forum Question about trans character.
Started by @ElderGodSeeba petsbing bing 🐸

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@ElderGodSeeba petsbing bing 🐸

Okay so I have a character who I've neely rewritten as trans, his name is Michael.

Now, his deadname is a fairly important part of his story as his mother and older brother is sorta not accepting and like in denial about the whole thing.

I have his deadname as "Michaella" (pronounced Me-kella) right now because it was the fem version of his name and sounded nice, but is it too on the nose? Should I go for something more different?

I've been doing some research on line and a few people on reddit say the use the opposite gender version of their names for lots of different reasons, but I thought I'd get a second perspective on the whole thing

Here are my thoughts (keep in mind I'm not trans so if this is bad my apologies)-

  • i was sorta thinking i was like he was to afraid to adventure away from his roots? Like that was the name his mother gave him and he thought she'd be upset if he changed it to drastically or something?
  • another thought came from a post from reddit where the person said their parents were going to use a fem version of their name but changed last second when they were born male, so when they transitioned the chose the name they were originally going to have in sort of a 'fixing mistakes' sorta way.
  • maybe he just digs the name Michael. Maybe its what he had his school friends call him and he got attached to the name and decided to keep it?

I'm willing to change the deadname and reuse it as the name for another character if you think that's best, but if you do find away around it let me know!

@sheabutter group

hey, i'm a trans person! I gotta say, it really does depend. If Michael's deadname is something that really does hurt him and pains him to hear, I'd say don't have his name be as close to his deadname. I personally don't have much dysphoria and I'm very comfortable with people using my given name, but my chosen name is nowhere near to it. If Michael is especially sensitive, I say don't do it.

Also, I recommend not writing Michael's deadname if you can. I personally feel that mentioning someone's deadname in a book means the author doesn't believe their own character's true gender. Again, if it's crucial to the story, do it, but if you can avoid it, that would be best. Hope this helps :)

@ElderGodSeeba petsbing bing 🐸

Its not really a book. Its an 8bit style dating sim/murder mystery type thing. His dead name comes into play maybe once or twice, and its only really when his family is interacted with, everyone else refers to him as Mikey, and all the dialogue in the game refers to him as Mikey.
I don't know if I want it to be explicitly mentioned its his dead name or for it to just be implied.

I'm not really sure if he's okay with it? One one hand I'd like to have the psychological affect of his dead name and childhood photos around the house and explore how that's hurt and shaped him as a person, but on the other hand he feels like one of those people how get really attached to things (which is were the ""boy"" nickname from his childhood comes in)


This might be a bit more out there of a solution…but if you wanna really show the psychological effects of his deadname why not use some neat corrupted text!

For example, if you choose to write Michaella in a line of dialogue it would be represented as d̴̺̹̘̜̾̔͗̈̓̈́̚ę̸̪̫̼͈͒͗̿̂̽͌̀͒͝͠a̸̢̡͍̞͕̟̯̦̰̼͍̭̍͋̏͂̂̈́̒̀̊̀́͘͝ḑ̵̢̧̨̫͎̣̭̮̱̹̳̻̼̳̮̥͋̐̀͆̈́̎̓̀n̸̬̄̓͌̎̂̍̂̀͑̌͆͋̋͘̕̕͝ą̸̯̞̮̬͓̭̲̠̦͇̜͕̣̋̀͆m̶̡̱̣͍͔̯̠̗͙͉̈́̔̐̓̐͊̽̐͗̊̾͂̆̾̉̕̚̚ȩ̷̢̲̫̱͉̯͖͓͇̫͚̳̜͙̝͐̀̀̎̔͌̔̐̍̋̕͜͜͠ͅ or something similar!

It does all the work for you in showing any kind of hurt Micheal may feel and also allowing the player to feel that same upsetting or uncomfortable atmosphere. Its a corrupted name, it feels like its not supposed to be there.
Of course this is if you really feel like its necessary to have his deadname directly referenced but I will have to agree with what was said above. Micheal and Michella are a bit too similar of a name, you can still have it starting with an Mi if you really want but I'd steer away from the name. Also you shouldn't really use deadnames often, its much more respectful to the trans character and trans audience.

Hopefully this helps at least a little bit!


Hmmm thats could be a bit tricky…she could probably still refer to him as Mikey but use other terms like "my little girl" or something along those lines if you really needed too?

@ElderGodSeeba petsbing bing 🐸

I think I'll change his deadname to something simple like Bella maybe.

I'm pretty set in wanting to show how his mother isn't respectful of his identity, and I think that will have to involve deadnaming him atleast once.

The games not all sweets and candy, its a murder mystery with a lot of heavy themes, so I don't think its a case of it being out of place or something.

I don't want it to come off as disrespectful or like I know nothing about trans people, but I really have no clue on how else to give it that hard hitting emotional damage I want for the story.


Hey, trans guy here! So. As mentioned, it depends a lot on the character. My name genderbent would be the same as my dad's name, so I tried to stay as far away as I possibly could, even though it doesn't bring me much dysphoria. Still, my chosen name took into consideration my deadname's meaning, as a little nod to what my parents originally intended to call me, so I do sympathize with your character as well in that sense. Personally, if their deadname makes them dysphoric, it's better if it's very different from that they chose, otherwise I don't quite see an issue with Michael vs Michaella, but as @sheabutter said, try to not use it too often, not a rule, just an advice! If you want my opinion regardless of facts, I'd choose another deadname, it could start with the same letter/sillable if you want (plenty trans folk do this and I almost did it too lmao, it's less likely we'll choose our name that close to the old one, because it tends to lead to lots and lots of misgendering and a constant reminder of our past selves. Idk if it makes much sense xD)

@ElderGodSeeba petsbing bing 🐸

Yeah, ill probably change his dead name.

Do you have any suggestions on how I can show his mother doesn't support him without using his dead name? like how would she refer to him?

@ElderGodSeeba petsbing bing 🐸

Yeah, i get you. The only time she'd ever refer to him by his dead name would be in either a scene where she calls him from another room to ask if hes home;

protag and Michael are standing in the doorway of his home, chatting
Mother: Bella, are you home? (place holder name rn)

or when asking protag a question;

protag and his mother stand in the kitchen, Michael is not present
Mother: You're that young lady whose friends with my Bella/Princess, yes? I'm so glad she has a girl friend now, all she seemed to do was hang around those boys; she's even started to dress like them!

The second interaction isnt a part of the main story, its completely option dialogue the player gets if they chose to interact with the mother separately from the main plot, kinda like npc dialogue? I'm not so thrilled on the ways its written rn but that's the general jist of what its gonna say.

Are these okay sentences or is this overdoing it? Like i said, his mother is a very small part of the story and once appears once or twice unless actively seeked out.

Also, I want there to be some bullying aspect to his trauma and other characters as well, do you have any advice for what a highschool bully might say to a trans male or someone who is attracted to the same gender?


(I'm a trans guy) Personally when I read trans media that actually has the deadname in it, like the actual name and not just "they said my deadname" or "And there it is, my deadname written in disgustingly fancy cursive." I find it slightly disrespectful and kind of annoying, that's not something I wanted to learn about the character and not something I need to know to understand a character's pain. And it makes it so transphobic readers can deadname as well as misgender the character.
Also, the edginess of a story doesn't change the core issue I have with including the deadname. I'm writing a story about a murderer that has a trans man protag and he's never misgendered much less deadnamed. However, his mom still doesn't fully respect his gender, saying things like "which bathroom are you going to use" in context they were at a restaurant. He needed to use the bathroom, she snarkily asked if he was really going to use the men's room or not while knowing he had anxiety relating to using gendered public bathrooms since he didn't pass as well at that point in the story.
Many unaccepting parents act very passive-aggressively toward their trans kids rather than confronting or accepting them.
You can still have the mom deadname him as long as it's censored in some way like a black bar or just ** Micheal's deadname ** or something else.
you could also have the mom say "are you home sweetheart?" or call him "my baby girl" or any other term a mom might use as a feminine term of endearment to her child.
At the end of the day, it's your story and you are the writer you get to choose how exactly to handle this situation. I'd just say if it only happens a few times it's not worth having to come up with a whole deadname for him and putting it in for it to just make readers uncomfortable (none of my trans characters have ever been given deadnames).

And with the bullying question, I've never been bullied for trans-related things and definitely not in a school setting so I can't really help with that one, other than don't have the character(s) be assaulted it's actually a trope in media for a trans character to be assaulted before the end of the story for little reason other than shock value.

I hope this helped, sorry if I came off as mean or unkind, I just find deadnames in media really annoying and never feel like they add anything to the story. Like Every Heart A Doorway is a great story other than how they introduce their only trans character, by saying his deadname followed by his current name like "I was Amilia and now I'm Emil" it's the laziest way to introduce a trans character as trans and is super disrespectful. I know you're not doing that, you're making an effort to be respectful and get it right which I really appreciate!

@ElderGodSeeba petsbing bing 🐸

Thanks, Lesh, this was actually really insightful! I guess maybe I was playing into the shock factor a little bit too much, I never considered that it might be cheap and edgey. I love Michael and want to respect him as a character, as well as trans players, so I agree it's the right choice not to use the dead name. Mikey is my first trans character, so it's been really lovely getting to talk to trans folk on here and learning about them and their identities! I'll definitely have to reread this a few times in the future!!