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transgender resources

The Concept of “dead-naming” is No Bueno

In my almost 5 years of transition, I have seen and heard the term “deadname” quite frequently, and honestly, it makes me wonder what are they really trying to say.

I remember, during my first years in the school of Philosophy, in University, how we talked about who we really are and What Are We. It sounded confusing at first, but it all made sense as classes went on.

Basically, our lecturer was saying that we are subject to many changes, but they can be divided into two categories: Accidental Changes and Substantial Changes.

Basically, when we talk about Accidental changes –assuming we apply this concept to humankind– we are talking about the changes a person goes through, from the moment they are born, until the moment that they die. For instance, I went from child to teen, from short to long hair, from short to tall, etcetera. You get the point. These changes, even including changing your socially-perceived gender, are not substantial changes but accidental changes instead.

Substantial changes are a bit simpler to understand since they only happen twice in a lifetime. First Substantial change occurs at the moment you were born. The second one; when you die. You either exist, in whichever form you want, or you don’t exist as a human being anymore.

What is “Deadnaming” and why “old name” is a much better term

To those who are not familiar with the term deadnaming, often used by many transgender people (whether they are non-binary, genderfluid, male-to-female or female-to-male transgender people) it basically means the name they had prior to their transition, the name assigned by their parents, guardians or tutors when they were born.

The term doesn’t make much sense, since these people are still pretty much alive, and they’re the same person they were before their transition.

Ok, some might argue that transition brings a lot of behavioural (psychological) and physical changes and they feel like a whole new person. Poetry aside, however, they are still the same person.

Why? Because most transgender people who transitioned have one thing in common: They struggled with gender identity issues most part of their lives. Living under their old socially-perceived gender was not their true gender to begin with!

Most people who transitioned as adults waited for social conditions in their community to be somewhat apropriate. That was their window, and they came out of the closet. When the conditions were right, they did it. Whether they think they should have waited or not later on, they did what they thought was right with the knowledge and the tools that they had at the time.

In a nutshell: Their old social gender was their cover, and their new gender is their true identity.

So these people had been on a lifetime journey to discovering their true identities but this in no way means that they were born again, or died.

The problem with terms like deadnaming is that the word itself, compound noun (in the case of deadname), contains the word death, and people would naturally turn it into a much bigger deal than it really is. Don’t get me wrong. It is really nice when people get the names and the pronouns right, but accidents and stubbornness will happen.

So instead of saying “Please stop deadnaming me.” saying “please stop using my old name.” Will cause more of a positive impact in the lives of people, most of whom would be more likely to respect and understand what you are going through.

There is a blurry boundary between expression and identity, and terms, that strike people outside community as exaggerated or dramatic, might cause some confusion.

In a world where we are trying to build bridges between the LGBTQ community and the rest of our societies, these terms may be causing more harm than good.

 

By Ellen Hope Crowe (@elliehopeauthor) 
ellie@girlthings.net

 

 

Coming out as Transgender at 48

By Anna Walker

“I’d never even heard of gender dysphoria. I was 48 so I was massively relieved because I’d felt like a freak all my life.”

For most of his life, Rhys Carter—a traditional, spiritual, family loving man—has been caught in a wholly untraditional identity crisis.

The relentless buoyancy that Rhys maintains throughout our interview is made all the more remarkable when he tells me that he only learned about gender dysphoria two years ago when a doctor diagnosed him with the condition.

“Ever since I started transitioning my life has exploded, it’s been really nice.” Exploded seems like something of an understatement. A PE teacher for 28 years, Rhys has recently branched out to start his own trampolining business, which goes into several schools and is now considered an academy; all funded off his own back. He’s also started doing sports massage therapy and has a treatment room at home.

marathon

Amid this career success, he’s also found time to run five marathons, including New York, Dublin, London and Amsterdam and about 30 half marathons. “At the moment everything is really peaking and ironically it’s all started happening since I told the world I was transitioning.”

“I’d never even heard of gender dysphoria. I was 48 so I was massively relieved because I’d felt like a freak all my life. I’ve got ginger hair too so I had the full whammy. Thankfully I was very good at sport, which was my saving grace. I think it probably saved my life in the end.”

Rhys’s memories of his longing to be a boy go way back through his childhood. “I wrote a letter to Father Christmas when I was four years old and said ‘can you make me into a boy?’ That was my Christmas wish.”

“My sister can even remember me pulling my bikini top off as a child on the beach and my mum saying ‘why is she doing that?’ I was very frustrated and very confused. There was no information. I couldn’t speak to my parents, my sister, or my brother. I didn’t know what it was; I just knew I wanted to be a boy. Nobody could help me and nobody could explain it. I had to hide it and shut my inner self off and pretend. It was like I was pretending to be a girl.”

As he tried to force himself to act female, Rhys remembers how exploring his sexuality only led to further confusion.

“My mates became dates, which was horrendous. I thought that maybe I fitted into the gay box for a while and had gay relationships but then I realised no, I definitely fancy straight women. I certainly didn’t fancy men, I wanted to be one.”

“I decided in the mid-’80s that after trying relationships with both genders, I couldn’t settle with either. I had a hard time then. I didn’t know what to do and felt like I couldn’t find a relationship. It was hard.”

Rhys does hope to find love in the future. When he meets the right person, he’s confident they won’t care about his past. “You don’t fall in love with a man or a woman, you fall in love with a person.”

Now that he has begun his transition, Rhys has also had to tell his family. “My dad is 80 now and he’s been brilliant about it. But telling the rest of my very Catholic, very traditional Welsh family… I knew they were going to take it exceptionally hard.”

“My younger brother is a pastor in a Christian church and he said biblically speaking he couldn’t call me a man. My sister is the same. I said to him ‘If someone who is transgender walks through your church door, are you going to turn them away?’”

“I love them deeply and we’re still very close but they don’t really understand. My sister is worried about losing her sister, but I’m not going anywhere! I think they’ll come around in the end.”

“For me by far the easiest generation to tell were my nephews. One just said, ‘we’re happy as long as you’re happy. It must be a big relief for you.’ Pure acceptance. They thought I looked wrong in a frock anyway.”

As a secondary school teacher, you’d think that coming out at school would be about the most terrifying thing one could do, but Rhys says his transition there couldn’t have been better.

“Telling the head teacher was a massive relief. It’s a big secondary school with nearly 2000 pupils, and on the last day of term, my head teacher did assemblies to say I was now Mr Carter and my pronouns were he, his, him. Letters went out to the parents and it was all done within 24 hours.”

“I found myself sat on the couch that evening thinking about how 2000 letters had gone out about my transition. It felt like the whole of the West Midlands was talking about me, but in a nice way.”

There’s an emotional shift when Rhys explains how he chose his new name. A friend who had transitioned decided to ask their mother what they would have named them if they’d been born a boy, but Rhys’s mum passed away before he began transitioning.

 

“It felt like the whole of the West Midlands was talking about me”

 

“At the same time that I was diagnosed with gender dysphoria, my mum was diagnosed with terminal cancer which was so hard. I had to put my life on the backburner and not tell my family while she was ill. I couldn’t ask her, but we’re very Welsh and her favourite Welsh name was always Rhys, so that’s what I picked.”

The family ties in Rhys’s name run deeper still. While he wanted to change his surname, to fully distance himself from his previous self, Rhys didn’t want to disassociate from his family. “I used my grandmother’s maiden name [Carter] instead. She was a great lady and lived until she was 91. She was very small but very feisty.”

Rhys’s life has changed beyond recognition in the past two years, but one thing that’s remained solid is his faith, which he credits with getting him through rougher times.

“If I had a different personality I might not have been as strong as I have. I’m a Christian so I believe in God and I feel very blessed. That’s helped because I always knew I wasn’t a bad person. I followed my heart and fortunately, God gave me the strength to get through.”