What’s in a name?

For a lot of trans people, changing their name is a really big and meaningful step. But for me, I have a hard time figuring out exactly how I feel about the idea of changing my name. Some days I feel apathetic about it and others I feel conflicted. Never once have I felt strongly that I should either keep my name or change it. So for now I take the easiest path which is keeping my first name, although I did change my middle and last names when I got married which was a much bigger paperwork ordeal than I thought. I changed my middle name to something gender neutral so that if I decide to change, I can just go by that name.

The part of me that wants to change it is driven by the idea that people would make less assumptions about me if I didn’t have a male-gendered name. But realistically I know that people make those assumptions regardless based on my voice and appearance. The other reason to change is because of the religious baggage associated with my name. The cult I grew up in treated your name like it was your destiny and when you met the leader, he would tell you the meaning in a very creepy way. All the children in our family had biblical names because of that background. And this month I had a difficult conversation with my dad where he made it clear he would never use a different name for me because this one was “god ordained” and that’s always who I’ll be. And while I had no plans to change my name before that, my first instinct is to say “well if you’re going to shove your “gift” down my throat, then I will reject it.”

The reason I haven’t done that yet is because I have seen how difficult it is for my trans friends to have their new name respected outside our own community. Trying to get coworkers and old acquaintances to switch sounds overwhelming to me and I know it would just increase tensions with my parents when I am still just trying to get them to use my pronouns. I wish I had the courage to be more assertive about these things but right now I am so tired of fighting.

As much as I want to start using my gender neutral middle name with my chosen family and friends, I am also afraid of getting used to it. And more importantly, I don’t feel any stronger a connection with my new name than my old one. To some degree, the name isn’t important to me, at least relative to my pronouns. Is it normal to never feel an emotional connection to your name?

One thought on “What’s in a name?

  1. If you’re anything like me (which is a big ‘if’, because we’re all different), you’ll find out about strong emotional associations with your old name if and when you change it. Deadnaming (for me, and plenty of others) stirs up all kinds of emotions – more strongly by far than misgendering, I would say.

    As for my new name, I like it (and liked it for years before I knew it was mine), but it is just a name. Having said that, I’m surprised your trans friends have had difficulties in getting other people to switch names. Hardly any of my friends have deadnamed me (and even those who have haven’t done so more than once or twice). Perhaps asking people to use a middle name (or a nickname, say) would be different, though – I don’t know. (I personally find it easier to get a person’s new name into my head than new pronouns.)

    Of course, in your case, you have your parents to take into account too, and that’s difficult. So I hope things go well for you, whatever you decide.

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