Update, 1:20 pm ET: GLAAD and SAG-AFTRA called IMDb’s updated policy “a step in the right direction” but an “imperfect solution,” adding that the website still “has a long way to go” to protect the privacy of trans people.
Earlier: In a major update to its previous policy, IMDb will now allow users to remove birth names from their profiles on the site. The move is a response to a public outcry from transgender professionals who said IMDb was publishing their birth names without their consent, commonly known as “dead-naming.” The announcement comes one day after IndieWire interviewed Laverne Cox, the highest profile performer affected by the policy. When reached for comment, IMDb announced the change to its policy.
“The process of dead-naming trans people is deeply, deeply traumatizing for a lot of us,” said Cox, who was audibly emotional over the phone. “It’s tied to a larger system of disavowing who we are on a fundamental level in terms of our gender identity.”
The issue first garnered public attention in April, when IndieWire reported on backlash to IMDb’s policy. In June, GLAAD led a coalition with other LGBTQ advocacy groups condemning the policy and calling on IMDb to stop publishing transgender users’ birth names without their consent, and backed SAG-AFTRA in its fight against IMDb for member privacy.
“IMDb now permits the removal of birth names if the birth name is not broadly publicly known and the person no longer voluntarily uses their birth name,” an IMDb spokesperson said in a statement to Variety. “To remove a birth name either the person concerned or their professional industry representative simply needs to contact IMDb’s customer support staff to request a birth name removal. Once the IMDb team determines that an individual’s birth name should be removed — subject to this updated process — we will review and remove every occurrence of their birth name within their biographical page on IMDb.”
Cox said she understood the complicated nature of IMDb’s position, adding that the issue was “honestly too emotional” and “intense for me” to assess in a neutral manner.
“Respecting trans people not wanting to be dead-named is a tricky thing,” she said. “It’s very, very complicated because there’s a website that wants to be fully comprehensive, and then there’s just the deep, deep trauma and the abuse that actually can happen, too, when someone is dead-named. Abuse is often attached to that, and violence is often attached to that.”