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News sites dared to use a trans woman’s birth name in obituaries — and LGBTQ advocates lost it



Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

LGBTQ advocates leveled the New York Times and others with fierce condemnation this week after the news outlets opted to include transgender woman Aimee Stephens' birth name in articles announcing her death.

Stephens, who was the plaintiff in a pending high-profile transgender rights Supreme Court case, died Tuesday of kidney failure at the age of 59.

Following news of her death, several major news publications, including the New York Times, the Associated Press, and U.S. News & World Report, used Stephens' birth name — Anthony Stephens — in their stories — a practice known colloquially as "deadnaming."

That didn't sit well with several LGBTQ advocates on Twitter.

What did they say?

"Shame on the [New York Times]," the National Center for Lesbian Rights wrote on Twitter. "Deadnaming and misgendering individuals is wrong, and also sends a message to trans or non-binary people that their existence is not valid."

Lambda Legal, a national pro-LGBTQ rights organization, also chimed in saying "Aimee deserves better."

ProPublica editor Ken Schenwke slammed the publications for stripping Stephens of her dignity.

Nico Lang, an LGBTQ correspondent for Vice, noted Thursday that while the AP removed Stephens' birth name, several other outlets that ran the AP news wire story have not made the update.

Anything else?

After the sharp criticism, the New York Times and the Associated Press edited their articles to remove Stephens' birth name.

"An earlier version of this obituary included the name Ms. Stephens was given at birth, which she no longer used. That reference has been removed," an editor's note in the Times obituary now states.

An update on the AP story reads: "The story has been edited to remove a former name in accordance with AP Style to use the name by which the person lived and avoid former names unless relevant."

In an op-ed on NBC News, trans activist and staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, Chase Strangio, slammed the outlets for deadnaming Stephens, attempting to explain the damage that the practice causes.

"An obituary is supposed to be a sign of respect for who a person was, but deadnaming is a way to shame trans people for who they are," Strangio wrote.

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