GLAAD throw support behind campaign to stop IMDb publishing trans actors' birth names

Practice known as 'deadnaming' considered extremely disrespectful

Clémence Michallon
New York
Wednesday 26 June 2019 16:21
Trans pride flags flutter in the wind at a gathering to celebrate the International Transgender Day of Visibility on 31 March, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.
Trans pride flags flutter in the wind at a gathering to celebrate the International Transgender Day of Visibility on 31 March, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.

GLAAD is supporting a legal push to prevent IMDb from publishing the birth names of transgender actors and other performers, if they don’t want that information to be known.

The organisation announced on Wednesday that it is backing an appeal filed by SAG-AFTRA, the prominent entertainment industry union, fighting the “invasion of privacy” faced by transgender people, along with other advocacy groups.

SAG-AFTRA’s legal challenge dates back to 2017, when a law requiring IMDb to remove performers’ ages upon request – or refrain from listing them – was enacted in California.

The law was struck on First Amendment grounds in 2018.

While the primary concern in 2017 was age discrimination, the focus now includes the publication of people’s birth names.

Using a transgender person’s birth name, as opposed to their chosen name, is known as “deadnaming” and is considered to be extremely disrespectful.

The coalition of groups backing SAG-AFTRA’s legal push allege that IMDb “has been recalcitrant when it comes to the issue of publicising the birth names of transgender individuals in the entertainment industry without their consent” and “do so despite removal requests, complaints, and even lobbying from management and advocacy groups”.

“This is a case about the human rights of all performers,” Gabrielle Carteris​, the president of SAG-AFTRA, said.

“I want to thank these groups for signing on and showcasing how damaging the unregulated publication of performers’ personal data can be.

“We want to see this law enforced and are taking every step necessary to achieve that goal.”

The Independent has contacted IMDb for comment.

In April this year, representatives for two anonymous transgender actors told IndieWire that they had been unable to get birth names removed from IMDb despite “extensive lobbying”, per the website.

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IMDb told the platform at the time that it was ”committed to being the most comprehensive source of movie, TV and celebrity information”.

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Along with GLAAD, the Transgender Law Center, the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, Transcend Legal, Inc, and Equality Federation have all thrown their support behind SAG-AFTRA’s appeal.

“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,” Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, SAG-AFTRA Chief Operating Officer and General Counsel, said.

“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,” Crabtree-Ireland added.