What’s in a Dead Name Anyway?

U.A. Nigro

As my wife and I journey through her transition together, I am amazed at how much closer we have become. Our intimacy exists on a higher level, one that I have never reached with another human in my lifetime. Had another spouse told me that this would happen at the beginning, I am not sure I would have believed them. In the two plus years since my wife has come out to me as transgender I have learned about a whole new world. I like to call it the transgender universe, which I have stolen from this beautiful web site, who’s main goal is to inform, educate, bring together, and sometimes entertain the transgender population.


Totally unexpected to me is all the language that I have learned these past two years. I have always known that there were people in the world who were born as one gender, but they identified as the other gender. However, I never knew the word transgender until now. I never knew that I was cis-gender or that the word non-binary even existed. It is peculiar to think back as these words have become second nature to me now. One term used in the transgender community has sparked a great debate in my house and many others, I’m sure. It is the term, Dead Name.

Dead Name –

The birth name of somebody who has changed their name. Most commonly attributed to trans people, but can be attributed to any person who has changed their name.

My wife, like most of the transgender population, identifies greatly with this expression. However, it seems to rub spouses, partners, and children of transgender people in a totally different way. Obviously the word “dead” invokes many emotions. No one wants to use the word dead in the same sentence when thinking about their spouse. Even though as their partners, we go through a mourning period, deep down we know that the person we love is still with us. Can’t we simply say “old name” or “birth name” instead of dead name? Why does it have to be dead? We don’t use it anymore, nor do we want to, but death is so final. I like to imagine that my wife evolved out of that person into the beautiful person that she is today. I loved her deeply when she was “dead name” and would like to remember the wonderful and sometimes not so wonderful years we spent together.

I have contemplated how she feels about the term. I even tried to put myself in her shoes, but it is difficult for me to grasp. I understand that she was born a woman and that because of societies view on gender, she was forced to live a different life. I try in every way possible to make up for the things that she missed out on not growing up as a little girl. It is just tough to think about that person and the word dead in the same thought. To me it’s just her old name. The one we don’t use anymore. Kind of like my maiden name, which I don’t use anymore, but never referred to as dead. It is a strange concept and sometimes upsetting, to think of any part of my wife as being dead. However, if she feels comfortable using the term “dead name,” I will try to not let it upset me. I will try to change it’s meaning to me. I respect my wife and her feelings. It will remain a debate that we just don’t agree on, and that’s ok. No one said that we have to agree on everything all the time.


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