GLAAD Responds to IMDb Revision of Birth Name Policy for Transgender Professionals in the Entertainment Industry: "it remains imperfect”

Today, GLAAD responded to IMDb’s revised birth name policy that will now allow some entertainment industry professionals to remove their birth names from the biography section of their profiles.

“Revealing a transgender person’s birth name without permission is an invasion of privacy that can put them at risk for discrimination,” said Nick Adams, GLAAD’s Director of Transgender Media. “IMDb’s new policy is a step in the right direction and gives some transgender professionals in the entertainment industry the dignity and respect that they’ve long deserved – however, it remains imperfect. Trans people with credits under their old name for work in front of or behind the camera will still be affected by IMDb's determination to publish outdated information. The platform still has a long way to go in maintaining the privacy of all the entertainment industry professionals listed on the site. GLAAD and SAG-AFTRA, along with trans people working in Hollywood, will continue to advocate that IMDb create policies that respect everyone's privacy and safety.”

An IMDb spokesperson explained the new policy to Variety, noting that: “IMDb now permits the removal of birth names if the birth name is not broadly publicly known and the person no longer voluntarily uses their birth name.” They continued: “To remove a birth name either the person concerned or their professional industry representative simply needs to contact IMDb’s customer support staff to request a birth name removal. Once the IMDb team determines that an individual’s birth name should be removed — subject to this updated process — we will review and remove every occurrence of their birth name within their biographical page on IMDB.”

It is important to note that, according to Variety, the IMDb spokesperson said for prior credits where a transgender person was credited as their birth name, that old name will remain listed in parentheses in the credits section of their own IMDb page and the title pages for the project. For actors and below the line professionals like cinematographers, editors, production designers, art directors, makeup artists, and costume designers, this policy means their private gender history is disclosed to potential employers whenever they apply for a new job.

It is good news that some transgender people whose birth name was added to IMDb without their consent are now able to have that name removed, but GLAAD reached out to IMDb and parent company Amazon for clarification around this policy and to explain the continuing harm caused by allowing prior credits to remain on the site unchanged.

In June 2019, GLAAD signed on to support SAG-AFTRA in the fight against IMDb from publishing performers’ private information. Other LGBTQ organizations including the National LGBTQ Task Force, the Transgender Law Center, the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, Transcend Legal, Inc, and the Equality Federation also signed on. GLAAD and other organizations called for change via numerous media appearances and at industry events. In a legal filing, the coalition of organizations joined SAG-AFTRA in speaking out against the continued publication of the birth names of transgender performers and people in the entertainment industry without their consent. Read the legal filing in full here

SAG-AFTRA has been fighting for enforcement of California’s anti-age discrimination law, known as AB 1687, which requires subscription-based entertainment casting databases such as IMDbPro to remove paid subscribers’ date-of-birth information from its websites, including, upon request. In February 2018, a judge stopped enforcement of the law. SAG-AFTRA and its allies are currently appealing that ruling with oral argument before the Ninth Circuit scheduled on Sept. 9.

Today, SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris also responded to the policy change: “While this half-measure is a step forward in protecting the personal safety of and reducing employment discrimination for transgender people, in revising its birth name policy, IMDb admits to invading the privacy of performers and putting them at risk for discrimination. IMDb can make no principled distinction to justify its arbitrary choices about when to invade the privacy of performers.”

Carteris continued, “IMDb has more work to do. SAG-AFTRA and its allies continue to fight to protect all performers and for enforcement of California’s anti-age discrimination law. This change in birth name policy should help make it clear to the appellate judges that the harm here is fundamental and compelling, and that California law AB 1687 is necessary in order to remedy IMDb’s discriminatory practice.”