IMDb Will Allow Removal of Birth Names — to a Point

IMDb, the entertainment database, is now allowing people to remove their birth names from its site in response to pressure from advocacy groups that said using those names without consent — a practice known as “deadnaming” — promoted discrimination against transgender performers and crew members.

Under the new policy, IMDb will remove birth names upon request if the person no longer voluntarily uses it and if it is not “broadly publicly known.” So because they are widely known, the birth names of Chaz Bono and Caitlyn Jenner remain. And if the person’s birth name was originally listed in a production’s credits, it will be kept on the site, in parentheses.

While the new policy was adopted in response to gay and transgender rights groups and Hollywood leaders, several said it still fell short. SAG-Aftra, the sprawling union of actors, performers and broadcast professionals called it “a half measure” in a statement that also said, “IMDb has more work to do.”

In June, Glaad, which tracks media representations of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, along with a coalition of rights groups joined SAG-Aftra in calling for changes in what information IMDb made public.

According to the advocacy groups, the site had for years refused requests to change the birth names of transgender professionals, which critics said denied transgender people’s authentic selves and put them at risk for discrimination and violence. IMDb pushed back, saying its mission was to be the most comprehensive source of entertainment information and to accurately represent cast and crew listings on a production’s original release.

In a statement about its new policy, IMDb said that to remove a birth name, professionals or their representatives needed to submit a request with the site’s customer support staff.

“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,” the statement said.

But the limits to what the site will change has drawn fire. Keeping a birth name in a production’s credits after a person has changed it exposes the private gender history of actors and other professionals to potential employers, potentially at a cost, said Nick Adams, Glaad’s director of transgender media.

“Revealing a transgender person’s birth name without permission is an invasion of privacy that can put them at risk for discrimination,” he said in a statement. While IMDb’s new policy was a step in the right direction, he added, “The platform still has a long way to go in maintaining the privacy of all the entertainment industry professionals listed on the site.”

While the IMDb page for the actress Laverne Cox no longer lists her birth name, the pages for Bono and Jenner list both of theirs for productions they participated in before their transitions.

Cara Buckley is a culture reporter who covers bias and equity in Hollywood, and was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2018 for reporting on workplace sexual harassment. @caraNYT Facebook

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