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Fri, Jan 11, 2019 7:29 PM

IMDb shows indifference to the trans community

IMDb shows indifference to the trans community through several policies. One of the most troubling examples of this pattern is the deadnaming—using the name assigned at birth—of trans talent, crew, writers, producer, directors, etc. IMDb deadnames people through two separate methods.

In the first, IMDb lists the “birth name” of people in the biography section of the site, and I can easily find examples of trans celebrities who are currently being burned this way. Listing the deadnames of trans people this way serves little purpose, other than selling gossip, at the expense of trans people. This situation isn't like actors who previously used a maiden name, or happen to have taken on a stage name.

In the second, IMDb insists on listing credits as “Current Name (as Deadname),” if the person previously received an IMDb credit under their deadname. Some might say that if a person previously received a credit, this credit should stand, so that people can track a person over the course of their career. This thread ignores how the majority of trans people listed on IMDb are not celebrities who were known to the general public before transition, like Caitlyn Jenner. IMDb significantly lowered the bar for what qualifies for a listing over the years, and now, many of the listed projects are web videos, hopeful student projects, short films, and projects that never screen.

The majority of people listed on IMDb are working class people who are fighting for employment in the industry, and IMDb’s method of deadnaming trans people assists third parties in discrimination in the film/tv industry, other day jobs, housing, and their social life. IMDb is one of the top google results for most people. IMDb would punish a young person for the rest of their life for volunteering as a PA, background actor, student project, or web video through deadnaming them.

This could easily be solved by 1. allowing trans people to update their credits under certain circumstances and/or 2. allowing trans people to “split” IMDb pages in limited circumstances. Credits can be updated, and so can policies.

Until about a month or two ago, IMDb also had a policy that said, "We generally use people’s biological or surgically reassigned gender” to determine the designation of gender specific titles, like actor or actress. I noticed that this changed after it was pointed out that the policy was at odds with the corporate stance of Amazon, IMDb’s parent company. Amazon, along with other tech companies, signed on a letter of support for the trans community, after the legal erasure of trans people this past fall. While IMDb changed the wording of this policy, they still misgender non-binary actors who do not fit into “actor” or “actress.” This could easily be solved by creating a single category of “actor” for all performers.

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