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Deadnaming: Its Impact and How to Combat It

Robyn Exton

Mar 15, 2024

Deadnaming: Its Impact and How to Combat It

Deadnaming isn’t just a word; it’s an action that can deeply impact someone’s life, especially for those in the transgender community. This article dives into what deadnaming is and why it happens. But we don’t stop there. We’ll explore its harmful effects, shedding light on how this act worsens gender dysphoria and can lead to feelings of shame.

Navigating through personal change? We’ve covered you with practical steps for legally changing your name and tips for communicating your true identity to friends, family, and work. Additionally, unearth insights on how endeavors such as Mastercard’s True Name campaign are advancing the cause for acceptance.

You’ll walk away understanding not only the significance of using a person’s chosen name but also equipped with knowledge on improving mental health outcomes within trans communities.

Understanding deadnaming and its impact

What is deadnaming?

Deadnaming occurs when someone, intentionally or unintentionally, uses the name a transgender person was given at birth but no longer uses. This behavior can manifest in different settings, ranging from intimate family reunions to the formalities of governmental paperwork. So, what’s the big deal with it anyway? For many trans people and those who are gender nonconforming, their chosen name is a significant part of their identity and transition journey.

The practice of deadnaming can feel invalidating for the individual it targets because it disregards their true gender identity. It’s not just about getting used to a new name; it’s about respecting the profound journey that led them there.

In some cases, deadnames are hard to escape due to legal and bureaucratic hurdles involved in updating records across government-issued IDs and other important paperwork. These obstacles highlight how systemic issues compound personal struggles.

The harmful effects of deadnaming

Navigating life as a transgender person comes with its unique set of challenges, one being how deadnaming affects mental health. The impact isn’t minor: nearly a third of people have faced harassment simply for showing an ID that doesn’t match their presentation.

This experience can worsen gender dysphoria—intense distress over the discrepancy between one’s experienced or expressed gender and one’s assigned sex at birth—and induce feelings such as shame or embarrassment. Navigating through life, transgender youth often encounter not just uncomfortable situations but also face a heightened risk of depression and thoughts of suicide due to these mismatches in identity documentation—adding another layer of vulnerability for a demographic already at an increased likelihood for mental health struggles.

To combat this problem head-on requires effort from both individuals to understand what deadnaming is (and avoiding doing so) and broader societal changes towards inclusivity—including simplifying processes to update names on official documents more easily. By fostering environments where every person feels seen for who they truly are, this will significantly improve overall well-being amongst trans communities.

Legal and social name change journey

Embarking on a name change is more than paperwork; it’s about aligning your external world with your true identity. For numerous individuals within the transgender circle, taking this path is closely tied to notable enhancements in their psychological well-being.

Steps to legally change your name

The journey to legally changing your name can feel like navigating through a maze blindfolded. Fear not, for we’re here to guide you every step of the way on this labyrinthine quest. First, start by petitioning for a name change at your local courthouse. This often involves filling out forms that ask for reasons behind the name change—here’s where being honest about your gender affirmation process can help clarify things.

Next, depending on where you live, publishing an announcement might be required. It’s akin to announcing to the universe your journey of aligning with your genuine essence. After these steps come fingerprints and background checks to ensure everything is above board, and then, finally, the court hearing.

Last but not least, all those pesky government-issued IDs are updated with new guidelines available here. It’s like playing tag with bureaucracy: time-consuming but oh-so-rewarding when done.

Telling friends and family

Opening up about your chosen name to loved ones marks a crucial moment in embracing your true self. Start by choosing the right moment, one where you feel safe and supported. A personal meeting or a heartfelt letter can make this significant conversation more meaningful.

If you’re worried about reactions, prepare responses to potential questions ahead of time. By steering the dialogue in a constructive direction, we ensure it centers on the core of what’s truly important—your joy and well-being.

Above all, it’s crucial to remember that taking things slowly and being patient is of the utmost importance. People might slip up at first, but gently correcting them will reinforce your true identity over time.

Informing your workplace

Navigating conversations about your true name at work requires a blend of tactfulness and assertiveness. Begin by speaking with someone in HR you trust; they can guide you through official channels for changing your name across company records.

In team meetings or emails, introduce yourself using your chosen name followed by a brief explanation if needed: “I’m going by [Name] now as it better reflects who I am.” Such straightforwardness often fosters understanding among colleagues.

To ensure everyone gets on board quickly, ask HR to send out an official communication detailing your name change—and how important it is for everyone to respect it from here on out.

With these strategies under our belts, we not only pave the way for smoother transitions within personal circles and workplaces but also bolster broader acceptance of gender diversity worldwide.

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Mastercard’s True Name initiative

Source: Mastercard 

In a world where your name is your identity, imagine the freedom of having it reflect who you truly are. Mastercard’s groundbreaking True Name feature has made this a reality for trans and non-binary individuals.

This initiative lets people use their authentic names on bank cards without requiring a legal name change. It’s more than just an update; it’s about empowerment and respect for personal identity. Partner banks like Citi and BMO Harris have joined forces with Mastercard to offer this service, making financial transactions less dysphoria-inducing for many.

The significance of True Name cannot be overstated. For too long, the LGBTQIA+ community faced hurdles in aligning their official documents with their true selves—often leading to discomfort or outright discrimination during simple acts like paying at stores or showing ID at bars. By introducing True Name, Mastercard not only acknowledges but actively supports the journey towards gender affirmation.

Consider the impact: Nearly one-third of trans individuals have suffered negative experiences from presenting IDs that don’t match their presentation—ranging from harassment to denial of services. The option to display one’s chosen name prominently on a card can alleviate these encounters significantly.

Moreover, studies indicate that embracing one’s true identity through measures such as using correct names is linked to improved mental health among transgender populations. Implementing programs like True Name is not merely about offering comfort; it’s fundamentally essential in nurturing mental health and inclusivity among underrepresented groups.

So why does all this matter? Because every person deserves recognition and respect for who they are, not just what’s written on an old piece of plastic in their wallet. Supporting inclusivity through actions loud, regularly spoken words could ever convey alone speaks volumes about how companies can play pivotal roles in advancing transgender equality.

Through initiatives like True Name, we’re reminded that empathy paired with innovation can create significant positive changes—a step forward towards acceptance and understanding for everyone involved.

Safe and Secure Payments

When people think about safe and secure payments, they generally think about keeping their details secure, cybersecurity with online banking and card payments, and being safe from fraud. For trans and non-binary people, it can be so much more than that. It’s about physical and emotional safety as well. According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, nearly a third (32%) of people who have shown an ID with a name or gender not matching their gender identity or presentation had a negative experience. This included being harassed, denied services, and attacked. This is why it’s so important to make the process of changing someone’s name on documents and cards as easy as possible. 

In the advert for the new service, trans star Frankie explained: “For transgender people, a secure payment doesn’t mean protecting yourself from someone buying sneakers with your card. No. If you’re transgender, a secure payment means paying for something without being judged, questioned, disrespected, humiliated, harassed, even assaulted simply because the name on your card doesn’t match how you identify. This is about more than just keeping your card safe, it’s about keeping us safe.” We couldn’t agree more.

Sign of Acceptance

At the end of the day, we all just want to be accepted. For trans people, changing your name can be an important marker of self-acceptance. It’s a key step in embracing who you are and having the bravery to introduce your true self to the world. It can be a long journey to accept yourself, and all many trans and non-binary people want is for the world to accept them in the same way.

Being accepted by companies is also important. We have to interact with companies every day. They are our employers, our service providers, our landlords, and insurers. We rely on them for our food, our finances, our communication, and our social lives. So, the importance of company’s showing their commitment to inclusion cannot be underestimated. For trans people, these companies can cause huge personal issues when they don’t take trans people into account when they design their services. Trans people belong everywhere and deserve to be included and accepted everywhere. It’s time for companies to understand this and make sure their policies and practices reflect this.

Forging a more compassionate path forward

As we conclude, it’s essential to acknowledge that the issue of deadnaming goes beyond mere words. It profoundly affects the transition journey and well-being of transgender people. This article has explored deadnaming’s intricacies, highlighting its profound impact on individuals’ lives. But our journey doesn’t end here. We’ve also delved into the devastating consequences of deadnaming, from worsening gender dysphoria to triggering feelings of shame and invalidation. We all must take steps to support and uplift members of the transgender community and ensure that they are treated with the respect and empathy they deserve.

Yet, amidst these challenges, there is hope. We’ve provided practical guidance on legally changing one’s name and navigating conversations with friends, family, and workplaces. Moreover, initiatives like Mastercard’s True Name campaign exemplify how innovation can foster inclusivity and respect for individual identity.

By understanding the significance of using a person’s chosen name and advocating for systemic changes, we can collectively create a more compassionate and accepting society. Let us not underestimate the power of our words and actions in affirming the identities of all individuals, especially those who have historically been marginalized. 

Let’s forge a future where deadnaming is a relic of the past, replaced by a culture of empathy, understanding, and genuine acceptance.

FAQs in Relation to Deadnaming

When did deadname become a word?

The term “deadname” started gaining traction in the early 2010s within transgender communities and online forums.

What is the difference between a deadname and a new name?

A deadname is the birth name a person no longer uses, while their new name truly reflects their identity.

How does it feel to be deadnamed?

Being deadnamed can sting. It often feels like a dismissal of one’s true self and can reopen old wounds.

How do you change your name if you are nonbinary?

To change your name as a nonbinary individual, start with court paperwork and then update your IDs. The process varies slightly between states.

Find your forever people on HER

Having a community of like-minded people around you who can understand your experiences and know what you’re going through is vital. If you’re a transgender or non-binary person, wouldn’t it be amazing to have someone give you tips on navigating trans life—like getting your true name on your documents or finding resources? HER is a safe space for LGBTQ+ people to meet, share experiences, and make lifelong connections. 

You can join conversations with HER’s Communities section, specifically with other trans and non-binary people. There, people will know what you’re going through. You don’t have to worry about being understood or accepted. You can just be completely and unapologetically yourself. Whether you’re looking for love, for a hook-up or to build an LGBTQ+ support system, you can find it on HER. 

n find it on HER.

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Robyn Exton

Robyn is the CEO & Founder of HER. Find her on Twitter.

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