T O P I C R E V I E W
Member # 79774
posted 03-14-2013 09:42 AM
I know that sometimes people enjoy talking about names and naming, and there can be a range of reasons why a name-change is important to someone, so I thought I'd post here. Obviously if no-one feels like talking about it, that's cool
So, I'm going to change my surname (/last name / family name). It's not a bad name, but I've never, ever been comfortable with it, even as a young child, although I couldn't really have explained it then. I've tried to get comfortable with it and claim it as Mine, but it just doesn't feel ok. Professionally, I'll be mostly known by my surname, and the old one feels uncomfortable and not-me every time I see or hear it. I've finally embraced feeling happy and self-defined with a name I choose for myself. I'm fortunate enough to be a citizen of a country where I may formally change my name by choice just with some paperwork and hassle. But finding my new name is hard! There is no name in my family ancestry that is appropriate. My mother felt the same about the name issue, but hadn't managed to find her own new name (I informally re-named her after her death with her partner's name; I think she would have approved). There are lots and lots of sources for choosing babies' first/given names, but I'm a bit lost for choosing a surname. It's not a thing that people need to do often, I guess. It's tricky, too: I don't want to choose a name that implies a cultural or ethnic heritage that I don't have, because when I'm choosing a name out of the sky, that's inappropriate. Names also have origins and meanings, and those seem to have more weight when it's something I'm deliberately choosing than if it was something automatically passed to me. When I'm choosing a name, does it mean something different if my name means "shoemaker" than it would if I'd got the name automatically? It feels like it would be different. I've realised that I need to pay attention to how my whole name will sound, and how my initials will sound and to make sure not to accidentally create an undesirable word or acronym! I've been thinking that I don't want to use anything that sounds more male-oriented, like anything ending in "-son", or a name that's also used as a male-designated first name. I've been wondering about using a female-designated first name as a surname. Then, I've also been thinking about the uniqueness or not of my name, and the advantages and disadvantages of possibly being the only person with my name. Perhaps good for professional visibility, but also, wow, no doubt and nowhere to hide about anything I do and say under my own name in this social media age, and the fact that my social life would be right there unambiguously for anyone investigating me professionally. It's getting harder to have to keep using my old name and feeling "that's not my name" and wincing. And I don't even know what my real name is! That's kind of disconcerting. So, if anyone has any thoughts for me, I'd love that. This will be ongoing for months, so additions then are welcome too. I'd also be very happy if people feel like discussing names and naming generally, not in relation to my situation; just for example, how much does a name have to do with identity, how important is it, and why? Or anything else that you're interested in or that's important to you.
Member # 101745
posted 03-15-2013 06:15 PM
I certainly have a lot of thoughts about names and name choice! Most of this is from a trans perspective, but I think there can a lot of common elements in any "choosing a name for myself" story. The first name my parents gave me was my father's grandmother's name, but it also turned out to be a fairly popular name for girls my age. I never really connected with that first name. I used to try to get people to call me nicknames or daydream other first names I could use. For a while I considered going by my middle name when I went to college. When I was younger this wasn't related to gender identity at all; I just didn't identify with the name. Partway through high school, some friends started to call me by a shortening of my last name. It felt really good and natural in a way my first name never did. When I got to college I started introducing myself that way; I didn't hide my birth name but asked people to call me by my nickname instead. When I started questioning my gender I liked that it was a pretty gender-neutral name; there are apparently several names, of various associated genders, that can result in this nickname. After a few years everyone called me by my chosen name and very few people even knew the one I'd been given at birth, which is just fine by me! (I do not tell anyone that name at this point in my life.) I always knew I wanted to keep that last name (even when I was young and thought I was straight and would grow up to be a straight woman who got married to a man!) so there was no question of that changing. And it just made sense to make this "nickname" that I was using full-time into my legal first name as well. Eventually I decided it would sound fine as a first/last name combo, although at first I worried it would be too alliterative. So in a way I feel like I had things pretty easy - I didn't need to come up with a new first name from scratch. I have a few trans friends who have "tried on" a few new names before finding one they liked. What I did do, though, is choose a totally new middle name. I actually love the story behind this - there was a handle I started using online that was a reference to a character from a concept album from the 70s - I have a huge love of prog rock and pretentious concept albums. I decided that if I was going to change my name I had the right to choose a ridiculous middle name, so I did! Itis the name of a godlike entity who charts a path through the stars to lead the survivors of a doomed world to their new home. =) I actually use this as my "last name" online as a way to be semi-private, although there are fewer people with my first/middle name combo than my first/last so I don't know that it's much help at this point. Apparently some people don't know how to pronounce it which I found surprising, but I think it just strikes folks as odd because it doesn't look like a "normal" name. Oh, you mentioned initials: My first and middle initials are MR so signing my name with those initials just looks like I'm writing "Mr. [last name]" which was unintentional but a nice bonus. Other interesting naming snippets that come to mind: My partner started going by a nickname, and chose a new legal name based on a long form of that nickname (in other words "what name can be shortened into the name I go by?) Two friends got married and instead of having one take the other's last name, they made a portmanteau name of both of their original last names. This wouldn't work with some name combinations but worked really well for them! A friend of mine was all set on the name he was going to start using... when his sister called to tell him she'd adopted a dog and given it the name he was going to use (that he hadn't told anyone yet). It worked out in the end but he thought it was pretty funny.
Member # 79774
posted 05-03-2013 04:43 PM
Thank you for your thoughts, Molias! I figured that on average, more trans* folk would have a personal investment in name changes; I appreciate the different perspective, and I also think there's more in common than differences.
So, I've found a name that I'm seriously considering. It's been so hard! Surnames, in acquisition and in meaning, are mostly to do with one's roots (though I do appreciate that some people experience this differently), and I've found it so hard to come up with something while not having any roots to work with. I think I embarrass easily with some kinds of personal things, and choosing a name with overt references to something I want to be or some aspect that I hope I am would just be too squirm-inducing for me when asked why I chose the name. I also want something that isn't going to sound highly unusual as a surname. Looking over lists of thousands and thousands of names, none of them really connected with me at all. I guess that's because none of them Are my name yet, because I don't have a name, so of course nothing is going to feel like my name? I'm considering something where I like the meaning and the overall reference the name has. It is kind-of a woman's first name, but it's also gender-neutral, already in use as an uncommon surname, and understandable to English speakers and those of most European languages. I'm still not convinced about how it goes with my first name and whether it is, after all, My name. Including the possible new one, my own three names mean (simplified, and in a changed order) "wise", "valued" and "warrior". I like that very much. For people who "try on" names, is it common to feel very peculiar, or silly, or confused? Change one's mind back and forth in record time, and have opposite opinions at once? I feel all of those things. It's become more obvious than ever that the old one is wrong for me. I've never liked it with my first name, because my first name sounds light and soft, and my old surname sounds like a person carrying a ton weight phlomping with each foot in turn onto muddy ground in oversize welly boots. When I was considering my possible new name in print or being announced, I smiled and started to feel a bit excited-happy. I've never smiled at my old name appearing anywhere. I even started to feel more comfortable about the old name as soon as it might not be mine any more. I'm desperate to be rid of it!
Member # 79774
posted 05-10-2013 04:48 PM
I don't think I've found anything that really fits yet, and this is driving me up twenty walls. I feel a bit better that it won't just be me who ever has this kind of problem, but it's still pants. I feel confused that I've known for years I don't connect with my old name and yet I still don't know what my proper one is. It's a bit sad and overwhelming to be looking at lists with fifty thousand surnames. Why has it not seemed to occur to these sites that anyone might need a reverse search facility, like for given names? Plus there's no end of important administrative backlog waiting on this.
moonlight bouncing off water
Member # 44338
posted 05-12-2013 08:20 PM
Hey Redskies, I was thinking about how you were concerned about picking a last name that implies herritage you don't have and I had an ideam. Perhaps you could look back in your family tree and see if there are any last names you do connect with. Then you DO have that heritage. Of course, picking a last name from scratch is just as valid too. I hope that this search is going well for you and you find a last name you can truly identify with.
Member # 79774
posted 05-12-2013 10:33 PM
moonlight, thanks for the good wishes and thoughts.
Family tree names are out, no matter how I try to look at it differently. On my mother's side, we don't know a lot - I don't even know either great-grandmother's original surname - but what I do know, for at least the three generations before me, is that they're full of abusive and deeply damaged people, including and sometimes specifically the women. The family she knew treated my mother very badly. No go. On my father's side, once upon a time I would've wanted something like that, but I have been so quietly shut out and not-included that I strongly do not want to try for any connection any more. There's a relative of my father's who has done huge amounts of genealogy research, sending out newsletters to my father and several hundred people around the world, but never to me, even though I am a comparatively very close relative. I think it's mostly my father's fault - not passing the information to me, not passing on my request to have my contact details included - but I decided a while back I'd had enough. It's His family, not mine. He's met up with many relatives often throughout my lifetime, and I've never met most of them, and the rest about once when I was little (and yes, I grew up living in the same house as my father... sense, there is none. Except the sense that kid-me made of it, that I was not welcome and that those were not My people.) Plus, the close relatives were not overly pleasant to my mother. The whole subject of heritage and that side of the family is a big sore point with me, probably understandably. So, I'm making it up. Picking it out the sky. I Like the idea of having a name that's just me, separate from all this rubbish. It's just very tricky to find, and disconcerting in the meantime.
Member # 101745
posted 05-13-2013 05:27 PM
Redskies, I'm sad to hear you haven't found the right name yet; I hope that when you do find something that fits, the wait will have been worth it. =)
Is there a person, work of art/fiction, or character you find particularly inspiring that you could draw a name from, either directly or as a starting-off point? I know you said above that you are often embarrassed talking about personal things, but when I changed my name I was actually surprised by how few people asked questions about my weirdest name; I think if you want to have a name that you don't often discuss in terms of its origins, most people will probably be obliging about that. Also, how much flexibility do you have in your daily life to try on new names? I've known people who've been in situations where they went by a try-out name for a while before making any legal changes, but I think that can depend pretty heavily on someone's work and social environment.
Member # 107555
posted 05-20-2013 12:40 PM
I can relate to your feelings about your surname. I don't feel like my last name is for me at all. It's my dad's last name, a dad I barely speak to anymore because of mutual feelings of contempt and general dislike. I am considering taking my mother's surname, but that doesn't really seem like the right thing to do either. The thing is, if I ever get married I'm very likely to take my partner's surname, simply because that would seem more right to me than anything else I would put in.
The thing is, I'm not too bothered about the surname. The rest of my family I have no problems with, just my father. I'm more concerned about my first name which is very clearly feminine and not one I ever identified with. I've had nicknames since I was about 10 and barely anyone calls me by my actual name. I do have trouble figuring out what to replace it with though. As you said, it's not easy to find something that fits together with the rest of your name and doesn't have any unfortunate acronyms or the like. I keep trying out different names and none of them seem to fit me. I have done this for more than three or four years now and I don't seem to be getting any closer. However, I really don't believe it's something to rush into. A name does mean quite a lot in today's society and it would be a shame to end up with something you wanted to change again. Find some that you like the sound of (and don't have any obvious problems) and then try them out. It's the only solution I have.
Member # 79774
posted 06-18-2013 06:22 PM
I have my new name! I'm so happy! It's still super-weird to use it, but it makes me smile every time. Turns out Moonlight was kind of right after all but in a different way - I used a part of my stepdad's (and consequently my mother's) surname and found another name that I liked the meaning of, and stuck the parts together as something that sounds good. It sounds like it's a relatively unremarkable British surname, even though it's actually made up. It took me a daftly long time to realise that that was what I wanted to do... this way I have a family connection in my name while having an identity all of my own.
atypical, I Really hear you on how hard this can be! It was driving me batty every day for hours trying to figure it out. There was some administrative urgency for me, so I had to keep at it, but for so long I had no reasonable answer at all and I had no idea where my answer/brainwave might come from.
Member # 101745
posted 06-18-2013 06:26 PM
This is great news! I'm glad you found a name that works for you. =)
moonlight bouncing off water
Member # 44338
posted 06-19-2013 11:43 AM
I'm so happy you found a name that works! It sounds like an awesome an significant connection while still being your own too!