Citation, Documentation of Sources

Q. Dear Chicago, Many transgender authors have a “dead name”—the name the author had before undergoing the process of transitioning genders. This dead name may come with unhappy emotional associations and moreover is in any case no longer the real or current name of the author concerned. However, they may have previously published using that dead name. Citing the author with that dead name may therefore be an ethically compromised act, be hurtful, or simply be factually incorrect. However, it may also be the only name connected with the work being cited. What then, would you advise as the best practice when citing transgender authors?

A. Cite the sources using the names they were published under. That is the factually correct way to cite anything. To change a name from the published version is not sound scholarship. You don’t have to out any authors or comment on their transitions. If it’s important to link a dead name with a current name explicitly and you’re reluctant to do that, contact the author for permission and instructions on cross-referencing or glossing the names. If the author can’t be contacted, forge ahead with a clear conscience. Most writers are happy to be cited at all.