Serious Question: Would it be offensive if I used the term "dead name" in a different way?

Hi, I have a serious question. I thought I’d leave it for later, but I think I should know it now.

So, my MC Bethany has an identity crisis. Bethany was once a popular girl called Celeste, but that was a fake identity. To avoid completely losing herself, she would revert to her real name, Bethany. Bethany is a girl who has a tough personality similar to Celeste but a lot more toned down. But as she adventures around in a strange world, she realizes that she doesn’t know who Bethany is.

That’s because she was Celeste since she was ten, almost 24/7, and not Bethany. She hasn’t had much time to figure Bethany out. Now she’s seventeen going on eighteen.

The tough personality of Bethany also comes from Celeste, so Bethany is left feeling all confused about who she really is and whether or not she’s still pretending to be Celeste out of habit.

She doesn’t know what name to call herself anymore.

There, a supporting character tells her he used to go by a different name. But he won’t tell her what that name is as it is associated with a horrible past he would rather not revisit. He now uses his middle name and became his true self and not someone hiding behind a mask. He calls his first name as his “dead name” and tells Bethany that he would never tell anyone his “dead name” and that she should never ask.

I know that the term “dead name” is used when transgender people give themselves a name that feels right to them. Then their former name becomes “dead”. Usually, it would be extremely disrespectful and rude to call a transgender person by their “dead name” and you wouldn’t even ask what it was.

But I’m not using “dead name” like that.

Would it be offensive? Should I not even bring it up in the story?

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I probably wouldn’t have him call his first name his dead name. You can simply just say it brings back bad memories and leave it as that.

I don’t really see the point in saying dead name since it will most likely result in people being mad that you used something meant for transgender people to describe someone that isn’t.

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quick clarification: i am trans and i have a deadname so just hear me out

here’s the issue: people have been changing their first names or using their middle names for so long now without being trans that it’s generally more accepted to do that than it is for trans people to even have a deadname. my great grandmother was born with the name irene and for some reason up and changed it to bessie all because she wanted to. no issue there. everyone called her bessie, no one had a single problem with the change, and to this day they still call her it. but if i were to tell my family or people i’ve known since elementary school that i’m trans and i changed my name? i guarantee just the simple fact that i stated that i was trans would make people uncomfortable.

the word deadname has a lot of weight behind it. trans people have had their identities exposed for even mentioning that they have a deadname. people try to guess it, act like it’s their right to know it, threaten to dox others, do dox others, and people feel more entitled to say and do whatever they want around a trans person because they’ve managed to dehumanize us in their minds and claim it’s “freedom of speech” and that we “can’t tell [them] what to do”. cis people are just allowed the luxury of changing their name because they want to. they might have a few problems, but it’s not to the same extent as trans people at all. people are typically a lot more understanding.

so, if i were you, i wouldn’t do it. but i’m not going to tell you what you can or can’t do, that’s completely up to you. but (and i don’t mean this in a bad way at all) it feels like the use of deadname is to add dramatics and emphasis more than it is to talk about the fact that it’s a name they don’t use anymore because it’s associated with bad memories. it’s just as easy and impactful to say, “i don’t use that name” or “i don’t like that name” or “that’s not my name” because people usually go through life with the names they were given at birth, if they change it, it disrupts peoples norms and catches their attention, especially if there’s a hint of a bad past surrounding it. there’s no need to specifically call it a deadname.

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it’s not offensive, but people would be excessively offended by it… ya know?

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Thank you for bringing your perspective into it :blush: I understand now the true weight of the word “deadname” especially when it comes to the transgender community. To avoid any potential to upset people, I’ve decided not to use that phrase.

I’ll probably just have him say “But I left that person behind” or “But I’m Marcus now and that’s all you need to know.” or something along those lines.

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