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IMDb finally allows trans actors to remove their deadname

Reiss Smith August 13, 2019
Laverne Cox in a black Christian Siriano gown with an exaggerated shoulder

Laverne Cox said deadnaming is the "ultimate insult." (Getty)

IMDb has reversed course on its birth name policy after a backlash from trans actors and LGBT+ groups.

IMDb, which bills itself as the “world’s most popular and authoritative source for information on movies, TV shows and celebrities”, has announced that it will allow transgender actors to remove their birth name from its pages.

The Amazon-owned company told Variety on Tuesday, August 13: “IMDb now permits the removal of birth names if the birth name is not broadly publicly known and the person no longer voluntarily uses their birth name.”

The announcement comes after a coalition of LGBT+ groups including GLAAD joined a legal challenge against the website over its practice of using trans actors’ birth names without their consent, commonly known as dead-naming.

IMDb will now allow stars or their representatives to request edits to their page, however they will face a wait while officials decide to act.

“Once the IMDb team determines that an individual’s birth name should be removed – subject to this updated process – we will review and remove every occurrence of their birth name within their biographical page on IMDb,” a spokesperson for the site said.

Laverne Cox among actors dead-named by IMDb.

Orange is the New Black star Laverne Cox is among the most high-profile actors who were dead-named by IMDb. She previously called it “the ultimate insult”.

Jake Graf, who had supporting roles in The Danish Girl and Collete, said that the act “seems like an infringement of privacy”.

Speaking to IndieWire in April, Graf noted that he hasn’t had to deal with dead-naming personally because he transitioned before beginning his film career.

He added: “It seems like you’re outing someone. On so many levels, it seems wrong.”

Jake Graf and Keira Knightley in Colette
Jake Graf and Keira Knightley in Colette. (Number 9 Films/Killer Films/Bold Films)

GLAAD’s director of trans representation Nick Adams said that dead-naming has repercussions beyond being extremely disrespectful.

“To reveal a transgender person’s birth name without their explicit permission is an invasion of privacy that only serves to undermine the trans person’s true authentic identity, and can put them at risk for discrimination, even violence,” he told the New York Times in June.

IMDb will not fully eradicate dead-naming.

Despite Adams’ warning, IMDb has said that it won’t correct instances where an actor has been credited onscreen under their birth name.

In such cases, the dead-name will remain listed in parentheses under the credits section of the actor’s page and on the title pages for films and TV shows.

It seems like you’re outing someone. On so many levels, it seems wrong.

“This is in order to continue providing IMDb’s hundreds of millions of customers worldwide with comprehensive information about film and TV credits, thereby preserving the factual historical record by accurately reflecting what is listed on-screen,” the spokesperson said.

IMDb usually appears as the second result when searching for an actor’s name behind Wikipedia, which does not publish birth names without consent and has reportedly been known to lock the pages of trans actor to prevent abuse.

The practice is also banned on Twitter, whose hateful conduct policy forbids “targeted misgendering or dead-naming of transgender individuals”.

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