Brianna Ghey: What is deadnaming?

Undated family handout photo taken with permission from the Twitter feed of @PoliceWarr of Brianna Ghey, 16, from Birchwood, Warrington in Cheshire, who was found dead in Culcheth Linear Park in Warrington, Cheshire with serious injuries. Cheshire Constabulary said officers were called to the park at around 3.13pm on Saturday following reports about the girl. Emergency services attended but the teenager was pronounced dead at the scene. Issue date: Sunday February 12, 2023.
Brianna Ghey, 16, who was found dead in Culcheth Linear Park in Warrington, Cheshire on Saturday. (PA)

The death of Brianna Ghey has sparked a wider conversation about the media coverage of trans people following her fatal stabbing at a park in Warrington on Saturday.

Two teenagers have been arrested on suspicion of the murder of Brianna, who was trans, in an attack that police are investigating as a possible hate crime. On Tuesday, Cheshire Police said all lines of inquiry were being explored, “including whether this was a hate crime”.

Her death has put issues surrounding trans people into the spotlight.

Some campaigners have hit out at the fact Brianna is likely to be misgendered on her death certificate due to laws around gender recognition.

Parts of the media had also been criticised for 'deadnaming' Brianna - which means referring to a trans or non-binary person by the name they used before transitioning.

Some Labour MPs have spoken out on the issue with Charlotte Nichols, Labour MP for Warrington North, telling Pink News she would write to the Independent Press Standards Organisation to complain about the use of Brianna's former name in The Times.

Read more: Brianna Ghey: What is a hate crime?

She said: "Brianna was trans, and at this point it is not clear whether that was relevant to the circumstances surrounding her death, but there is absolutely no need whatsoever for anyone to publish her deadname when identifying her as trans in media coverage.

"The least we can all do for Brianna is remember her for who she was, and not who she wasn’t, out of respect not only for Brianna but for her grieving family and friends.”

What is deadnaming?

According to most definitions, deadnaming is the act of referring to a transgender or non-binary person by a name they used prior to transitioning, such as their birth name.

Definitions acknowledge that deadnaming can be unintentional, but may also be a deliberate attempt to deny, mock or invalidate a person's gender identity.

Deadnaming: How harmful is it?

The deadnaming of Brianna Ghey has been dubbed disrespectful to the teen as well as indicative of a wider issue around trans rights.

Economist Frances Coppola said the deadnaming of the teen by one newspaper had prompted her to cancel her subscription and complain, saying: "The deadnaming of Brianna Ghey is the final straw. I won't pay to read a media publication that treats Brianna, her family and her friends with such total lack of consideration."

Labour MP Dawn Butler wrote on Twitter: "Rest in eternal peace, Brianna Ghey. Trans people should be safe and respected.

"Anyone in the media who is using her deadname trying to erase Brianna’s identity should be ashamed of themselves."

Watch: Detectives investigating fatal stabbing of teenager given extra time to question suspects

A tweet from Nadia Whittome said: "Brianna deserved a chance to become a beautiful adult woman, and to live to see a world where trans people are safe and respected.

"Anyone in the media who is using her deadname and erasing Brianna’s identity should be ashamed of themselves."

jane fae, chairperson of Trans Media Watch, told Pink News the deadnaming of Brianna was a "new low".

This is not the first time the issue of deadnaming has been highlighted.

Last year Twitter came under fire for letting actor Eliot Page's deadname - the name he used before coming out as a transgender man in 2020 – trend for 45 minutes despite its hateful conduct policy.

What is misgendering?

Misgendering is when someone refers to a person who is transgender, nonbinary, or gender nonconforming, using terms related to how they identified before transition, such as 'he' or 'she' or referring to them as a 'man' or 'woman'.

Most recently, broadcaster Richard Madeley apologised after using the wrong pronouns to refer to Sam Smith.

The Good Morning Britain host was discussing the non-binary singer's new music video I'm Not Here To Make Friends when he had to be corrected by co-host Susanna Reid several times.

Madeley, 66, described a scene from the video saying, "A shot of him, Sam, simulating a very specific act with a scantily clad drag queen."

Reid reminded him: "Remember that Sam Smith uses the pronouns 'they'.

Madeley replied: "They, yes sorry."

He then introduced non-binary panelist Shivani Dave and misgendered them too.

Reid interrupted: "Shivani identifies as they/them", leading to Madeley apologising again.

Dave later tweeted: "I corrected him, he apologised and took it on board. A masterclass on how to do things if you mess up."

How to report deadnaming or misgendering on Twitter, Facebook etc?

Most social media platforms have mechanisms for reporting hateful content - though in the past their definitions have not always included deadnaming.

In 2018 Twitter updated its hateful conduct policy to include deadnaming.

The policy says: "We prohibit targeting others with repeated slurs, tropes or other content that intends to dehumanise, degrade or reinforce negative or harmful stereotypes about a protected category.

"This includes targeted misgendering or deadnaming of transgender individuals."

People can report deadnaming to the social media platform via the forms regarding hateful conduct at this link or by clicking on individual tweets and reporting them.

Social media platforms Instagram, Facebook and TikTok also have reporting functions for users to register complaints or concerns about hateful content, including deadnaming.

However, last year an analysis by US rights group GLAAD found that major social media companies were not doing enough to protect LGBTQ+ users from abuse and harassment on their platforms.

The index analysed five leading platforms – Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and TikTok – all of which were ranked as having “inadequate” measures to support and protect LGBTQ+ users, the Gay Times reported.

It found that each scored less than 50 out of 100.