August 14, 2019 at 10:26 am PST | by Mariah Cooper
IMDb changes dead name policy for transgender industry professionals

Laverne Cox (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Internet Movie Database (IMDb), the largest online resource for film and television, has revised its policy on talent profiles of transgender industry professionals including their birth names.

The controversy began when IndieWire reported that two trans actors with major television credits had their birth names listed on their profiles. Despite lobbying from Hollywood management, talent agencies, and GLAAD for the removal of the names, IMDb refused citing anti-discrimination laws.

“Deadnaming” is using a transgender individual’s name, intentionally or not, from before they transitioned.

An IMDb spokesperson revealed to Variety that the policy has now changed and transgender industry professionals can remove their birth names from their biography page.

“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 statement reads. “To remove a birth name either the person concerned or their professional industry representative simply needs to contact IMDb’s customer support staff to request a birth name removal. 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.”

IMDb has removed actress Laverne Cox’s birth name. However, Chaz Bono and Caitlyn Jenner’s birth names are still listed on their biography pages and in film projects they were in before their transition.

SAG-AFTRA released a statement in response to the policy revision.

“While this half-measure is a step forward in protecting the personal safety of and reducing employment discrimination for transgender people, in revising its birth name policy, IMDb admits to invading the privacy of performers and putting them at risk for discrimination. IMDb can make no principled distinction to justify its arbitrary choices about when to invade the privacy of performers,” SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris said in a statement. “IMDb has more work to do. SAG-AFTRA and its allies continue to fight to protect all performers and for enforcement of California’s anti-age discrimination law. This change in birth name policy should help make it clear to the appellate judges that the harm here is fundamental and compelling, and that California law AB 1687 is necessary in order to remedy IMDb’s discriminatory practice.”

GLAAD’s Director of Transgender Media Nick Adams also released a statement noting the policy change still puts transgender individuals at risk.

“Revealing a transgender person’s birth name without permission is an invasion of privacy that can put them at risk for discrimination,” Adams says. “IMDb’s new policy is a step in the right direction and gives some transgender professionals in the entertainment industry the dignity and respect that they’ve long deserved – however, it remains imperfect. Trans people with credits under their old name for work in front of or behind the camera will still be affected by IMDb’s determination to publish outdated information. The platform still has a long way to go in maintaining the privacy of all the entertainment industry professionals listed on the site. GLAAD and SAG-AFTRA, along with trans people working in Hollywood, will continue to advocate that IMDb create policies that respect everyone’s privacy and safety.”

Other online databases such as Wikipedia.org and Biography.com do not publish the birth names of transgender people.

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