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What is deadnaming? Reaction to actor Elliot Page coming out as transgender

Last Updated Dec 3, 2020 at 11:06 am PDT

EDMONTON (CityNews) – Support is pouring in for Canadian-born actor Elliot Page, who recently announced to the world he is transgender.

Page is known for their breakout role in the 2007 film “Juno” and more recently the Toronto-shot Netflix series “The Umbrella Academy.”

But when it comes to the language you use talking about a transgendered person, those in the community say the choice of words is a matter of respect.

CityNews was called out for online reporting where we used Page’s female birth name. Many people from the LGBTQ2S+ community call this “deadnaming” when you use a transitioning person’s birth name.

“While I know Elliot is a celebrity and people may know their work by a different name, the fact is they’re Elliot today,” said LGBTQ2S+ advocate Marni Panas.

RELATED: ‘All my love, Elliot’: Actor Page comes out as transgender

CityNews has since deleted reference to Elliot’s previous name. We spoke with Panas who said those in her community consider deadnaming disrespectful.

“When media uses ‘formally known by’, it tells everyone else that’s it’s okay to do it, and that could put a lot of people at risk.”

Using a deadname can be dismissive of a transgender person’s identity, just like with pronouns.

“These aren’t my preferred pronouns, they are my pronouns,” added Panas.

But as can be seen through comments online about Elliott Page, it’s not the only inappropriate commentary.

“Don’t ask about someone’s surgery, don’t ask about someone’s sexual orientation, don’t ask something you wouldn’t ask anyone else,” said Panas. “It seems like the moment someone comes out as trans, it seems like it opens up to these intrusive questions that are none of anybody’s business.”

For Panas, Elliot Page sharing their journey creates new opportunity for inclusion and representation in media.

Netflix has already changed Page’s credit on “The Umbrella Academy” and according to Variety, Elliot is expected to continue in the role of Vanya in the series.

“To see oneself portrayed in media in a positive way, it gives a sense of that could be me too,” said Panas.

For some, the use of proper language around trans individuals may be new and there are online resources like Egale in Canada that can help you learn more.