“Deadnaming” is the use of the pre-transformation name of someone who has transitioned between genders. So, for example, referring to “Bruce Jenner” in an article about “Caitlyn Jenner” is a case of deadnaming.
My view on this practice is that it’s respectful to use the name a person chooses after they’ve transitioned, but it’s not an egregious sin to use their former name if it’s relevant. In some articles about Caitlyn Jenner it might be, for example when you’re giving biographical details about her. If you’re going to note that Jenner is a trans woman, which is usually fine if it adds information, why is it horrible to say that Jenner was formerly the decathlon champion Bruce Jenner? In fact, that’s what Wikipedia does. It gives her bio article the title of her present name, but also gives the birth name:
And since being trans is an integral part of the identity of many trans people—something that they themselves mention—I don’t see much wrong with using the former name as an indication of that. What I see as demeaning is referring to the person solely by their former name without any indication that it’s been changed, which denies or mocks their own choice. Yet there are few sins worse than deadnaming in the Authoritarian Left community.
HuffPo (of course), also sees deadnaming as a horrible thing to do under any circumstances, and in this article about Chelsea Manning gives us a little lecture about deadnaming. It doesn’t help that it was Fox News that performed the despiséd act (click on screenshot):
Here’s the sin:
Fox correspondent Greg Palkot deadnames Chelsea Manning for the second time in an hour. pic.twitter.com/lY5XDcSdkq
— Bobby Lewis (@revrrlewis) April 11, 2019
To be fair, the correspondent, referring to Manning in both instances, says “at that time Bradley Manning”, meaning that Chelsea Manning went by another name during the Wikileaks fracas. Indeed, the Wikipedia article on Manning gives her birth name:
It’s not irrelevant to the story that Chelsea Manning was once Bradley Manning, as the news back then used the name, and if you want to find out what Manning did when he identified as male, you have to Google the former name. Also, Manning didn’t announce her gender preference until 2013, several years after she leaked information as an identified-as-male soldier in the U.S. Army. In other words, the crimes for which she was convicted and imprisoned (and now she’s back in jail) were committed when she used another name and served as a male soldier.
HuffPo can’t resist giving us a little lecture at the end of what is supposedly a news piece, mostly about Julian Assange and WikiLeaks:
Deadnaming is problematic because it can feel invalidating and disrespectful to the person it’s being done to, according to Pink News.
“Essentially, it highlights that they’re not supported in their transition process, whether it’s before, during or after,” says the publication, which stresses that many people don’t realize the “depth of emotion” linked to a trans person’s identity.
Twitter banned deadnaming in 2018.
“We prohibit targeting individuals with repeated slurs, tropes or other content that intends to dehumanize, degrade or reinforce negative or harmful stereotypes about a protected category. This includes targeted misgendering or deadnaming of transgender individuals,” Twitter said in a revised iteration of its hateful conduct policy.
As Parker Molloy wrote in The New York Times, Twitter’s move “represented a recognition that our identity is an accepted fact and that to suggest otherwise is a slur.”
To make sure you never deadname a trans person, ask the person what they would like to be called, refer to them by their new name even when they’re not nearby, and correct others who deadname.
It seems to me that there shouldn’t be a blanket ban on deadnaming so long as you identify the person’s present name along with the past one, and have a good reason for using the former name. It is not “erasing” somebody, as the New York Times article argues, to say that they have transitioned and once went by another name. It’s not erasing Muhammad Ali to say that he once was known as Cassius Clay.
What constitutes “erasure” is to use a person’s pre-transition name alone, or to use the present one in a mocking fashion. And, I suppose, it’s bad form to use a former name if someone has transitioned and wants to keep it a secret. But that isn’t the case for most transsexual people—as far as I know.