Question for trans folks about misgendering, deadnaming

I have a question for trans and/or genderqueer folks, and their friends and allies, so basically all you guys who have more direct insight into this topic than I have.

On this year’s X Factor UK, apparently there was some controversy and accusations of transphobia. The wikipedia article refers to it as “misgendering”, although an earlier version referred to it as “deadnaming”:

Source: The X Factor (British series 15) - Wikipedia

Now, I don’t really understand how this would be misgendering or deadnaming, since it wasn’t deliberately or accidentally addressing him with the wrong gender - but then againI have no personal insights into this topic. I myself wouldn’t ask a transperson such a question because to me it seems quite irrelevant to know what exactly their past name was. They left it behind, and that’s it.

But is this kind of question something that would make a transperson feel uncomfortable or misgendered in a setting like in that quote, where they just told someone else that they are trans and then get questions about their past?

Is there something like a general etiquette to follow so that that line of conversation doesn’t end at “uhm, okay” and then awkward silence after someone reveals they are a transperson? :slight_smile:

I’m not trans, but asking for someone’s deadname seems breathtakingly rude to me. “So who are you really?” Or some such BS.

Yeah, this.

“Misgendering” is the wrong term here, you’re right that it’s not misgendering. It’s absolutely rude though.

Deadnaming is bad for a few reasons – for one it allows people to dig up your past to aid in finding documents and photos etc to harm you. It can also “out” you if you’re stealth. For this person the former could be an issue, but the latter really isn’t since he volunteered the info that he’s trans himself.

THAT SAID, deadnaming can also be hurtful just because of the associations trans people have with their birth name and gender. This really isn’t much different than say, someone changing the last name inherited from their abusive father or changing their first name because they were named after an uncle who later turned out to be a child predator. Nobody would ask “so what was your birth name” in those circumstances because it’s understood to be a point of hurt.

Some trans people may be okay with volunteering the information, and obviously some like Caitlyn Jenner have their birth name as a matter of public record (but you still shouldn’t use it). However, the times when you need to or should ask are very small and mostly limited to absurd hypotheticals.

It definitely comes across as a “so who are you really?” I suppose in that sense, it could be construed as a weak, indirect form of misgendering. However, labeling it as such seems a bit of a misnomer to me.

E: There are a few times I can think of where deadnaming may be acceptable that are less contrived, but they’re closer to content warning or clarification sorta stuff. I.E. if you’re about to play historical footage of an interview with Caitlyn Jenner for a documentary you may state ahead of the clip that the interviewer is going to refer to her by her pre-transition name which is <blah blah we all know>.

Thank you for your explanation!

I’d never even heard the term “deadnaming” before I read that Wikipedia article, so I’m still learning about it. To me it seemed like asking that singer about his birth name was just an unnecessarily nosey question, but I think now I get how this could have a negative emotional or psychological impact on a transperson.

Alo, I’m probably a bit naive in that respect, but I never even thought about the fact that someone could use the info to dig around in that person’s pivate life or their past for whatever reason. :frowning:

This actually doesn’t seem like deadnaming, exactly. Williams is actually asking Felix to deadname himself.

Absolutely improper, though. Whether rude unintentionally or intentionally.

Yep, because now we have to invent entirely new ways to be offended!


Mod Hat On

Completely jerk response. Don’t post in this thread again.

Here is the exchange for anyone curious.

In the context I don’t think it’s worthy of controversy. Felix was publicly outing himself as transgender. He answered the questions and carried on. I feel creating a controversy over this creates the impression that people shouldn’t be curious about someones background if they are transgender and encourages a feeling that you must walk on eggshells around transgender people.

Is ”deadnaming” a term that applies exclusively to transgender folks who leave their birth names behind, or were the somewhat hostile sportswriters Muhammad Ali contended with arguably deadnaming him when they referred to him as Cassius Clay?

I mean, this one’s not a giant deal, it’s still kind of rude though. It’s not a thing they should have asked, but it’s pretty low on the totem pole of offenses. I wouldn’t call it “outrage worthy” so much as “an opportunity to point out we should avoid that.”

TBH, I’d consider that deadnaming but it’s usually only a term you hear in trans discourse. A lot of trans people do use Muhammad Ali as a cis example, though.

Yeah, I can see how trans people in particular would be sensitive about it because they so constantly get bombarded with the message that their birth-assigned identity is who they “really” are.

If a married person was telling me they changed their last name to their spouse’s, I wouldn’t have a problem with casually asking “oh, what was your maiden name?”, although I wouldn’t see much point to it either, unless we were talking about family trees or something.

But if a transgender person discloses that they’re transgender, ISTM that asking for details of their birth-assigned identity is rather intrusive and rude, even if not outrage-worthy.

I don’t know if prior to this thread if I would have asked someone their deadname, but now I know not to. So, you know, an advance on the website’s mission statement.

I’m not trans, but I’m tired of people misspelling my name when they have it written right in front of their nose. The US government even tracks those misspellings, at least when they take place in the US, and calls them my “aliases”, making me seem like some sort of dangerous person simply because morons can’t read.

US companies often have a “no nicknames” policy which people from many other cultures find offensive and bothersome (I’ve known guys who were called by their nickname even by their own mothers); rephrase as “call people by whatever name they have told you they want to be called” and it’s a much better, more universal fit. Deadnaming is a specific name for a situation which many people find irritating or bothersome to say the least: “that’s not my name!”

Do you have examples of this? Granted I’ve spent most of my career within companies of a single industry, but it seems ludicrous that any company would force me to use “James” instead of “Jim.” I can understand not allowing “Lazy Dog” or something in a professional setting, though.

Not registering to the “hurtful” level, but when people ask what was my birth name (only happened a couple times in about 20 years of transition though), I just said I don’t tell it because I really disliked it.

I think people are free to ask though, usually it’s just some nosey harmless curiosity, but I encourage also people to feel free not to answer, the same as you would for any other bit of trivia about yourself that is not relevant for the people doing the asking and don’t feel like sharing to a stranger.

Can I ask a question about your phrasing–did you just mean to say “since transitioning,” or do you consider the transition ongoing?

There’s a little confusion at my daughter’s school now, where one of the girls is transitioning, but not everyone knows it (only her closest friend is supposed to be aware, but that friend is a blabbermouth). So some of the girls, including my daughter, know that Jane is now John, or about to be, but it’s not public info, so they have to remember to still call him Jane…this is at an all-girls Catholic school, by the way.

What they said. (May I ask your pronouns, Jragon?) Facepalm-inducingly rude, but not strictly misgendering.

Ha! Good question. Both meanings apply for me. There’s the first few years of seeing a shrink and the bulk of body modifications, and change of legal sex. Then through the years there’s the various fiddling of hormonal dosage, ways of administration, and hemming and hawing about getting or not more body modifications.

Thanks, that makes a lot of sense.