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'Dead Name' unveils intimate portrait of parents raising trans-identifying kids (film review)

Courtesy of Dead Name/Taylor Reece
Courtesy of Dead Name/Taylor Reece

A stirring, 50-minute film “Dead Name," released today on Vimeo, profiles three families and is best described as an intimate portrait of those whose lives have been upended by an ideology that has unleashed deep confusion and division.

(In the interest of full disclosure, this Christian Post reporter appears in the film as a contributor having extensively interacted with such families.)

In the transgender sphere, calling someone by their “dead name” means referring to them by their birth name, not their newly chosen name. Their self-selected name is often the first step in the trans-identification process. Parents of transgender-identifying children are usually pained to hear that the name they chose for their child is “dead.”

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Filmmaker Taylor Reece titled the documentary this way because it is emblematic of the entire spectrum of problems parents face. After a name change, a trans-identifying child starts to blot out their entire identity.  After that, experimental drugs and body-altering surgeries usually follow.

Courtesy of Taylor Reece
Courtesy of Taylor Reece

“It feels like a gut-punch to parents because it’s like the child saying, ‘I’m trying to cancel my childhood,’” Reece noted in an exclusive CP interview for this review.

Reece estimates that the trans movement was underway for about a decade, yet many parents still found themselves caught off-guard. 

“We understood there was a whole raft of parents who were blindsided by this and it only started to impact them not when it was talked about culturally, but when it became their child. We had a whole cohort of parents suddenly experiencing something for which they didn’t have a template, and no support systems to lean on,” Reece explained.

The documentary avoids political and religious notes as Reece has never believed these were political or religious issues, and it focuses solely on these parents’ complicated stories. The film also avoids taking a dogmatic position on medical ethics; it invites viewers on a journey into something they may think they know about, but really don’t because it’s not their child.

The three main parents featured are Amy, whose teen daughter began identifying as transgender and acquired testosterone from Planned Parenthood; Helen, a lesbian woman who split from her wife who was intent on trans-ing their young son Jonas into a trans girl named Rosa; and Bill, the father of a cancer-stricken son, Sean, who became convinced he was female as a college freshman.

Dr. Stephen Levine, a clinical psychiatrist from Ohio who appears in the documentary, said the anguish these parents endure is ongoing and protracted.

“Many of the parents I’ve seen have gone into therapy as a result and have become depressed, anxious, and can't sleep. And they don’t know what to do,” Levine says soberly in the film.

“Dead Name” spotlights issues that have largely gone unexamined.  As public scrutiny continues to grow about the long-term repercussions of puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and the hastiness with which psychologically troubled young people are being prescribed such drugs, the potential medical harms are finally being debated more widely.  But much less attention has been given to the splintering of families that gender medicalization has wrought, other than firsthand accounts from parents in spaces like the PITT substack and other online forums.

Parents who express doubt or urge their children to slow down find themselves fighting a constellation of societal forces that fervently oppose them or, even worse, marginalize them. Children who believe they are suffering from gender dysphoria have support systems to rely on that easily erode the parent-child bond, which ruptures family ties.

“Dead Name” punctures the prevailing narrative around this highly fraught topic and is a poignant call to consider the perspectives of families that know what it feels like to be on the inside of this struggle.

Reece emphasized she respects the medical framework for gender dysphoric youth and the historically small percentage of the population dealing with an incongruence with their sex.

“However, what we are seeing now does not track with that,” she added, “we don’t seem to have guardrails here in the U.S. It’s unregulated and too easy for these young people to get access to these drugs.”

“It’s so hard to unite people during this time in our history. If people can step back and recognize that, universally, parents all want the same thing. Above all else, we want to keep our children physically safe,” the filmmaker concluded.

Brandon Showalter has a bachelor's degree from Bridgewater College in Virginia and a master's degree from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Listen to Showalter's Generation Indoctrination podcast at The Christian Post and edifi app Send news tips to: Follow on Facebook: BrandonMarkShowalter Follow on Twitter: @BrandonMShow

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