X Factor Contestant Felix Shepard has defended Robbie Williams, after the Take That singer asked for the trans contestant’s birth name. The 20-year-old contestant from Birmingham told BANG Showbiz that his full interaction with Williams was not shown on the TV show and that he “felt indifferent” over the deadnaming.
Speaking to the newspaper, Shepard said: “It wasn’t shown that he did actually ask me beforehand if it was OK, but they didn’t show that on the TV.”
Shepard said: “I wasn’t offended by anything he said so that’s the most important thing. I do feel people are entitled and would feel different things about it.”
Felix Shepard, a 20-year-old Birmingham man auditioned in front of the judges, receiving a standing ovation from the audience for his performance of ‘All I Want’ by Kodaline. He went on to tell the panel he was studying a degree in songwriting and had auditioned “to prove to people that I’m more than just a transgender guy. We can be, kind of, overlooked, I suppose.”
With a lack of tact, Robbie asked “So when you were born, what was your name?”, deadnaming the contestant. Deadnaming is the term given when a trans person is called by their birth name when they no longer use it. Forcing Felix to announce his name previous to transitioning in front of an audience of millions can be both dangerous and demeaning.
After Shepard answered, Robbie then asked “So when did you know you were Felix?” This was, by the way, the very first thing Robbie asked the contestant.
Viewers were quick to point out how inappropriate the questions were, pointing out there was still a long way to go in terms of education about the experiences of trans people.
asking a trans guy what his birthname was is not an appropriate thing to do, it's especially not okay when it's the first question you ask him #XFactor
— alexander ? (@imonemorequeer) September 8, 2018
Although Felix himself seemed calm, and later tweeted he was not offended by the question, to normalise deadnaming on primetime television is far from acceptable.
I just wanted to say that I was in no way offended by Robbie’s question but, I do realise everyone is different!
Thanks for all the support ?
— Felix Shepherd (@felixjshepherd) September 9, 2018
Trans people obviously have very personal views on deadnaming, both as an action and as a concept. No matter if cis or trans, the name a person gives is the name they are and wish to be called by.
#XFactor okay so Felix is lovely and I'm really proud to see another trans person on the TV, but has No-one told Robbie Williams it's considered pretty darn rude to ask someone's birth name? That's quite an on-the-spot situation to be put in, having to explain oneself.
— Alexandra (@alex_staddon) September 8, 2018
© 2018 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.
GCN has been a vital, free-of-charge information service for Ireland’s LGBT+ community since 1988.
During this global COVID pandemic, we like many other organisations have been impacted greatly in the way we can do business and produce. This means a temporary pause to our print publication and live events and so now more than ever we need your help to continue providing this community resource digitally.
GCN is a registered charity with a not-for-profit business model and we need your support. If you value having an independent LGBT+ media in Ireland, you can help from as little as €1.99 per month. Support Ireland’s free, independent LGBT+ media.