Doctor Who's returning showrunner Russell T Davies has explained why Rose Noble was deadnamed in her first episode, 'The Star Beast'.
Deadnaming is the act of referring to a trans person as the name they had before they started transitioning, and when purposefully done, can be upsetting and harmful as it can make people feel like their identity is invalid.
In an early scene in the episode, Rose is called her old name by some bullies, something that her mum Donna is angry about, while Rose tries to brush it off.
Appearing on The Official Doctor Who Podcast, Davies explained that he included the scene to show the harsh reality many trans people face, as well as how the first name Donna chose for her child was a subtle nod to The Doctor's influence.
However, he asked podcast co-host and Doctor Who audio drama writer Juno Dawson (who is trans herself), whether it was the right thing to do given the contentious nature of the scene.
"The interesting thing about [Rose's deadname] Jason is actually it means 'Healer' or 'Doctor', which means that Donna actually named her child after the Doctor without realising it, subconsciously, which was a nice fact in there," Davies said.
"To get that across and to get the prejudice that's being shown towards Rose by those bullies and thugs in the street, we actually have to have a scene of deadnaming.
"Is that a good thing to do? Is that a wise thing to do? Is that a difficult thing to do?
"I personally think we should stare into difficult stuff like this but equally, what a nice easy life I've got, and I'm ready to be told otherwise, so what do you think?"
Dawson then responded: "I feel that it is important to show the lived reality of trans people.
"Rose is played by an amazing trans actor, Yasmin Finney from Heartstopper, and it happens. The important thing here is that the characters who misgender Rose aren't presented as aspirational characters.
"I think it's important how upset, if stoic, Rose is, how it really upsets Donna, and I think that's important. To my mind, as a trans person and as a writer, there is no point in trying to sugar the pill – trans people face transphobia. It felt accurate and honest to me that Rose is misgendered."
Dawson also pointed to a scene where Donna's mum Sylvia accidentally refers to Rose as "he" and immediately apologises, saying that she can be "clumsy" sometimes, with Donna admitting that she sometimes slips too.
"It felt honest and right that Sylvia sometimes struggles with pronouns because she's learning, because she understood her grandchild was one thing and then Rose chose a different life for herself," Dawson explained.
"For me, I thought that scene was quite important and it felt honest."
We'll see more of Finney as Rose in the next few weeks, with comments from Davies implying that she might appear in next year's series as well, but that's not been confirmed yet.
Doctor Who's next special airs this Saturday (December 2). The show airs on BBC One in the UK and Disney+ elsewhere.
Classic episodes of Doctor Who are now made available via BBC iPlayer in the UK as well.
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