Question about names/pronouns

First, is it ok to start a thread here and ask questions? Or do you prefer we put them somewhere else?

My question: When referring in the past tense to a person who has transitioned at a time before they transitioned - what is the preferred reference?

Example: My brother’s child was named Jack at birth and assigned male. I knew the child as Jack and treated them as male for over 2 decades. Now she goes by Jill, has transitioned and prefers she as a pronoun. Cool.

I have no problem referring to her as Jill.

But my question is, when we are together as a family and talking about stories from her childhood - where she was called Jack and treated as a boy - what is ok?

I realize I can just ask her and that preferences may vary. But I was curious to know what your feelings and preferences were about this.

On one hand, I want to use preferred references for the individual. (Although I’d hope for some grace as they may vary on this topic). Back then, I had a nephew and should that be acknowledged?

On the other hand, is it hurtful to essentially ignore how the person was treated in childhood - act as though she’s always been Jill - when we all know she wasn’t - and that this was probably a source of great pain from the past that ought not be ignored? (I know I don’t like it when hurtful things from my past get glossed over bc I’m supposed to be over it by now.)

On the other other hand, I don’t want to inadvertently bring up something and cause pain or awkwardness in a situation where Jill doesn’t really care or I should know better.

Anyway. I hope my question makes sense and if it should be moved, let me know.

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First, yes! Please post anything you want related to the topic.

As you noted, this is really personal preference. I’ve asked people to refer to me as my current identity for past stories. I personally use ‘when I was a little girl’, for example … because the reality is that was what I was, even if I hadn’t told anyone about it yet. I find people struggle harder with this than present me – their memories of me are a kid with a awful ‘at home’ bowl cut and jeans and boy’s shirts. So I try to be gracious and don’t correct as often as I do with present tense (which is every single time if they don’t self-correct).

My sense is that the majority of trans folks feel the same way I do, but it’s not 100% of us. My recommendation is always to never use deadnames or old pronouns, even for pre-transition stories, unless the person told you it is ok to do so.

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That’s helpful. Thanks!

I posted a poll on my twitter to see if my sense is backed up by other people. I’ll let you know tomorrow! :slight_smile:

I only got 11 trans people to answer, but 9 preferred their current name/pronouns, 1 prior name/pronouns, and 1 didn’t care. So there you go!


This is my understanding based on people I know on an LGBTQ discord server that has a few active trans people; there are a couple who are very outspoken re: preferring prior names but most prefer current.

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Yeah, I took advantage of the Citibank and American Express doing this when I was stuck in name change bureaucracy hell. It’s really nice.

Similarly, my son has changed his name. I mostly use his new name when talking about his childhood, even though i called him by a different name back then. It’s actually less confusing that way, in most contexts.

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