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Kaunda Selisho
Lifestyle Journalist
4 minute read
21 Aug 2019
4:27 pm

Misgendering people and using their deadnames are forms of violence

Kaunda Selisho

South Africa could learn a thing or two from the recent move made by IMDb as well as the hashtag #RIPMarcusWilloughby.

Indya Adrianna Moore is an American actor and model. They are known for their role as Angel Evangelista in the FX television series Pose | Image: YouTube

In light of IMDb’s latest declaration regarding the use of the dead names of performers and Wednesday’s trending hashtag #RIPMarcusWilloughby, it is time that we as a nation introspect on the violence we perpetrate against trans people and other members of the LGBTIQ+ community. 

What is misgendering? 

Misgendering is the process of using the wrong gender pronouns to refer to a trans, gender non-conforming (GNC) or non-binary person.

People who do this often try to justify their continued bigotry and transphobia by claiming to be correct on a scientific basis as the person in question was born a different gender to what they currently are. 

As a rule of thumb, using the pronouns they and them work best when you’re unsure about which gender-specific pronouns (he, she, him, her) a person prefers.

What is a dead name?

According to the pop culture section of, a deadname is the birth name of someone who has changed it. 

“The term is especially used in the LGBTQ community by people who are transgender and elect to go by their chosen name instead of their given name.”

If for example, I was born a female named Kaunda Selisho, but experienced the kind of gender dysphoria that people born in the wrong body go through and decided to undergo the necessary physical/medical changes, and changed my name to Keith Selisho in the process, Kaunda would become my deadname. A name attached to a person I once was but no longer am. 

Earlier this year, the online database of information related to films, television programs, home videos, video games, and streaming content, Internet Movie Database (IMDb), was the subject of much criticism from trans actors for publishing their birth names without their consent. 

Representatives of the actors, who spoke anonymously, told IndieWire they had not been able to remove the information from the website, despite lobbying from their management, agencies and the LGBTQ advocacy organisation Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).

UK website PinkNews reports that deadnaming someone “can feel invalidating and disrespectful as it highlights that the individual is not supported in their transition process, whether it’s before, during or after.”

After months of criticism from the likes of Emmy-award-nominated actress Laverne Cox and other members of the LGBTIQ+ community, IMDb announced an update to its policy on Monday. 

This update now allows for birth names of individuals to  be removed if they are “not broadly publicly known and the person no longer voluntarily uses their birth name.”

“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,” a spokesperson told Variety

The move has been widely celebrated and welcomed. 

Who is Marcus Willoughby?

For the last two days, Twitter users all over the world have been sharing their condolences and thoughts via the hashtag #RIPMarcusWilloughby after it was revealed that an American man named Marcus Willoughby killed himself. 

Willoughby took his own life after relentless bullying based solely on the fact that he had released a video declaring his love for his trans girlfriend. The video has since gone viral.

An aspect of patriarchy that doesn’t get as much attention is the often veiled and sometimes very overt homophobia that exists within its ideological confines. 

The ways in which it manifests itself and affects those who fall victim to these manifestations can result in situations as extreme as Willoughby’s as well as situations that tend to go unnoticed. 

These issues also end up on the back burner in lieu of the fact that black people, black women, women and other minorities prioritize their struggles above those of the LGBTIQ+ community in the ongoing fight against bigotry. 

Black and brown people continue to battle racism and women continue to fight misogyny, while black women have the misfortune of fighting both. 

But when it comes to doing our part for the  LGBTIQ+ community, the simple maxim “we can walk and chew gum at the same time” will always apply. 

Kaunda Selisho

Kaunda Selisho

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