A coalition of Hollywood workers and gay rights advocates is calling on the industry website IMDb to stop publishing the birth names of transgender performers and others without their consent, a practice known as “deadnaming” that detractors says perpetuates discrimination.
“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 transgender representation at Glaad, the organization that tracks media representations of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
Adams said that Glaad has been pushing IMDb to remove transgender people’s birth names from its site for years to no avail.
On Wednesday, the group announced that it, along with other gay and transgender rights organizations, was backing a legal challenge being mounted by the Hollywood union SAG-Aftra to stop IMDb from publishing certain personal information about Hollywood performers and other professionals.
A spokesman for IMDb did not respond to requests for comment. In April, representatives for two transgender performers told IndieWire that IMDb ignored their requests to remove their birth names from the site. IMDb responded with a statement at the time saying it was “committed to being the most comprehensive source of movie, TV and celebrity information.”
The legal challenge involves a 2017 anti-age-discrimination law in California that required entertainment credits sites like IMDb to remove performers’ birth dates upon request. The law was pushed by SAG-Aftra, which represents 160,000 film, television and broadcast performers and workers, but was struck down by a federal judge in 2018.
SAG-Aftra is appealing that decision, and now has the backing of Glaad, along with the other groups including the National LGBTQ Task Force, the Transgender Law Center, and the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, which are hoping the privacy protection afforded by the law could extend to the issue of birth names of transgender people. The state of California is also appealing.
“In our view, it’s all part of a bigger problem, which is the problem of personal private information being disclosed without the consent of individuals involved,” said Duncan Crabtree- Ireland, the chief operator officer and general counsel of SAG-Aftra.
Among the transgender performers whose birth names have been published by IMDb is Laverne Cox, who on her social media accounts last year described deadnaming and misgendering — addressing someone with a gendered pronoun they do not identify with — as “the ultimate insult.”