Avoid Embarrassing Yourself — Don’t Deadname People

For those unfamiliar with the term, deadnaming is the practice of knowingly or unknowingly using a trans persons’ birth name when speaking to or about them. This behavior is demeaning, rude, and isolating for those subjected to it. Knowingly engaging in this ostracizes the trans person from the rest of the workplace, and erodes team unity. This can lead to more days missed from work, and lower overall productivity.

That’s not to say that trans people are taking more time off of work by choice, or that they are inherently less productive. Imagine if you constantly had to correct people on something as fundamental as your name, and how much time these types of corrections would take from what could be an otherwise productive conversation. I know other marginalized groups have dealt with similar issues i.e. mispronunciation, or outright changing of a persons’ name to anglicize it because it is “prettier” or “easier to say”.

This type of bigotry puts an undue strain on people that are a part of a marginalized group. From the trans perspective, I deal with mental dissonance on the daily. It is part of my experience with gender dysphoria, and deadnaming is the easiest way to throw me into a storm of self-hatred and doubt. No one should be forced to once again face a lifetime of issues when they are just trying to put together a damn variance report. And, for those of you who are supervisors, please do not think that using my “full” name will get my attention better. I once had the owner of the coffee shop that I worked at shout my deadname to get my attention. This man had only ever known me as my new name, had only ever called me by my new name, and knew that I would never appreciate being called my deadname. Yet, he thought he could better get my attention by shouting it across the cafe. I came up to him, and as I was walking by I just quietly told him “That’s not my name”. I said it firmly, and quietly, and he never called me by my deadname again, but this incident made me lose what little respect I had for him as a leader, and still sticks with me to this day.

The title of this piece summed it up nicely; please just respect people when they tell you what their name is, and their pronouns for that matter. Something this essential to a person’s identity, health, and well-being is not up for debate by the general public. And if you don’t know if you have been pronouncing someone’s name properly, or if you have been calling them by the wrong name, just ask. I assure you, next to no one will be offended if you do. I know I, personally, am always grateful that someone is actually taking the time to recognize and respect my humanity.

I know I have used a lot of heavy language in this article and that is on purpose. This is a serious issue that affects thousands of people. But don’t be too hard on yourself if you are unknowingly guilty of any of these behaviors. The measure of a person is what they do once they realize they may have made a mistake. If you find yourself in that unfortunate position, I strongly encourage you to explicitly apologize and correct the behavior moving forward. If you are interested in continuing your education on the trans experience I encourage you to read the study linked below in its entirety and to explore my blog further. I hope you will find it enlightening.

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J.D. Whirley

J.D. Whirley

I am currently transitioning FTM, I am starting the process of going back to college, and I am building a business on the side.