If you know what deadnaming is, you likely hate it. If you don’t, this article might not be for you. Kidding! If you’re here because you want to know how to support trans people, you are more than welcome!
For those who don’t know, there are many ways to put a deadname. It is the birth name, former name, or legal name that a gender non-conforming or transgender person used to go by. It’s called a deadname because, well, it’s supposed to be dead. A trans person doesn’t go by that anymore, and that person prefers it to stay in the past. Unfortunately, when your deadname is still your legal name, it comes up in your job applications, whether we want it to or not. Sometimes just hearing it is enough to upset you or stir unpleasant emotions. It would be best if you had some way to destress and get through this challenging period of your life. That’s where I come in
There are plenty of reasons a trans person’s deadname will come up. For example, it’s the name your degree is in, past references might only know you as that, contracts, your current or past IDs, and tax forms. Super Julie Braun, the CEO and founder of Super Purposes, and Mac McGregor, transgender icon and founder of Positive Masculinity, who I interviewed for this piece and who has more helpful information later, both suggest that you should be completely transparent about your identity in the interview.
Start with two to three sentences that sum up to, for example, “I am a trans person. I have a different name that will come up throughout various forms, but please only refer to me as my new name.” Depending on the business, they might not take it well or honor you. Don’t get too discouraged! There are things you can do to find a workplace that supports you. Regardless, hearing your former name can cause a lot of stress.
Trust me; I am a trans person myself, and it’s frustrating! So, how can we navigate these stressful emotions from deadnaming when we’re already stressed with the job hunt?
Personally, I always use Garth on my resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile. Garth is my new name, not my deadname, and I choose to do this for many reasons. This is how I want to introduce myself to employers! Before interviews, your resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile are what recruiters see. This way, your preferred name is already what the interviewer has in mind for you, and they know how to refer to you. If your interview is online, feel free to put your preferred name and pronouns in your name as well. I’ve found all this helps prevent deadnaming, and people don’t say the wrong name by mistake. Keep in mind these are not legally binding documents! It should reflect you, so you can write whichever name you feel best fits you!
If you have one to three close friends that support you for who you are, you can create a safe space for yourself. This is something McGregor suggested, and I couldn’t agree more. It can be helpful to meet or speak with a friend after being deadnamed and misgendered. You can use the opportunity to describe what happened, how it made you feel, and what to do going forward. Sometimes just having a friend to vent to can save your day!
I used to have a retail job, and customers would misgender me loads of times, much to my dismay. While I knew it was a genuine mistake on their part, it still upset me. I never had it in me to correct them. Instead, I’d complain to my group chat rather than stew in these negative feelings all day. It was beautiful to have my closest friends reply, “I don’t know how anyone could ever misgender you or see you as a woman! I genuinely don’t get it.” Knowing that there are at least a few people who only see me by my new name and identity makes me feel so much better
Whether you’re in the midst of a job search or not, it can be hard to feel like yourself when hit with deadnaming. You might think the best way would be to get a legal name change, but that is time-consuming and challenging. Plus, it won’t completely prevent your deadname from coming up during this process. You might feel validated when referred to with your preferred gender pronouns! When talking to a potential employer, mention these so they know how to address you. When introducing yourself, mention your pronouns as if it is the most normal thing in the world. It should be normal! As I said before, you can also put your pronouns in your name for an online meeting. Lastly, in an email, introduce your pronouns and put them in your signature.
Afterward, it could be helpful for you to do something that validates yourself. This will differ for all transgender people, so try to figure out what works for you! If you work somewhere you have a name tag, and it’s still using your birth name, you could talk to your boss and ask for a new one. There’s a good chance they’ll say yes.
It could also be something like dressing in your favorite gender-affirming outfit, making a TikTok to a specific sound, playing a video game and choosing a character to play as or romance that gives you the most significant gender envy, or it could come back to that circle of friends to provide you with words of affirmation to feel secure in your identity again. The answer to this will differ for everyone, so I suggest you explore it yourself. These activities can boost your confidence when it comes time for another interview.
Being called the wrong name is never going to be pleasant. If you find deadnaming too rampant and harmful, you need something to destress! McGregor primarily uses tai chi breathing exercises, but he also suggests examples such as getting in touch with nature, listening to music, singing (whether good at it or not), dancing, or just being silly. You finally have an opportunity to not worry about adult life! Since he was a highly acclaimed athlete, he is very aware of sports psychology and recommended these to me. Science has proven that these activities have positive effects on us.
When you lose yourself in an activity like this, you will not worry about deadnaming, your qualifications, or your desired job title. McGregor’s recommended activities liberate you so you can find what you love. If you still need a favorite relaxing hobby, practice many different things to see what you enjoy. You could try crocheting, bird watching with your chirping cat, roller skating—anything! The possibilities are limitless. If you find something too difficult to get the hang of, feel free to try something else. Remember that your chosen hobby should help you relax and unwind, not add to your stress!
I promise that it will. As much as I wish deadnaming could disappear forever, you’re dealing with it right now, and I’m sorry! Mac McGregor had a very public transition, so his deadname has become part of who he is. He hopes that as transgender people grow and learn, they come to a place where they can embrace their past. Then, deadnaming or hearing your birth name might not hurt you as much. That doesn’t include people going out of their way to insult you. That will always be harmful, and McGregor agrees!
I know it sounds like an impossible feat, but only because we’re not there yet. You’ll get that legal name change someday, and soon this will be a thing of the past! For now, hearing your deadname might become bearable if you use these four simple steps. I wish you all the patience you can muster.
Check out our other Super Purposes blogs for more insightful, career-changing advice. Have a Super Day
I have always loved being creative in any way that I could. As a child, I was constantly reading, writing, playing make-believe with my toys, and even crafting long, complex narratives and backstories for them. Now at Super Purposes, I can put my writing skills to use!