On Snapchat, Amir Khan used Caitlyn Jenner’s deadname when captioning a photo
of Jenner running as an Olympian. Khan apologised on Twitter, calling it a “genuine mistake.”
Many transgender people choose to change their name. Often, this is the first part of the transition as it helps them with their gender identity. Friends and family may take a little while to get used to the new name, but if they’re respectful of the transgender person’s feelings, they will try their very best to avoid calling them by their birth name.
Sadly, many will forget about the change or its importance, and others may refuse to call them by their new name due to their own personal opinions on transgender rights. Indeed, it’s also common for transgender people to be misgendered, which is when someone refers to them by a gender that they don’t identify with. This is equally as harmful to a transgender person’s psyche.
A “deadname” is the name of a transgender person prior to their transition. So, the definition of deadnaming is the action of calling a transgender person by their former name instead of their new name. It counts as deadnaming regardless whether it is intentional or not.
A trans person will likely experience this throughout their life, from family and personal relationships to education or work environments. The most common location for deadnaming is actually at government institutions in which officials may use your legal name.
For example, if you haven’t legally changed your name, though you have socially, your birth name will still appear on your identification. In this instance, while the use of the transgender person’s deadname can still be harmful to them, government workers often have to follow certain legalities.
How can deadnaming be harmful to a person who’s transgender?
It can feel invalidating and disrespectful. Essentially, it highlights that they’re not supported in their transition process, whether it’s before, during or after.
Transgender discrimination is all too common, and people don’t quite realize the depth of emotion that is linked to their identity.
A new study has found that over half of transgender teen boys attempt suicide.
This alone highlights the importance of empathy in these situations.
How can you stop your habit of deadnaming if you do it by accident?
You may be aware you’ve deadnamed just after doing it. Perhaps you had a friend for years who has recently transitioned, and you’re simply used to calling them by their old name. If it’s a habit you want to stop to support the trans community, it can easily be done.
Follow these tips so you never deadname again:
- Ask the person what they would like to be called
- Refer to them by their new name even when they’re not around
- Think of them as their new name.
- Write their affirmed name in your phone contacts, not their previous name
- Correct others who deadname them as it’ll get you into the habit, too
- If it’s someone who you didn’t previously know before the transition, don’t ask them what their deadname is
- Apologize if you accidentally deadname them and just keep it in mind for the future
If you’re transgender, what can you do about your deadname?
Firstly, remember that people should call you by your affirmed name because it’s who you are, and we have a choice as to what to be called.
If you haven’t yet, changing your legal name is a great first step. This can avoid your deadname from being mentioned in various places such as at court, hospitals, airports, police stations and more.
However, stats find that most trans people do not have their affirmed name on their government-issued identifications. This is most likely due to the time and money it comes with, not to mention the fact that they should be referred to as their affirmed name (at least in social settings) regardless of what is on their identification.
On a purely social aspect, if your friend or family member keeps doing it by accident, sit down and explain why it’s so important to you and how they must try harder.
For those who do it on purpose, you can try to educate them. Many are known to do it for a supposed comedic effect, and then apologize when they realize the harm. Do note that many people will not want to listen and in these cases, you may just want to walk away.
It can be an awkward conversation but it is necessary if you want to avoid hearing your deadname.