Journalist expertly shoots downs cis colleagues begging to deadname Elliot Page

Olayemi Olurin, Robby Soave, Kim Iversen, Elliot page, deadname, transphobia, Twitter
Olurin, Iversen, and Soave discuss deadnaming Photo: Twitter screenshot

Olayemi Olurin, the anchor of The Hill‘s daily news and opinion web series Rising, brilliantly handled two transphobic guests who repeatedly made excuses about why they should be allowed to deadname transgender actor Elliot Page without it being considered an offensive attack.

The discussion began by mentioning how right-wing commentators Jordan Peterson and Dave Rubin had received Twitter suspensions for aggressively deadnaming the actor. Their tweets violated the network’s policy specifically forbidding “misgendering or deadnaming” trans people as a form of hate speech or harassment.

Olurin’s guests, Robby Soave and Kim Iversen, called the policy “crazy” and said, “I don’t understand that,” respectively. In response, Olurin asked, “Why is that any crazier than people changing their names? ‘Call me this. I prefer to be called by this.’ What’s the problem?”

Soave replied, “But to not even be allowed to acknowledge that you used to have a different name?”

Olurin then said, “What do you need to be able to acknowledge that for? What are you suffering? Where’s your harm? Where’s your compassion?”

Iversen said, “That person lived as a different person for a long time, decades. And so to say that suddenly we all have to pretend like those decades didn’t exist and that that person wasn’t that person for decades?”

Olurin asked, “Why are we pretending like that is what’s happening here?”

Iversen replied, “That is what’s happening!”

Olurin then explained, “It’s very simple. There exists a trans man now, Elliott Page. That is their name. That is the name they go by now. Their deadname is their deadname. They don’t go by that anymore. They find it dehumanizing or diminishing to their person to be called that. And that’s what it is. It’s not uncommon. People change their names all the time, and we use the different names that they go by. It happens.”

“Right,” Soave replied. “If somebody goes, ‘Well, who’s that?’ I’ll go, ‘Well, they used to be X.’ I would fill them in. But you can’t do that on social media because of this policy.”

Iversen asked, “Did you get banned from calling [the late musician] Prince ‘Prince’ when he changed his name to ‘Assemble’?”

Olurin answered, “It’s not the same. We are comparing apples and vegetables.”

When Iversen asked why it wasn’t the same, Olurin said, “Because it’s a trans person. The name, the deadname, reflects an identity, a person they do not recognize. They find it psychologically harmful to be seen that way. They have moved on.”

Iversen replied, “Well maybe Prince had moved on too. I mean, maybe he felt like being called ‘Prince’ too was dehumanizing.”

Visibly frustrated, Olurin waved her hands at the camera and said, “Go ahead. Go forth. Go forth smartly.”

Soave then said, “I think it’s really weird — especially for a famous person, a person of some notable public significance — to be formally disallowed from talking about some public, and we’re not talking about some embarrassing secret that we’re trying to spare them from. This was a public, this person was in movies, was under this name, was under this gender identity.”

Olurin then explained that for Page’s deadname to trend on Twitter, it had to have been used “massively.”

“Let’s not act like we don’t know where that comes from,” she said. “[If] there are a large amount of people calling them by their deadnames, so much so that it trends, that there was a deliberate effort meant to offend this person because you know, they do not go by that anymore.”

Soave then admitted that he is against people using deadnaming to deliberately be provocative or mean-spirited. In admitting this, he also implied that he may have opposed Peterson using Page’s deadname, as Peterson’s tweet deliberately misgendered and deadnamed Page, in stating, “[Elliot Page] just had [his] breasts removed by a criminal physician.”

After Twitter suspended Peterson’s account, Rubin retweeted his message to challenge Twitter’s censorship, thereby repeating the provocative message.

Soave continued, “I would use the name the person wants to use now and I would recognize their gender identity now. But I will, I do not think… for a public person, for someone who is well known to the people, for, like for sake of clarity or for sake of biography, to acknowledge that they used to have a different name, that seems crazy to me to say that we’re not allowed to do that.”

Olurin disagreed, asking, “What is the problem with that? That you’re not allowed to call someone by a name that they don’t go by anymore? Big deal.”

Iversen responded, “That’s crazy. We shouldn’t be not allowed to say what a person was for decades.”

Olurin responded, “God forbid you not be allowed to call somebody by something they don’t wanna go by anymore because your right to call them what you want should trump their right.”

Soave added, “If they wanted to be called ‘The Greatest of All Time,’ we would just move over to that? Like, ‘Well, we gotta respect his wishes?'”

Olurin concluded by stating, “It’s not the same, but y’all are clearly invested in pretending like y’all don’t understand the significance of not using a deadname, so y’all continue to go ahead.”

Conservative commentators have said that trans people shouldn’t be allowed to “force” others to refer to them by their chosen names, pronouns, or gender identities. Often, this thinking is extended into fully denying the existence of trans people altogether and, in effect, denying their right to use gendered public facilities and to access gender-affirming medical care.

Numerous studies have shown that refusing to recognized trans people’s identities and blocking their access to public facilities and medical care increases their mental distress and suicidal ideation.

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