What Is Deadnaming?

Deadnaming is when a person intentionally or accidentally calls a transgender or nonbinary person by a name they don't use anymore, often their birth name. Deadnaming is a form of discrimination and a microaggression against transgender and nonbinary people. 

This article will define deadnaming, discuss why it's harmful, and offer information on what to do if you deadname someone or are being deadnamed.

Portrait of a transgender person.

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What Is Deadnaming?

Deadnaming refers to calling a transgender or nonbinary person by their former name after they have chosen a new one. This may be intentional or accidental, but the effects can be harmful either way.

What Are "Transgender" and "Nonbinary"?

Generally speaking, someone who is transgender, or trans, has or expresses a gender different from the gender assigned to them at birth based on their observed sex. "Nonbinary" refers to someone whose gender identity is not solely male or female.

Why It's Harmful

Transgender and nonbinary people are often at risk of psychological, emotional, and even physical harm, and they commonly lack support from family or friends. Deadnaming can put people at risk by outing the person to the public or sending a message that they are not accepted in their new gender identity. Deadnaming can make a person feel invalidated. It can also be psychologically harmful and even put the person's life at risk.

Why It Matters

Choosing a name other than the one assigned at birth is part of finding a new identity for a transgender or nonbinary person. For many people, transitioning to a different gender identity is a challenging, lonely, and even scary process. After a person chooses a new name, being called by their birth name can be emotionally triggering and can be taken as a form of aggression or nonacceptance.

Referencing a Person's Past

Someone who has chosen a new name should always be referred to by that name, even when referencing a time before it changed. Think of the person as having always been the gender they identify with rather than someone who became someone new or different.

What to Do If You Deadname Someone

Even the most well-intentioned people can make mistakes, and adjusting to a person's newly chosen name can take time for those who have known them by their birth name. If you accidentally deadname someone, apologize right away. Be brief in your apology, and be sure not to overdo it. Once you've noted your mistake, move forward and try to be more aware so you don't repeat the mistake.

Be careful not to be overly apologetic if you accidentally deadname someone. The more you apologize or focus on your error, the more attention you give to it. It's important to note your mistake, but overdoing it might make the person feel as though they need to comfort you by saying it's OK.

What to Do If You Are Being Deadnamed

If someone deadnames you once or twice, you can quickly correct them in the moment if you are comfortable doing so. If the behavior continues or you are uncomfortable confronting the person, try asking a trusted ally to correct the person later on your behalf.

If you are in a situation in which you don't feel safe or empowered to say something, consider seeking support from a hotline or organization to get advice on what to do.

Helpful LGBTQIA+ hotlines include:


Deadnaming is when someone calls a transgender or nonbinary person by a former name, most often their birth name, after they've chosen a new one. It's a form of discrimination and invalidates a person's identity by sending a message of nonacceptance; it is psychologically damaging and can put the person at risk by outing them to others. Changing a name is often a long and complicated process, and hearing a former name can be triggering.

If you accidentally deadname someone, apologize quickly. Be careful not to make a big deal of it and avoid doing it again. If you are being deadnamed and are comfortable correcting the person, gently do so in the moment. If you are uncomfortable or do not feel safe or empowered to correct the person or persons, ask an ally for help or contact a hotline to find support and advice.

A Word From Verywell

Deadnaming can be a painful reminder of traumatic experiences and can introduce new psychological harm. If you deadname a trans or nonbinary person, apologize quickly. If you witness someone being deadnamed or you see someone is in an unsafe situation, ask them whether they'd like any help. Be prepared to respect their decision and to act if they say yes.

And, if you are being deadnamed or feel alone, stuck, or unsure about how to handle the situation, know that you are not alone and that many resources are available to support you.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why do transgender people change their name?

    A person who has or expresses an identity other than the one assumed at birth might choose a new name that better represents their gender identity. Everyone has the right to be called by their preferred name, regardless of whether their name has changed legally.

  • What percentage of people are transgender?

    Research suggests that about 1 in every 250 Americans, or about 1 million people, are transgender.

3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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