The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has come under fire for publishing the birth names of two trans actors without their consent.
The two actors, who chose to remain anonymous, said they requested the site remove their birth names on numerous occasions, according to IndieWire.
However, the entertainment website has rationalized listing the birthnames as a means of record-keeping.
Numerous LGBTI rights groups and trans rights supporters have warned against the practice of referring to a trans person’s birth name.
‘It feels very exposing to have that information out there’
IMDb is an entertainment website which lists extensive and detailed information about entertainers and their work. This information can include full names and dates of birth, among other personal details. The site often lists celebrities’ birth names alongside their screennames.
However, referring to trans people’s birth names, known as ‘deadnaming’, is often considered insensitive and ignorant. Deadnaming and misgendering are also common to online transphobic abuse.
Speaking to IndieWire, one actor explained why it was so important to avoid the use of birth names.
‘It feels very exposing to have that information out there against my will as it is a private thing, and I would like to choose who I get to share it with,’ the actor said.
‘With all the trans-related violence and murder, it seems very obtuse to refuse to remove information that could quite literally put people in danger.’
‘Comprehensive and accurate biographical information’
In a statement, the IMDb justified listing birth names.
‘IMDb is committed to being the most authoritative and complete source of film, TV and celebrity information,” the statement says. ‘Our users trust that when they use IMDb, they are receiving comprehensive and accurate biographical information.
‘IMDb strives to represent an individual’s gender identity while also accurately reflecting cast and crew listings as they appear in a production’s on-screen credits at the time of original release. 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.
‘For productions they previously worked on, their credited name is also available in parentheses, in order to accurately reflect what was listed on-screen. This process is applied uniformly, consistently and without bias to preserve the factual historical record. For any individuals who wish to specify their preferred pronouns these can be recorded as part of their biography section.’
Combatting online transphobia
There have been numerous moves from major online sites to combat online transphobia, including avoiding the use of birth names.
Twitter recently updated its user policies about misgendering or deadnaming trans individuals.
Wikipedia and Biography.com have also said they will not use trans peoples’ birth names. Although Wikipedia recently listed the birth name of a trans actor, the site removed it when contacted by the actor who asked for it to be taken down, AltPress reports.