Understanding Deadnaming: Its Impact and How to Prevent It

Deadnaming is a term that has gained significant attention in recent years as discussions surrounding transgender rights and acceptance have come to the forefront. This article aims to provide an overview of deadnaming, the negative effects it can have on transgender individuals, and practical tips to avoid being deadnamed.

What is Deadnaming?

Deadnaming occurs when someone refers to a transgender person by their birth name or the name they used before transitioning, rather than their chosen or preferred name. This can be done intentionally or unintentionally, but deadnaming is considered harmful and disrespectful regardless of intent. The term “deadname” implies that the person’s former name is no longer relevant or accurate, as it does not reflect their true identity.

The Negative Effects and Consequences of Deadnaming

To someone who has always used the same name since birth, it might be difficult to understand the full ramifications of deadnaming. Initially, it may seem like a small oversight or something that you can easily look past. 


But for someone who has had to deal with deadnaming and discrimination for much of their life, it can be detrimental. Here are some of the specific consequences and negative effects:


  • Emotional distress: Deadnaming can cause significant emotional distress for transgender individuals. It can be a painful reminder of their pre-transition life, and being called by their deadname may make them feel invalidated or unseen. This emotional pain can exacerbate feelings of anxiety, depression, and dysphoria.


  • Rejection of identity: When someone is deadnamed, it can feel as though their identity is being denied or rejected. Transgender individuals often face many challenges in their journey to live authentically, and being deadnamed can undermine their efforts to be recognized and respected for who they truly are.


  • Impacts on mental health: Studies have shown that experiencing discrimination, including deadnaming, can have significant negative effects on mental health. Transgender individuals who are subjected to deadnaming may be at a higher risk for depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation.


  • Privacy concerns: Deadnaming can also pose privacy concerns for transgender individuals. In some cases, being deadnamed may inadvertently “out” a person as transgender, potentially exposing them to further discrimination, harassment, or even violence.


How to Avoid Being Deadnamed

If you’re someone who has transitioned to a new name – for any reason or purpose – there are several proactive steps you can take to avoid being deadnamed. Let’s explore a few of them:


  • Communicate your preferred name and pronouns


One of the most effective ways to prevent being deadnamed is to clearly communicate your preferred name and pronouns to the people in your life. This can include friends, family, coworkers, and acquaintances. Be patient and understanding, as some individuals may need time to adjust to using your new name and pronouns consistently.


  • Update your personal documents


Changing your name on personal documents, such as your driver’s license, passport, and bank accounts, can help prevent deadnaming. Updating your name on these documents ensures that you will be recognized by your preferred name in official and legal situations, reducing the chances of being deadnamed.


The process for changing your name depends on where you live. Every country has a different process. In the United States, you’ll want to review specific requirements within your primary state of residence. If you live in the UK, you’ll need to apply for a deed poll (which is actually a relatively straightforward process).


  • Use online tools to update your digital presence


Many online platforms and social media sites allow users to update their names and pronouns. Be sure that your online presence reflects your chosen name to minimize the risk of being deadnamed in digital spaces. (Only you can do this! Even if you go through the process of legally changing your name, it’s up to you to take the steps to change your social media handles, email accounts, etc.)


  • Educate others about deadnaming


Educate your friends, family, and colleagues about what deadnaming is and why it’s harmful. Providing them with this information can help them understand the importance of using your preferred name and create a more supportive environment.


  • Establish boundaries


If someone continues to deadname you despite your efforts to communicate your preferences, it may be necessary to establish boundaries. Make it clear that deadnaming is unacceptable, and if the behavior persists, consider limiting your interactions with that person.

Take Charge of Your New Name

Changing your name is a completely legal and accepted practice. Whether you’re going through a transition, escaping a toxic marriage, or simply changing your name to something that reflects your personality and life experiences, you have every right to embrace your new title. 

Hopefully, this article has provided some tips to make the process a little smoother.

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash