You’ll no longer find Laverne Cox’s birth name on her IMDb page.Photo: Getty Images
Following criticism, IMDb has decided to allow transgender film professionals to remove their birth names in credits—in some circumstances. As it now stands, the website will allow users to remove a person’s birth name if that person no longer voluntarily goes by it, and it’s not widely known to the public.
The revised policy refers to the practice of “deadnaming.” In the trans community, it specifically refers to when someone refers to a transgender individual by the name they used before transitioning—either intentionally or unintentionally. The issue arose earlier this year when IndieWire reported that IMDb refused to remove the birth names of two trans actors with major television credits, even though the site did not have their consent to publish the names. In the report, IMDb cited anti-discrimination laws as a reason to not remove birth names, despite being lobbying from Hollywood management, talent agencies, and GLAAD. The logic cited was allowing one group to change some information would open the floor up to other groups to do the same. Later in June, the SAG-AFTRA union announced a coalition with national LGBTQ groups against the practice.
Variety broke the news of the revised policy in an exclusive on Monday, in which an IMDb spokesperson was quoted saying, “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 spokesperson also clarified that “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.”
While the policy is a step in the right direction, it clearly has some gaps. IMDb stated that in the event a trans person was credited before transitioning, their birth name would remain listed in credits in parenthesis. This is true for industry professionals working in front of or behind the camera. The New York Times noted that while actress Laverne Cox’s page no longer states her birth name, both Chaz Bono and Caitlyn Jenner’s birth names are listed for productions they starred in before transitioning and their biography pages.