On Being Deadnamed

| Feb 11, 2019
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When I decided to put aside my fears a little over a year ago and finally start living as my true self, I have to admit that I really didn’t get why deadnaming was such a big deal. After all, people are human, and people can make mistakes, right?

I think I get it now. Because of my roles in journalism and politics, I know and work with a lot of people. When I shared the news of my impending transition, people often asked what my new name would be and then expressed fear about slipping and calling me by my former name. It’s okay, I told them. As long as I sense someone’s making an honest effort, it’s okay.

Not long after I went public as Claire, I encountered a man in his late seventies who had been a city councilman and mayor locally. He greeted me with a cheery, “Hello, Claire!” I greeted him as he added, “Good to see you, sir.” Oh well, batting fifty percent.

With one glaring exception, the people in my life have tried. One (now former) colleague made a half-hearted effort for a couple of months, then went back to deadnaming me full time, explaining that he was too old to change. I’m glad the voters decided he was also too old, at least in his way of thinking, to continue serving.

Kudos to Twitter for banning deadnaming and misgendering as hate speech. Of course, there’s already pushback from the right-wing bigots, who say the social media site has declared war on biology and on free speech, but this is part of the larger war for trans civil rights that has to be fought, and won.

My friend Bethany Grace Howe, a doctoral student at the University of Oregon, is doing pioneering work on transgender identity. She has found that compared to cisgender LGB folks, transgender people have to defend their identity twenty-two percent more often than the population as a whole. Deadnaming is such a big reason for that.

It is amazing in some ways, yet not surprising at all, to learn than trans kids who can use their chosen names are sixty-five percent less likely to attempt suicide. Deadnaming is really a micro-aggression, and sometimes murder doesn’t happen swiftly and cleanly.

Sometimes death comes by a thousand cuts.

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Category: Transgender Body & Soul

Claire H.

About the Author ()

Claire Hall was born and grew up in a large city on the left coast and has spent most of her adult years in a beautiful small coastal community where she's now an elected official in local government after spending many years as a newspaper and radio reporter. In her space time she loves reading, writing fiction (her first novel was published by a regional press a couple of years ago), watching classic Hollywood movies, and walking.

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