Handling name of transgender artist

There is a major issue about historical artist credits that could have a great impact on the future of MusicBrainz

It would sadden me if MusicBrainz were to succumb to ideology and deny past events based on feelings.

Apparently votes were requested from outside of MB:

That would explain the brigading.


Release groups could be renamed to new name while keeping original releases and new release in them, no?
I think this requires a topic of its own, with all these new voters participating.


It would sadden me if MusicBrainz were to succumb to reactionary transphobes who cannot deal with a modern worldview.

The policy of not applying name changes retroactively is fine for normal artist name changes, but turns harmful for trans people who are already forcibly referred to using incorrect names often enough.


No need to use ‘feelings’ as a negative attribute.

Edit: This definitely needs input from someone higher up. Perhaps even the board on issues like this.
@reosarevok + The Data Removal Policy and outing trans people


I moved this to a separate topic. That’s a serious thing to discuss on its own.

This specific case has also been discussed on IRC: https://chatlogs.metabrainz.org/libera/musicbrainz/msg/4823485/


Well, if a name is no longer used, it can be set as an alias with the ended attribute (and end date if known) and the new name can be added. This also works with legal names of course.

No need to get emotional. :slight_smile:


That would leave us with releases which are exactly the same, apart from the name, right? I find that confusing.
If we have to preserve the history, maybe [STYLE-1885] Add “Withdrawn” as a Release Status is a compromise.


Nothing wrong with having 2 different releases. This is as much a historical database as it is a current one. Any change to a release warrants a new release and a name change definitely warrants a new release. No matter how some people feel, we can’t erase history. Now, as far as release groups & recordings, sure. Maybe an exception could be made to the guidelines, but a release is a historical thing.


I’m not absolutely opposed to keeping the old name around, but it should be made clear that the release is not referring to the current medium, especially if it is the same bandcamp-album. I believe most of the time people will be using the data to tag their newly downloaded music.

By the way, we can erase history. Rules can be changed. I’m not sure if we should though.


And writing off concerns about transgender people’s safety and wellbeing as an “ideology” and spouting canned phrases like “facts not feelings” isn’t intellectually lazy?


Another way to look at it: The artist has changed the history by renaming their old releases. archive.org is showing an alternate timeline. Should we update our history or reflect both timelines?


I’m one of the people that voted for updating these releases to reflect the artist’s name. And I’m not a new editor—a lapsed editor is a much more accurate description.

I recall a time when I was absolutely convinced that MusicBrainz’ job was to clean up the messiness of the world of tagging, including the weird capitalizations and typographical tricks that you’d find all over track listings on the backs of my CDs. And to be clear, I think that’s still absolutely perfectly valid when we’re talking about someone who thinks their entire music catalog should be in all lowercase (or perhaps just doesn’t know how to capitalize letters) and submits all that to Gracenote.

But I gradually came to strongly believe in the importance of artist intent, “messiness” being a valid form of self-expression. Those tracks were named that way intentionally unless I knew otherwise.

I keep thinking about Wendy Carlos, and how she had the power to take all her releases from an era when Switched-On Bach was really popular and make them reflect reality. That’s a power that, thanks to the fact that so much is released digitally these days, many more people have.

There is a lot of valid frustration circling in the world about how the digital reality means books can be changed, works of art we enjoy removed from accessibility, and the like. I get and empathize strongly with that. I have taken steps to make sure works that I care about are preserved, taken out of reach of powers that might decide they should be removed from the world.

But I simply cannot fathom the line of thinking that lays claim to the idea that someone other than the artist can decide that artist’s very identity. That’s an exercise of power that reaches beyond the bounds of the listener’s experience and tries to lay claim to the artist themselves.

I do not think highly at all of the argument that I, as a listener, should be able to decide what to call an artist when they’ve made it clear that’s not their identity, and have made the effort to correct past releases that do not reflect their reality today.

Now—I can support the idea that, if I had music that was tagged with an obsolete name, this database was a way to update that tag—so it would likely need to carry a name no longer used somewhere, though I would argue that it shouldn’t be surfaced during a search for the artist’s current name. A great analogy would be an HTTP 301 redirect—you request for the old name, you get the current; you request the current, you only get the current.

I also don’t think that we need to change artist names for old releases when an artist isn’t also doing so themselves (although, the reality is, that might be out of their hands—so expressing the desire to do so should be complete justification.)

But if an artist is correcting their identity, then that’s on us to respect.


Updating is the humane thing to do, with the caveat I mentioned above about redirecting. I think it’s difficult to really appreciate the sheer scale of a name change until you’ve been through one.

Or, more accurately, part of one; it’s usually beyond the energy one person has as we as technologists have created a world where it’s nearly impossible to be forgotten—we’ve captured and captured and captured and washed our hands of the responsibility of respecting the impact of releasing that captured data.

In fact, this strikes me as a strong argument for a redirect. It’s a positive action to not just reflect an artist’s identity, but gently guide people who may not have an up-to-date understanding forward.


I don’t want to make this about myself, since it’s not. I do however want to explain my behaviour, since I kind of kicked this off. I will outline my stance on the issue in the following post.
I have done the overwhelming amount of edits for the artist Patricia Taxxon on MB and have tried changing her name for older releases in the past, where they were voted down by @chaban, and since no one else is doing active editing for her, that was that.

Later I stumbled upon this thread that was also linked above, which made me try again.
I had kind of hoped by doing these changes in small badges, I could get them passed, while avoiding a confrontation like this. They were shot down by the same person again. At that point I was desperate and made the above post. But not only that, they also went and opened 130+ destructive edits on her releases changing it to her deadname, which was previously never associated with these releases in MB, since they were mostly imported by me after her coming out. This was very upsetting to see.
The behaviour I have outlined above reads hostile to me, not only was my perspective immediately disregarded, but even though there was a clear disagreement here, further edits were made, which anyone could have anticipated I would oppose.
This is disrespectful, not only of the artist, who has made her stance on the matter clear, but also towards my labour I have offered to this project, and my judgement.


Since this seems to keep coming up:

Wendy Carlos should not be seen as a precedent or an example to follow unswervingly. She is not representative of all trans people, and while she may be fine with her older releases featuring her deadname, that’s not at all the case for a lot of trans folks.

Trans people aren’t a monolithic entity, and the “see, this person’s fine with it, why aren’t you?” argument can not and will not hold water, ever.

[EDIT] This also applies to the argument that personal name changes for trans people are anywhere near the same as band name changes. Again, bands aren’t individuals.


Regarding the issue itself, I share @zigg’s perspective. Thank you for articulating it like that.

I also want to comment on the nature of this discussion itself. It’s concerning to me with how little care some of the people here, especially those with auto-editor privileges, are approaching this subject. Deadnaming being put into quotation marks, the issue itself being dismissed as some ideology or mere feelings.

There is also a dismissiveness of labelling some of the things here as transphobia, so let’s talk about that. Transphobia is not an irrational fear of transgender people, like arachnophobia, for example, is an irrational fear of spiders. Transphobia describes patterns of thought and behaviour that originate with the idea that transgender people are not the gender that they say they are. By extension not taking the issues that arise out of being transgender seriously is transphobia. You can perfectly articulate how you want to preserve release history as entered into the DB, without being outwardly dismissive. Some of you have asked us to leave feelings out of this discussion, and I ask of you the same when a perfectly accurate descriptive term is being used.

Within discussions surrounding this issue, I have been linked to MB’s style guideline regarding Artist Credit. These guidelines are clearly written without transgender people in mind. In fact the only kind of reference to transgender people in the entire style guideline seems to be the Gender section for Artists.
These guidelines clearly cannot apply in this case, as they have not considered this case. And I do not agree that a trans person’s name change can be directly compared with a generic name change. This is why I wrote:

Not all name changes are equal. To assert that there is no difference between me changing my name from John to Lars, because I think it’s annoying how commonplace the name John is and a transgender person changing their name from a traditionally masculine name to a traditionally feminine name, because only the latter corresponds to their gender and inherent sense of self, is intellectually disingenuous. Transgender people, if they so desire, should be an exception to the rule.

If you are not willing to write a rule for transgender people specifically, than at least for any person that has changed their name and wants that change to cascade into the past. And if the other side is not willing to fully remove a person’s deadname form the DB, at least consider to what extend editing policy on MB could accommodate trans people. Being explicitly allowed to change names on Release Groups and Recordings would be a good start, with that being explicitly reflected in the style guidelines. The ticket @tastytea linked is also interesting, especially if auto taggers were to understand semantically that they should privilege official releases over withdrawn ones.
If you have other suggestions, feel free to add them.


I think we can completely set the new name on artists (and relationships) and release groups.

But the already released physical release artists, we cannot change them, as the artist is printed on it.

So far, things are quite easy.

But now comes the digital releases where it’s more blurry area and I don’t really want to take part in digital-media/ download albums discussions.

I don’t really want to take part in the digital release discussions.
But it seems logical to have both versions, for those that were released before the name change.


First off, dictionaries exist to document, not dictate.

Second, you are literally calling people thick, stupid, “SJWs” for actually expressing concern about certain matters. You’re nowhere near the high ground.


Let’s stick to the facts:

Phobia comes from Latin, phobos, which means fear.

Where exactly did I literally call somebody thick and stupid?

It seems we have very different ideas about factual truths and what words (such as literal) mean.


The facts are right there in your posting history. You can’t go five minutes without bandying about terms like “intellectually lazy” or “SJW” and just generally being disrespectful at anything you yourself disagree with, and that this behaviour hasn’t been clamped down upon already is astonishing.