to teach everyone around me to disrespect you.

--Why don’t you quit being so sensitive and stop your whining.

--I would prefer it if you stopped being honest with me.

--I am not an ally or a friend.

--I am not someone you can trust.

--I do not care about you.

 

Deadnaming a Trans Person is Psychological Violence

Why is Deadnaming Harmful?

Don’t Deadname Caitlyn Jenner

Deadnaming: Referring to Myself in Past Tense

Words Matter: Deadnaming and Suicide

We Need to Stop Deadnaming Trans People

Video: Misgendering is an Act of Violence

 

Comments About Deadnaming

 

“Calling a trans person by their former name is referred to as deadnaming and is considered highly offensive to most trans people I know.”

-Steven Petrow

 

"I think selecting a name and hearing people refer to me with that name was pretty solidifying in the transition process. It made me feel like I was being seen as the man I was presenting myself as. When I finally got my legal documentation changed over to reflect my chosen name, it was a major deal. Yes, it's time-consuming and frustrating, but it's so worth it in the end. I no longer get strange looks when I present my ID card or license."

-Caleb Camacho

 

 

“For transgender people, our relationships to our names are complicated, to say the least. What we’re called has power, and hearing a blatantly masculine or feminine name applied to you when you’re trying to realign your gender in a different direction can be a source of profound, dysphoria-inducing anxiety. Hearing or seeing one’s old name can induce a visceral sense of terror that no matter how much progress one makes in their transition, the person they used to be (or pretended to be) is still there. One’s deadname is a name that shall not be spoken, for it invokes a restless spirit. Many trans people will go to great lengths to prevent people from finding out their deadnames, destroying irreplaceable photos and documents in an effort to ensure that who they really are is the only identity most will remember. We may not be able to make our families forget what they used to call us, but we can change how we’re known to the rest of the world.”

-Samantha Riedel

 

“Deadnaming and misgendering trans people is an act of violence.”

-Laverne Cox

 

“In my experience, dead-naming can show a lack of respect for that person's identity. For those who have just begun their transition, especially, it can also cause pretty bad dysphoria and self-doubt and anxiety and a whole list of emotions that no one should have to deal with. During the first couple of years of my transition, it didn't really bother me too much, especially with my family. It took a while for my family to fully accept my transition, so I was understanding of the fact that it would take time for them to get used to referring to me by my preferred name. After all, they'd spent 20-something years calling me by my dead name. Now, since I've been transitioning for more than four years, I get a bit annoyed if they slip up, and then I remind them that my name is Caleb. It doesn't happen too often anymore, though."

-Caleb Camacho

 

 

“When I first went full time, I gathered up every piece of clothing I owned from my previous life and I put it in a box. On that box I wrote my dead name. It felt like packing up after a loved one has died. It took me a weekend to fill the box and the whole time I was filling the box I grieved. That chapter in my life is over. Those things belong to... someone else. Someone I never really was but pretended to be for thirty years. That life wasn't all bad. Some of the things that went in that box were sentimental. Some of those things represented accomplishments and journeys I had taken. But I don't connect to those things the same way anymore. And so I grieved. So I packed everything away, as though I had died, and I grieved for what I was leaving behind. I think that the grieving was important. Choosing to transition is a choice to leave some things behind. Filling the box was a time when I could grieve for those things. I still have the box in the closet with my dead name on it. There are things in the box too precious to part with, and those memories will always be part of me. But I'm not that person any more. I've grieved for that person, but now I've moved on. I think dead name is an entirely appropriate way to refer to a name and an identity that has passed and been mourned, don't you?”

-Jae Alexis Lee

 

“For the most part, you should never use a trans person’s birth name (or, as some of us often call it, dead name) and you should always stick with the pronouns they’ve asked you to use. It’s important to understand they didn’t become who they are the moment they told you their chosen name. And they didn’t become this person because they transitioned. Instead, they transitioned because they already were this person. When you’re talking about their past, even though you may not have known them as the person they are now, this is still the person they were. For example, I’ve always been Amelia. I may not have gone by this name in the past, but this was always the person I was inside, even if I was hiding it as much as possible and pretending to be someone else. Also, it’s never okay to out a trans person. Depending on the company you’re in, it’s possible, perhaps even likely, that not everyone is aware this person is transgender and they would like to keep it that way. While I’m 100% openly transgender, it’s still not okay for someone else to out me. Even if it’s pretty obvious to someone else that I’m trans, no one else has the right to confirm that information. Maybe I don’t want to actually talk about trans stuff at that time. Maybe my safety could be at risk, which is not something anyone else is in a position to evaluate. Maybe there’s just no reason why that person needs to know I’m trans.”

-Amelia Gapin

 

 

Deadnaming a Trans Person is Psychological Violence

Why is Deadnaming Harmful?

Don’t Deadname Caitlyn Jenner

Info: Transgender Issues

Deadnaming: Referring to Myself in Past Tense

Words Matter: Deadnaming and Suicide

Info: Preferred Gender Pronouns

We Need to Stop Deadnaming Trans People

Video: Misgendering is an Act of Violence

Info: Respectful Language

 

Transgender Terminology

 

AMAB – Assigned Male at Birth.

 

AFAB – Assigned Female at Birth.

 

Doxxing - Dropping documents. Collecting and revealing personal and private information about a person's past. Releasing embarrassing information publicity against a person's wishes. Defaming, harassing, and outing a person by revealing past hidden information about them.

 

TERF – Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist. Women who oppose the inclusive of transgender women in spaces exclusively reserved for women assigned female at birth.

 

Clocking - Term used to reflect that a transgender person has been recognized as trans, usually when that person is trying to blend in with cisgender people, and not intending to be seen as anything other than the gender they present. The term is typically used by presentation-focused trans men and women to explain the crushing disappointment they feel, usually when cisgender people “out” them, but also when someone trans does it. Another word is "read," as in "She read me," or "I got read as trans." It should be noted not all trans people can or want to “blend in” or "pass" to avoid being “clocked,” and many make peace with their gender presentation being at odds with what society dictates a man or woman "should" look like.

 

Passing – For those whose aim is to be accepted as the gender with which they identify, “passing” is considered a worthy goal, and at the same time a very arbitrary determinant. “Passing” is to “blend-in,” and like beauty, can vary depending on the eye of the beholder. For many trans people, the pursuit of "passing" is rooted in a desire for safety.

 

Sex Change – The term is far from accurate and not generally preferred. To many in the trans community, it can be an insulting term.

 

To those looking in from the outside, "sex change" seems to be the perfect description: one day you’re a woman, now you’re a man. You changed your sex. Well, not really. To understand why “sex change” is a terrible thing to say, understand that “sex” is a stand-in for the word “gender.” Gender doesn’t really change when someone undergoes an operation that for decades was commonly called a “sex change,” or more recently, “sexual reassignment surgery.” Someone who identifies as female (regardless of their sex assigned at birth) doesn’t change, so much as work to align their physical appearance and anatomy with the gender they know themselves to be.

 

That’s why the term “gender reassignment” came about, to better explain that a person assigned male at birth was given a treatment or surgery to live as a female. But that, too, raised heckles, and that is where we get the terms “gender confirmation surgery” and “gender affirming surgery,” two more accepted terms that emphasize the treatment and surgery not so much as a transformation but as an acknowledgement that the mind and body needed realignment.

 

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