Transgender SC man petitions Google, security firm to remove ‘deadname’ from his ID

Updated: Jun. 4, 2021 at 6:35 PM EDT
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MONCKS CORNER, S.C. (WIS) - A transgender man living in South Carolina is working with the Alphabet Workers Union to petition Google and the security contract firm he works for to remove his “deadname” from his company badge.

A deadname is a term often used in the transgender community to refer to the name given to a person at birth.

For some, that name can bring up painful memories or invalidate their experience as a trans person, so they go by their preferred name.

When Phares Lee started working for security subcontracting firm G4S, with Google as his client, he says he was open with both companies about being transgender and was told that Google is an accepting and inclusive company.

Lee said when he asked if his company badge and other identifiers could include his preferred name rather than his legal name, he was told that was not possible.

At the time, he didn’t push back.

“I didn’t want to become a target, so I kept my head down and kept going anyways,” Lee said.

He is going through the process now of having his name legally changed. But in addition to a lot of paperwork, he said he has found the process takes longer than usual during the pandemic.

Lee came out in 2016, two years before taking this job. He said he was just starting hormone replacement therapy around the same time he started working with Google.

He has found it difficult to be an openly trans man in South Carolina and is constantly worried about his safety.

“You worry every time you step out on the street -- ‘Is somebody going to cause a scene? Is somebody going to attack me? Is somebody going to kill me?’” he said.

Lee started using his preferred name socially when he was coming out. For him, his deadname is cloaked in pain.

“I come from a family that is very much all about family. Everything we did as a family was as a family unit. We went on a lot of family trips together. Family was everything,” he said. “However, when I came out as transgender my family no longer supported me. And that name reminds me of all the good times I had with them and a lot of the bad times and other hurtful comments that were made.”

Lee also said he connects the name to his first marriage, which was abusive.

He said he knows of at least two other people who also have IDs with their deadname on them -- despite full-time Google employees being given the option to use their preferred name or even nickname on their badge.

When WIS reached out for comment, Google and G4S did not respond. Lee said both companies were made aware of his interview ahead of time. While Google has responded to another publication’s request for comment, G4S hasn’t responded at all.

Google told Business Insider the company has, “long had processes in place so employees and members of our extended workforce can update our systems with their preferred name, pronouns, and identity, and they can also change their preferred name for their badges.”

As of Friday afternoon, Lee’s petition has about 930 signatures since launching earlier in the week.

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