Stop deadnaming trans actors, Hollywood groups tell IMDb

The online film-industry database IMDb must stop deadnaming transgender actors, LGBT+ groups including GLAAD and the Transgender Law Center have said.

GLAAD is part of a coalition of gay and trans right’s groups who have joined a legal challenge calling on IMDb to end the practice of deadnaming (publishing birth names without consent) trans actors and publishing other personal information about Hollywood professionals.

“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,” said Nick Adams, director of trans representation at GLAAD.

The legal challenge began in 2017, when the Hollywood workers union SAG-Aftra was the co-sponsor of a bill that was passed in California that meant IMDb was supposed to stop publishing actor’s ages on its online database without their consent.

But this anti-age discrimination law, known as AB 1687, was struck down in 2018 on First Amendment grounds.

SAG-Aftra are appealing this, and it is this legal fight that trans and gay right’s groups have now joined – on the basis that publishing trans actor’s birth names without their consent is a breach of privacy.

Laverne Cox said deadnaming was the ‘ultimate insult.’ (Greg Doherty/Getty Images)

Deadnaming is ‘like outing someone’

Jake Graf, a British trans actor who was in The Danish Girl and Colette, told IndieWire in April 2019, “If that were to happen to me, obviously I’d be horrified.”

“It just seems like an infringement of privacy,” he said. “It seems like you’re outing someone. On so many levels, it seems wrong.”

The LGBT+ groups, which include GLAAD, The Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, the National LGBTQ Task Force and the Transgender Law Center, announced on Wednesday (June 26) that they would be taking their concerns about IMDB’s deadnaming practice to SAG-Aftra’s legal battle.

The groups hope that the privacy protections given by AB 1687 could extend to the issue of publishing birth names without consent.

“Highlighting how IMDb is invading the privacy of transgender performers by publishing their birth names is another facet of this case that we hope will help make it clear to the appellate judges that the harm here is fundamental and compelling, and that the California law is necessary in order to remedy it,” said SAG-Aftra lawyer Duncan Crabtree-Ireland.

“The court has so far failed to understand or recognise the massive impact the publication of this personal information can have on the careers and lives of working performers.”

Deadnaming is the ‘ultimate insult’

Other online databases such as Wikipedia do not publish the birth names of trans people. Twitter considers deadnaming and misgendering to be a violation of its Hateful Conduct policy.

Laverne Cox, one of the trans actors deadnamed by IMDb, has previously called it “the ultimate insult.”

An IMDb spokesperson told the Independent it “is committed to being the most authoritative and complete source of film, TV and celebrity information”.

“When we become aware via our standard data contribution methods that an individual has changed their gender and/or name, we use the new gender and/or name on their page and credits.”