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. Obviously, changing the author’s name on a source citation in a note or bibliography is unhelpful to readers who go looking for that work. It also misrepresents the publishing history of the work. That said, there are reasons to hesitate before explicitly linking a dead name with a current name (such as by using “a.k.a.” or “formerly” in square brackets). If possible, contact the author for permission and instructions on cross-referencing or glossing the names. If the author can’t be contacted and it’s important to cite the source, use the author name as it originally appeared, and use your judgment with regard to adding the current name.