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What You’re Actually Saying When You ‘Dead-name’ a Transgender Person

Dead-naming is the act of calling a transgender/non binary person by their birth name or rather, the name they no longer wish to use as it does not match their gender identity or personal preference. Dead-naming, as any trans person would tell you, is extremely upsetting and disrespectful. I am very passionate about this subject because there are more and more TERFS who seek to put trans people down because they claim transgender people aren’t ‘really’ the gender they identify as.

Unfortunately, many trans- exclusionary people find abhorrent and often lazy excuses why they dead-name someone or misgender them. They say things like “it’s something to get used to and I will try” (they never put in any effort) and “I’ve always known you by *insert dead-name*”. It’s disheartening and a demonstration of a total lack of consideration. It’s not innocent and it’s unacceptable.

Here are the two things you’re actually saying when you dead-name a trans gender person.

  1. I don’t care about your feelings, only my own.

This is particularly true of transphobic parents and relatives of trans folk. They claim they love their relative and might say that they care deeply but if they still call you by your old name and misgender you, what they’re saying is “I only care about your feelings as the you that I want you to be.” Well, I’ve got news for you: if you can’t accept your child or relative as the gender they identify as and on top of that, go some way to ensure they are humiliated, then they deserve much better than you.

2. I don’t think of you as genuinely female/male.

As aforementioned, the motive behind a lot of this dead-naming and misgendering is not seeing the person as genuinely the gender they identify as. We are seeing a wave of Shapiro followers and uneducated right wing people (mostly in North America and Western Europe) who call themselves ‘basic biologists’. These people will make ludicrous statements like “it’s basic biology: you can’t be the opposite gender. There’s only male and female.”

Here are a two refutals you can use to counter their ‘argument’:

  • Psychology is a part of biology because it concerns the human mental state and psyche. There was a study in 2010 done at the University of Barcelona which analysed the brains of trans people. The results showed that there is considerable evidence to suggest that the grey matter of the brain in trans people does not match their birth sex but instead, aligns with their gender identity.
  • You say there’s only male and female definitively but that’s a load of wash. Intersexual people exist (I am one of them, just for the record). There are hundreds of anthro-hermaphrodite conditions which cause diversity in chromosome makeup making genitals indistinguishable at birth as well as internal diversity: ovotestes, partial; androgen insensitive syndrome, aphallia etc. So no, the view that ‘male and female is all there is’, is a narrow-minded uneducated view.

So, if a trans person identifies and presents in their preferred way, take them seriously because they are genuine (a word I must keep repeating).

The transgender community has a long way to go before being truly accepted and integrated in society. Allies can do more and so can people who claim to be accepting. Taking small steps will make the big difference and I pray that when my children grow up, the world won’t even see transgenderism as a factor for discrimination or judgement.