Do you have a “dead name?”
Some of the world’s most famous people do — at least in terms of popular use: Marilyn Monroe, Cary Grant, Elton John, and Jamie Foxx transformed from Norma Jean Mortenson, Archie Leach, Reginald Kenneth Dwight, and Eric Bishop.
But these days, dead is dead: In public and private, people are changing their names and declaring the old identities gone for good.
Such is certainly the case for those identifying as transgender.
And at Google, the phenomenon’s led to something unsightly.
As laid out by an online petition, here’s how the story goes:
Google’s South Carolina data center subcontracts with security firm G4S.
Phares Lee (pronounced like “Ferris”) has worked for G4S since 2018.
According to DropTheDeadnames.org, Phares is “a trans man and a member of the (Google) Alphabet Workers Union.”
The employee’s requested multiple times to get the words “Phares Lee” printed on a name tag, but Google’s chosen to stick with a legal name.
This, despite Phares having altered the moniker within Google’s online systems (Teams/MOMA).
Eventually, Phares was told, “he’s not even allowed to talk to corporate-created Employee Resource Groups, which were set up to support underrepresented communities.”
Because of that, well, I’ll let the petition tell it:
We believe Google and G4S must build a better workplace. That means creating a workforce that is more representative of our users, and a workplace that creates a sense of belonging for everyone.
The sign-up sheet demands thusly:
This Pride Month, We Call on Google and G4S to Drop the Deadnames and Create a Sense of Belonging for All Workers!
Phares waxes on the unpleasant workplace plight:
“I’ve been facing workplace issues that feel like discrimination to my gender identity, but it’s not just about me as an individual. Google and G4S need to make changes so that no one else has to go through what I’ve had to.”
For #Pride2021 @AlphabetWorkers is launching a special campaign – Phares Lee is a transgender man working at the same Google Data Center that I was suspended at for union activity and talking about working conditions. For 3 years, he's had to carry a badge with his deadname. pic.twitter.com/MccwzD4ygq
— Shannon Wait (@ComradeShannon) June 1, 2021
“We believe Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are vital for providing community, personal, and professional development opportunities for Googlers from underrepresented communities,” the webpage says.
Issue a valid ID badge to “Phares Lee” instead of only accepting the one with his dead name on it.
The petition was created “by members and supporters of the Alphabet Workers Union,” which does have some lofty goals.
We are Alphabet Workers who:
- Stand united
- Trust each other
- Stand alongside our communities
- Fight against totalitarianism
- Believe in social justice
- Want pay equity
The notion of a dead name is sure to make more news as we sail into a sexless society.
Last November, I covered the story of Citi introducing a card upon which people can put whatever name they wish — despite what their driver licenses say.
At the time, CNBC pinpointed the poor state of things:
In fact, nearly one third (32%) of individuals who have shown IDs with a name or gender that did not match their presentation reported negative experiences, including being harassed, denied services and/or attacked, according to a report from the National Center for Transgender Equality.
Thanks to the change, EVP of Marketing and Communications Cheryl Guerin celebrated people feeling more fantastic:
“Since introducing the True Name feature, we’ve received incredible feedback from our partners and allies within the transgender and non-binary communities on how the capability has eased a major pain point in their lives.”
And in April, the tragic story of a Western Australian teen appeared.
A 15-year-old biological female committed suicide; the child had her old girl’s name and his new boy’s name.
Amid a fight by separated parents, two funerals were held — one for the boy, one for the girl. The ashes were split.
And to be clear, when I referenced a “sexless society,” I meant it:
— Alex Parker (@alexparker1984) May 29, 2021
Back to petitioning for justice, protesters expect the world’s most ubiquitous tech titan to be inclusive:
A corporation like Google that publicly claims to value inclusion can and must do better by its [contract workers].
“Please sign the petition in solidarity with Phares and for all workers,” it implores.
Those interested can participate here.
The form requires a name; don’t feel pressured to use your dead one.
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