Crash Course for Families in LGBT ‘Deadnaming’

Here's why referring to a trans person by a birth name is a complete 'degradation' today

Even though “deadnaming” sounds like a new Liam Neeson movie — it actually is a term used for referring to a transgender person by the name “he” or “she” was given at birth, but no longer uses. “Deadnaming” sounds as deadly as the word suggests: In today’s tripwire-laden culture, it’s now apparently a very big no-no.

“It is definitely an insult — people transitioning are erasing the pain of that identity that seems unnatural to them— that’s never who they were, inside,” a gay Massachusetts resident, 45, told LifeZette. “That being said, we [LGBT community] should inform, not accuse. The whole society is trying to learn our verbiage, and we appreciate it.”

“Deadnaming” is also often paired with the offense of “mis-gendering.”

Another Massachusetts resident holds an opposing view. “This seems like madness — the straight community cannot possibly keep up with all the labels now in the LGBT world, which is ironic, as they don’t like labels,” said a 55-year-old husband and father. “And they are quick to set us straight if we mess it up. They can’t get around it — facts are facts. They were born a certain gender.”

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Deadnaming notably caused problems for Arizona law enforcement about a year ago. Kayden Clarke, 24, who was transitioning from female to male, was killed by officers who were called to his Mesa, Arizona, home on Feb. 4, 2016, after receiving reports about a suicidal person.

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Detective Esteban Flores told The Huffington Post at the time that officers fired after Clarke came toward them holding a knife.

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Mesa police originally identified Clarke by his legal name and gender assigned at birth upon his death, but then, through his family and friends, became aware of his transition, according to AZCentral. With such differing “versions” of the deceased being conveyed to investigating officers, one can only imagine the confusion when it came time to file the appropriate paperwork.

Authorities defaulted to the legal name found on identification cards. Makes sense, right? Evidently not — to some people, anyway.

“Deadnaming” is also often paired with the offense of “mis-gendering,” which refers to the use of an inappropriate pronoun of a person’s gender identity.

Suffice it to say that when Mesa police originally delivered Clarke’s birth name to the media, the LGBT community reacted, contacting local papers to alert reporters to Clarke’s identity, said News articles were updated using Clarke’s identity, and an editor’s note was added to the bottom of initial reports to reflect the discovery.

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Mesa police adjusted how they referred to Clarke in conversation, adding both names to relieve confusion, after investigators learned more about his situation. However, the department reports still referred to him by his birth name. This brings to light the confusing quagmire when it comes to legal identification.

The thought process in the LGBT community is: One’s birth name is not the name to use in this type of tragic situation — one’s new name is. But how is law enforcement to know? Not everything this community demands in terms of sensitivity makes practical sense — or is even possible. Clearly, police officers have no interest in offending family members going through the grieving process, or in exacerbating an already painful situation.

The individual added, “I wish you hadn’t said I was born a girl.” But wasn’t she?

“When people use deadnames, it’s a degradation of life and erases us,” Monica Jones, a social worker and Mesa activist, told AZCentral.

This seems particularly harsh considering how police rushed to Clarke’s residence to try to help … whoever’s life it was. They didn’t ask questions before risking their own lives to try to save Clarke’s.

The talk show host Katie Couric penned a piece for The Huffington Post last week after she watched a documentary on National Geographic called “Gender Revolution.” Apparently, the revelations to Couric were many, chief among them: “I learned why asking someone about their former self (deadnaming) can be so painful to those able to finally embrace their true selves … When I saw Gavin Grimm [Grimm is suing to use the boys’ room in his Gloucester, Virginia, school], whose case is scheduled to go before the Supreme Court on March 28, he told me he liked the film, but added, ‘I wish you hadn’t said I was born a girl.'”

But wasn’t he?

This confusion is forever attached to the tragic Kayden Clarke story, and the name that goes on police paperwork. After all, “deadnaming” refers to a name that is “dead” to the person who once responded to it; in Clarke’s case, however, the person is both literally and figuratively dead, with a life unfulfilled.

Related: ‘I Used To Be Transgender’

Perhaps instead of looking at how this person was referred to after death, it would be wiser to examine what exactly led to his death — including, possibly, the trauma that joining the transgenderism trend brings to young individuals.

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