Monday Roundtable: Say My Name

LGBTQ+ people are notorious for going by different names than the ones our parents gave us, whether that means shortening “Alexandra” to “Alex,” going by a middle name or our initials, or picking a new name altogether. In this week’s Monday Roundtable, we asked our writers who have changed their names about the process and how it worked out for them.

Laneia, Executive Editor

I once tried to shorten my name to L, because it’s the only cool way to shorten this vowel-heavy name of mine, but it didn’t stick. I guess I just need all three syllables to make myself known.

Riese, Editor-in-Chief

My actual legal name is Marie. It’s incredibly rare for anybody to make the connection that Riese is a nickname for “Marie.” I guess we’re used to nicknames coming from the front half of a name rather than the back half (although there are lots of Beths and Tonys out there, so come on people), or being composed entirely of letters present in the original name. But: know this, my friends — Riese comes from Marie.

Here’s how that happened: My family, people who knew me before 2006 and often my romantic partners will call me Marie still. When I was a kid my Mom called me “Ree” or “Ree-Ree,” and when I was a teenager, my best friend Krista called me “Riese,” but she spelled it “Ris.” Krista also wrote me a lot of things — cards, collages, lists — the kinds of things I’d put up on my wall over the years. We lived together in New York after college and when I went out of town for a week she wrote me a list on posterboard called “Reasons I Miss Ris When She Is Away.”

This brings us to 2006, when my new best friend Haviland — Haviland was a crucial element of my new gay life — was over at my apartment, and we were discussing the fact that I didn’t “seem like a Marie.” This is a sentiment I agreed with heartily. My whole life, Marie just felt so much more girly than I ever felt or seemed to be (I was often chastised in various ways as a kid for not being adequately feminine). I associated it with Marie Antionette, who is like, very high femme. It’s also a very unusual name for a Jewish girl! It just never quite fit, although I appreciated that it was my Mom’s Mom’s name, who died when my Mom was 14. (In Judaism, you name your kids after dead family members.) Her name had been Marilyn, but she became a fashion model and changed it to Marie Lyn, which felt more model-esque I suppose.

Haviland saw Krista’s poster on my wall, and was like “Ris?” and I was like “yes,” and she was like “That’s what we’re going to call you.” Haviland was sort of a mix of best friend and tender loving stage mom, honestly, at the time. But when I met her friends, who’d seen Haviland write about me on her MySpace page, they were calling me “Ris” liked it rhymed with “Kiss” and that’s when we were like, “hm, maybe we need to spell it differently.” My agent at the time suggested Riese, as it’d still contain key letters from my first name in the proper order, which I’d started my writing career under, and this is how we thought SEO worked then.

So there was a pretty clear line between when I went by Marie with most people and when I went by Riese with most people, and that line is GAY. I still feel very tender towards Marie, and I don’t mind at all when people use it. It feels like a special honest piece of me, somehow. But sometimes I forget when people talk about chosen names that in a way I have one too.

Abeni, Staff Writer

I fucking love my name. It’s hard to spell and pronounce, but it means so much to me.

“Abeni” is a Yoruba name, a language spoken in West Africa. When I visited Ghana a few years ago, I felt a wild and difficult-to-describe pull to the land, as though my ancestors were reaching out to me. We visited the “Door of No Return,” a port, essentially, through which most of the enslaved Africans kidnapped from the continent passed on their way to the Americas to become the chattel that built this and many other countries. I stood in that spot and wept for the ancestors I’ll never know. My father, like many Black Americans, only knows his ancestry going back a few generations in America, and that’s a loss that will be with me and my people forever.

“Abeni” means, essentially, “We asked for her, and behold, we got her.” I feel as though the Universe or Goddess or whoever has been, since I was born, asking and waiting for me to become who I am. And when I finally transitioned, and chose my name, and became who I am, the Universe got me. I think that’s so beautiful, and by choosing this name I’m able to connect in some small way to the ancestors of mine I’ll never fully know.

Creatrix Tiara, Staff Writer

Tiara is legit part of my legal name — it’s not technically the first word, but my Bangladeshi family doesn’t do “middle names”, we just have given names that stretch for miles and then sometimes get called a whole separate name altogether. The only people that call me by The First Word Of My Legal Name are people in official bureaucratic circumstances reading my name from my ID, which often throws me off, especially since it gets mangled a lot (even though it’s pronounced how it’s spelt!!!).

Some of you may first remember me on Autostraddle as Tiara the Merch Girl. That was because I started reading Autostraddle the same time I started my burlesque career, and that started by being the Merch Girl at the Burlesque Ball in Brisbane. I thought it was a cute name and it also made for a good mini-business — providing merch, stage management, and related services. One time I had a drag character whose name was a pun on Merch Girl: The Travelling Salesman.

I changed my burlesque/creative/pen name from Tiara the Merch Girl to Creatrix Tiara circa 2011, after a very tumultuous time where I dealt with a LOT of backlash from the Australian burlesque scene for being a rabble-rousing woman of colour speaking up about racism. I was tired of being someone’s assistant and wanted to own my power. I’m not sure where I came across the word Creatrix, possibly from someone’s Twitter bio, but I loved it — it was witchy, magical, potent. So Creatrix Tiara I was, and still am.

People call me Creatrix sometimes, which also throws me off mostly because I’d envisioned it more as a title or honorific than as a name per se. Also filling out forms that require a last name is annoying.

I’ve been mulling over changing my legal last name for years. Partly it’s so I can have some distance from the Malaysian government (whose ID I’m holding) in case they try to persecute me for being openly queer or political or just a minority in general. (Then again we just got a new government for the first time ever so who knows.) Mostly it’s because my last name is very Obviously Ethnic and trying to find jobs in this country is so damn hard without an Anglo name. I haven’t yet found a good name though. My first choice was vetoed by the person who inspired it — she said I should be proud of my own name. Another choice got taken out of the running because that inspiration turned out to be a colossal douchebag. Hayes was floated as a suggestion, but I don’t know how far I’d take my Darren Hayes fangirlness (also what if HE turns out to be a douchebag?! :O) I did consider Khan from my maternal line (and because Tiara Khan sounds BADASS) but that doesn’t solve the problem of Not Sounding So Ethnic.

I don’t feel super attached to my last name: as in Muslim tradition, it’s my father’s name, though a shortened version because again Bangladeshis and their mile-long names. I know there are problems with wanting to white-wash my name, though even Tiara is ambiguous — it’s not a very “South Asian” name and makes me stick out in South Asian circles, but neither is it particularly White. If I could (a.k.a. it wouldn’t cause massive paperwork headaches) I’d just go officially by Tiara, no last name — and really more accurate to my culture, since apparently (especially for women) last names weren’t really a THING in Bangladesh until the advent of passports.

Laura M, Staff Writer

When I was in high school, my queer BFF and our close friend group went by single letters. I was “L,” she was “K,” our friend Christine was “T” for “Tine” (or sometimes “CC” for “Crispy Christ”), and our friend Allison was “Z.” I don’t remember what Z was for.

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya, Staff Writer

This is a sidenote but also kind of relevant: I tried for so long (too long, some might say) to force a nickname upon myself in middle and high school. The worst part about this is that I did not want it to seem like I was choosing the nickname myself. I wanted to have one of those fun, organic nicknames that other people came up with for me, but that wasn’t happening, so I would kind of try to manipulate people into nicknaming me?! Like for a while I was really set on the idea of people calling me Silver so I just talked a lot on the bus about how silver was my favorite color (it wasn’t even) and how cool “Silver” would be as a name, hoping someone would take the hint. I think one poor soul did, but it still never caught on.

But the real name change I went through was when I decided to use my middle name more prominently. When I first started writing and had to a choose a name for a byline, I decided to go with Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya. I even briefly experimented with the idea of dropping my last name and just being Kayla Kumari (though admittedly, this wasn’t for the best reason…it was because Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya wouldn’t fit as a Twitter display name). A lot of my decision to use my middle name as a more prominent part of my identity has more to do with my Indianness than my queerness. I don’t necessarily dislike my first name, but it also doesn’t hold much meaning for me. My parents kind of picked it randomly (I think they saw it in a magazine?). It’s not all that dissimilar from my paternal grandmother’s name (Kamala), so I’ve sometimes wondered why they didn’t just go with that. I’ve always wanted a more identifiably Indian first name, and bring Kumari to the surface more was my way of addressing that. In any case, I’m glad no one calls me Silver.

Cee Webster, Technical Director

I’ve been going by Cee for over 20 years! My friend nicknamed me that back in 1997 because it was the first letter of my given name, Caitlyn. I hated the name Caitlyn and felt it didn’t suit me, and I loved how Cee was gender neutral. I could use it online when talking to people in forums and on IRC and folks would assume I was a guy, and would talk to me about what I was in there to talk about (usually electronic music or computer security and web programming stuff). I could stop getting hit on and be not have to prove myself and instantly be taken seriously.

This was freshman year of college, and moving to a new city meant I could start using a new name. I started introducing myself as Cee in school and to the friends I made in Boston. I really liked the name, it was easy to pronounce, unique, and most importantly didn’t have a gender associated with it to me, which felt right.

I came out as genderqueer a few years ago, when I realized this new concept was just a word that described how I always felt about my gender. I finally decided I had enough of being called my birth name at the doctor’s office or in legal documents, so I changed it legally two years ago. I thought I should find a “real” name to change my name to, with Cee being my nickname, but I am terrible at naming things including myself, so I just went with it. While I was there, I changed my middle name from Ashley to Shea, which was my Grandma’s maiden name. We were very close and I’m happy to have her name. Shea is also quite neutral as a name I think.

I used to not tell people my birth (dead) name, but the further away I am from it, the less it bothers me. Everyone in my life calls me Cee, so the old name has lost most of it’s power.

Archie, Cartoonist

Wow yikes! It took me forever, and like most things when it comes to my gender, I spent a lot of time staring at the ceiling before gathering the courage to do it. ‘Anna’ stopped feelings good in like almost every way but I also felt stuck with it. I had a lil baby art-career under that name. I also was a server and let me explain something if you’ve never worked in the service industry: It is not a great industry for trans folks! Or genderqueer folks! Shit is rough and GENDERED and then you gotta smile and pretend it’s okay because, god damn it, you want that 5 dollar tip.

I think there’s also this thing that happens when people are afraid to take up space when it comes to trying out new names (or pronouns. or sexuality. or gender.) I know that for a long time I didn’t allow myself the brain space to consider or ask for a new name. It felt like I was too demanding, too weird, or that by asking for that I’d be taking up space that wasn’t mine.

Luckily, there’s no such thing as ~scarcity~ of space when it comes to folks being their authentic and genuine selves so eventually I got the fuck over it. I was always joking about how I used to collect Archie comics as a kid and they are worth pennies now. This was long before Riverdale and Archie Comics re-vamping their brand to make it more appealing to a new audience. I had a pal call me Archie as a joke and I didn’t hate it. I told one single far-away friend, and she did what I want all of you to offer your questioning friends: to use that name with me, to test it out with me, see if I enjoyed how it played out in text and talking.

I think the transition into Archie went really slowly. I didn’t know how to make a fast n quick turn. I asked one friends at a time to stop calling me my birth name. I signed my name with both Anna and Archie. It honestly took years and now I exclusively go by Arch/Archie and I know it’s a dorky goofy nerdy name and couldn’t luv it more.

Alyssa, Comic Artist

I’ve recently started more seriously considering name changes for myself. It’s been hard for me to decide whether or not it’s the right time or if I’ll ever be comfortable enough to make that choice for myself, but I have made tiny steps toward it. Little things like shortening my name to Al or A at coffee shops, or on name tags, or signing off on emails.

When I turned eighteen I changed my last name. I grew up with the name of an abusive step father who’d raised me, and didn’t want to carry it with me as an adult. I sometimes feel conflicted about whether I’d feel lost or found were I to change my first name too, and I’m still in a place of sorting that out.

But my pals and loved ones support and validate me through everything, and I feel really confident that should I make any decision about my name I’ll be appreciated and seen entirely by them. For the moment, just knowing that feels like enough for me.

Molly Priddy, Staff Writer

A funny thing is that I rarely get nicknamed or go by different names, but it’s almost like I’m allergic to calling people their birth or given names. I’m a shortener, a nicknamer; someone is a buddy or a pal or a babe or a gem before they’re “Name” and it’s just always been that way.

I’ve gone by various iterations of my name over the years: Molly P, Priddy, Prid, Molly Michael (my middle name), MMP, Moll, Molls (which I hate), my mom has called me each of my four sisters’ names before she remembers mine.

I would like to blame my Canadian heritage for the nicknaming, because everything and everyone in Canada has a nickname.

Alexis, Staff Writer

In high school, everyone called me Jasmine so that stuck for a while. We all had like fairly ridiculous nicknames in high school but that was one of the first given and I want to ask the universe why it stuck with me for so long. Like, my sister who came to the school after me? They nicknamed her baby jazz? All-girls’ schools are strange places.

I used to hate it when people called me Lex. My family would called me Lex or Lexi when I was little and I’d say “My name is Alexis” and they’d do that thing where they look you in your face while they say the thing you asked them not to say, so I kinda got used to it. After I graduated high school and like went to therapy, I felt more comfortable with family calling me Lex because I felt like they were really seeing me. My little cousin started calling me Exi because he couldn’t pronounce Lexi yet and that’s made me a lot happier with Lex, which I go by if I like/trust you, so even though I’m saying it here please don’t call me that unless I say you can!

Also at work I have a name tag that says Jerome, partially because I wanted to see reactions to it, partially because I don’t want people talking to me and like on the one hand, people come up to me less! on the other hand, it shows that they are definitely not good about trans anything at all. Which isn’t surprising, like don’t even try to call me by my right pronouns there.

Valerie Anne, Staff Writer

When I was little I hated my name. It was different and weird and no one had ever met a Valerie before and whenever I played pretend at recess I would always change my name to Katie or Jessica. I wanted to blend in, I was desperate to be more like the other girls however I could be. I remember once when I was on vacation with my family and we went to a restaurant called “Val’s Sandwiches” and I was very excited until we found out the “Val” in question was a man. Horrified — part of my misguided attempts to tamp down my queerness involved aggressively avoiding being identified as masculine in any way — I found myself resenting the nickname.

But also being a conflict avoider by nature, I couldn’t bring myself to ask anyone to stop calling me Val. So for years, despite never introducing myself as anything other than Valerie, the nickname purvailed. If anyone asked, I would tell them I preferred Valerie, but people so rarely asked. But a few years after I came out, a realization hit me — I’m over here correcting people who assume I’m straight right and left, why can’t I take ownership of my own damn name? And so I did. I grandfathered in the people I didn’t correct for years (though I have friends now who champion this cause and don’t care if it’s my boss they’re correcting) but I’m getting a lot better at saying, “Actually, I prefer Valerie.” And it’s worked out! Turns out people don’t get mad at you for having a preference about your own name. Who knew??

Cameron, Cartoonist

I spent years casually looking at gender ambiguous names because, y’know, I wasn’t REALLY going to change my name ever — it’s just fun to play “What if?!” But you know what: it’s fucking exhausting having to respond to a name you hate all the time. You don’t have to do that! You can change your name! It’s easy! (or, it was in Ohio and I have a lot of privilege as someone who is seen as generally “not-overtly-threatening to moral society” or whatever).

I’m not saying every part of changing your name is easy. I worried what people would think if I asked them to call me something and then decided “oh no this also isn’t me, abort mission.” Like, maybe they’d think I was doing it for attention? Which I hate? The thing is, if the people in your life respect you, they’ll give you the space to figure out where you’re comfortable. It’s YOUR name. You’re the person who has deal with it every second of your life. Don’t let people make your name about them.

I tried “Cameron” out for more than three years before legally changing my name. And the process of choosing “Cameron” took months before I even implemented it (as a camper at my first ever A-Camp, a great place to feel good about scary personal decisions).

The main issue I had with my name is that it was very obviously feminine in a way I am not, so for me, I wanted something that worked for as masculine and/or feminine as I felt on any given day. I looked at a lot of baby naming sites and fell down a hole of “what does this name mean” before resurfacing and deciding that was just a distraction from making a real decision. I also fell down a hole of pet naming sites? Because people will name their pets fucking anything and I just wanted something — just anything fucking thing — that felt better for me than Carolyn.

Do I seem like a Carolyn to you? No. I don’t. Because I’m not one. So now I’m LEGALLY not one.

Eventually I gave myself loose guidelines. Because you know what? There are a lot of names out there and the sheer number of choices is overwhelming. I decided to keep the same first letter (email addresses and some usernames wouldn’t have to change) and stay within a similar range of letters and syllables (I don’t have a solid reason for why but unconsciously I think it made the transition from Carolyn to Cameron easier for everyone including me).

Will there be people who are shitty about you changing your name? Yes. Absolutely. And that will suck and it’ll be hard. It’s been three years and my mum, who reportedly loves me very much, still outright refuses to call me Cameron. So there’s plenty of tension there, but I feel good about my decision. The positives vastly outweigh the negatives. And also? Every year my mum refuses to call me Cameron, the worse she makes herself look. At this point, it’s a waiting game to see whether respecting my choices or preserving a good reputation brings her around. And I’m okay with that.

It’s everyday things that are validating: like being called by the right name off of a list in the doctor’s office, or paying with a credit card that has YOUR name on it, or applying for jobs and not having to explain that, well yes your ID says this but you’re actually called This and hoping whoever might be hiring you doesn’t grant themselves the power to veto your request based on how valid they think your explanation for changing your name is!

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  1. Of course.
    Of course I have a story for this,too.
    My mom got married five times..or was it six? So all of us ended up with different names.
    My last name used to be Wolf.
    Literally. The spelling and everything.
    And absolutely nobody knows this!
    I loved this as a kid, but in the spirit of family and belonging, I adopted my new stepfather’s name at around twelve. It’s long and a little clumsy, several syllables and all, but! it turns out that nobody else has this very German name in the entirety of Germany’s biggest metropolis.
    No one else but one other family.
    Before the age of google, I would not know this of course.
    So in the first semester of med school my classes would weirdly overlap until finally, one of our professors came up with too many people in his seminar and,puzzled, started a full roll call (we usually only got signatures for attendance that were our responsibility to keep).
    That’s how I found my “sister”. We’re four months apart, but people would still ask us continually or just simply assume.
    We were never close friends, this isn’t that kind of a story, but we were friendly enough and enjoying the situation.
    Many years later, I had switched around semesters, gone abroad and didn’t know a single soul in my current class, it was time for final exams.
    I was beside myself with nerves as I sat down in one of the pews that would house me over the next four days.
    But then I turned my head to the right, and there she was, my sister.
    For very official business we were still sorted by alphabet, and who would sit next to me but the person who shared my last name?
    I still have run ins with people who notice my name pinned to my chest, signed on a paper and then they enthusiastically ask me whether we’re related.
    They’re usually helicopter pilots and anaesthesiologists who bring and pick up patients and are happy to meet a familiar name in between the lonelinesses of the skies.
    I send greetings with them and well wishes, as one would with carrier pigeons to a family one never managed to call enough.

    • This is a great story. And both of you in the same field ! I like the spirit of connection that comes through, an acknowledgment of kinship under the surface.

  2. I love this. Names are so interesting, especially the ones we choose for ourselves.

    I wanted to change my name for as long as I could remember. The names my parents gave me were dainty and feminine, unlike me, and also super common, also unlike me. ? In a class of 16 children, 3 of us had my name. Teachers, school friends, football coaches, etc. usually called me {firstname} {initial}, to distinguish me from other girls. As a teenager there were some people who called me by my last name, and some who shortened it to “the ox”. But mostly I was just {firstname} {initial}. And I hated it.

    So, I changed it, which has been amazing! What has been less amazing is the way people I barely even know will literally go out of their way to call me {oldname} on social media. As in, they’ll tag me as {legalname}, and then call me {oldname} over and over again, as if to make a point to all my newer acquaintances that they’re actually insiders and and know “the truth”.

    • I love reading this! My first name has both qualities you listed- super common (50 girls in my class growing up and 5 of us have this name), airy and feminine. But my middle name is androgynous, solid, and seems to fit me well. I didn’t ask people to call me by my middle name till I was 22. I felt a little embarrassed to ask, like it was a lot to ask of people to make that change. But I’m so glad I did. I love my name and my first name feels so wrong.

  3. Love this! I’ve never gone by my full first name, although I like it and I’m named after my grandmother whom I adored. Because I go by a nickname, I think I’ve always felt the need to give everyone important in my life a nickname too. I spent most of high school being called by my last name (I went to an all-girls school and there were 11 Katies in my class so it was more by necessity than choice). But in a moment of inspiration I did change the spelling from Katie to Katy when I was 11. It was the most rebellious thing my little sheltered 6th grade mind could think of at the time.

    • I understand your, I have been thru the same thing but I love my name, it’s the same as my Grandmother’s. I hate that everyone thinks it’s short for Katherine though. It’s just Katie.

      • My best friend is a “just Katie” and also gets annoyed when people don’t believe her! I had every intention of going by my full name once I got to college (it’s Kathleen, so I also get the “that’s short for Katherine right?” comments too), but it just never felt right.

        I do have an “alternative” name for when annoying/creepy strangers pester me when I’m out and about. It’s Maybelline. I just stare at them with a straight face and say “yeah, my mom was just really into makeup when I was born” and then give no further explanation.

  4. The naming and shaping of ourselves, our reality has been such a recurrent theme in my mind these last couple of years…so I very much love hearing all your stories of choosing to reveal your truer selves. Of how it feels to hear the shape of you take form on someone else’s lips. Naming is power, is magic. Naming ourselves is claiming our reality, our right to be seen, to meet the world on equal terms. Names are never just casual – they are informed by culture, by history, by a million stories that have been, and that we continue to tell; we are drawing those stories out of our bodies, our beings every time we speak our names. Your reality is powerful, you build it every day.

    My name here, snaelle, is a version of my everyday name, Gaëlle. I’ve used it since last millennium and it represents my self written into reality…it feels more accurate to that part of me that plays with thoughts on paper or onscreen. I love my verbal name, but don’t care much for the anglicized pronunciation… I would say that snaelle/gaëlle is the fullest version of me.

  5. I find your journeys to discover your true name fascinating and empowering.

    I’m lucky in that I feel like the name assigned to me at birth (Adèle) is perfectly matched to me. But I know that’s rare indeed.

  6. Around the time that I was jettisoning my given name and picking a new, lady-type name, my Kid and I happened to be working our way through the early seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I had wanted to pick a name that had the same first letter as my deadname. Under the circumstances, Willow was a nearly unavoidable choice.

    (Funny story: right around the same time, my Kid was working up to coming out as trans, and also was picking a new name. I’m not sure how he got there, but the name he landed on was Alexander. So now he’s Xander at home and Al among friends. Yes, we are a Willow/Xander household.)

  7. I am in a weird position currently with my name. My legal first name is “too ethnic” for a lot of Anglo folks to pronounce (it’s a traditional Spanish name, but there’s a more popular English pronunciation of the same spelling) so I have been given a lot of nicknames over my life. Most of them were more masculine/gender-neutral, which I loved, but they were all English names. Eventually I stopped letting Anglos give me nicknames and made them learn how my name was pronounced. I know that my legal (feminine) name doesn’t fit with my more masculine gender, but I keep holding on to it because I guess it would feel like giving up if I went with something English… and yet I can’t seem to find a Spanish name that feels like me / is masculine or gender-neutral / starts with the right letter / isn’t already taken by a male relative. I guess it wouldn’t have to be the same letter but I’m kind of attached to that. IDK!!!

  8. I am a coward, so I deliberately chose a name that could be feminine if it needed to be. I liked M names (don’t want to say my deadname but M is a strong feature in it) and it took a while of playing around with shortened versions of M names that would work for me until I settled on Max. Legally, I’m Maxine, so I can dive back into the safety of the closet if needs be, (e.g. I do not particularly want to be out at work/to my landlord until being nonbinary is significantly more normalised, even if it means getting misgendered. Like I said, coward).

    I wanted to change my middle name, but my parents, who are struggling with the whole thing, asked me to keep it.

    One of my old housemates called me Maximillian sometimes, which made me really happy. Even people who don’t know calling me Maxine makes me happy, because it’s something I chose for myself, even if it isn’t quite the right gender.

    Names are weird.

    • Maybe you’re not a coward. Maybe you’re realistically estimating how many and which fights/risks you have the resources to deal with right now. Maybe you’re taking care of your future self, who deserves to be taken care of, by keeping that safer option available. Maybe you deserve some compassion. ;)

      • I agree!! I shorten my legal name because it’s easier to tolerate that way since it doesn’t sound as vaginacentric and I cannot change it yet because I’m not living in the country I’m technically a citizen of. The caveat is people have said it’s hard to get a job if your name is one that people find hard to pronounce and put in a Male/Female box.

        Since this is something people are making a problem of and all my legal papers say what they do, even when volunteering, I started using short legal name so that potential employers won’t get confused reactions from the people they talk to about if they liked my work ethic or whatever if they call them.

  9. This feels so serendipitous! I just finally had the name conversation with my mom and she agreed to call me my chosen name—which is a variant of the name she gave me—instead of the nickname she’s called me my whole life, which always felt childish to me.

    Being called by my name feels like I can breathe again.

  10. My first name has a religious meaning, and my middle name is one that several generations of women in our family have had as their first or middle name. Both names were given to me out of love. I’m sort of neutral about my full first name – I am atheist now, though certainly my parents’/my childhood religion shaped me in a lot of ways good and way-less-good, so I don’t really like the meaning, but it at least sounds like a name a competent adult might have. But I got called a shortened version of it the whole time I was growing up, and I hated that particular shortening because it always sounded like a whiny little girl’s name to me, and I did not want to be seen as whiny, or little, or feminine. I never told anyone I hated it, because a) I already had tried objecting to another nickname and that made no difference, it still got used, sometimes even more so and b) I didn’t want to make my parents feel rejected or distanced by insisting on a more formal name.

    I kept hoping that at various transition points (college, master’s, first job) I could make the switch to the more formal version, but there were always people who knew me by the old version, and I certainly couldn’t offend them by revoking their permission to use a familiar form, could I? Or offend new acquaintances by letting them know that while _these_ people over here were allowed to call me by the short form, they the new acquaintance were not that special.

    Ten years ago when my husband and I moved halfway across the country for my PhD, I finally started introducing myself by the full form, so almost everyone here calls me that. My husband tries to remember to use it in conversation with others here and he mostly does. It’s still not a name I love, but it’s a big step up from the version I hated – I didn’t realize how much until it struck me how much it grates when I visit my family and they call me the old name. So clearly I need to do something about that, but I haven’t said anything to them yet because I am deciding whether the battle is worth fighting for a name I am only so-so about or would it be better to wait until I find something I really like? Don’t really want to deal with it more than once with them.

    I really like my middle name, both for its own sake and because I shared it with my grandmother whom I loved very much, but I already gave it to my daughter. My other favorite female name has also already been used within our close relatives. There’s a gender-neutral variant of it that I like and one night I imagined being known by that name and wow I got the feels. Like something filling up that I didn’t know was empty. Of course there’s a catch: it’s my husband’s middle name. I’m sure he wouldn’t try to pull any “it’s mine and you can’t have it” crap but I haven’t decided where to go from here.

    My last name is perfect: my husband and I both hyphenated with both our family names. It meant a lot to both of us to continue honoring our birth families, to also honor our new relatives, and to have something that was built from each of our histories to make something new going forward. We hesitated a little because we wanted any kids to have our same name, but what are they supposed to do when/if they marry, triple-hyphenate? But we decided it would be good for the kid(s) to share our name and feel linked to us as kids and what they do with it when they grow up is their choice. It’s worked out fine, our kiddo loves her last name. (And her first name, though sometimes she wants to go by her middle name. Also fine.)

    OK this is super long so thank you for reading this far! And thank you Autostraddle team for coming up with this topic, I clearly have lots of feelings about it. It has been very comforting to read everyone’s comments about their own name processing. (@Abeni, I love your name’s story/meaning and that you found one you loved.)

    • It’s so easy to underestimate how you’ll feel about hearing your old name.

      I decided from the beginning that I wasn’t going to fight that battle with my family at all. I thought that would be fine, but it has been pretty invalidating. And then my nephew sent me a text message calling me “Aunt Faustine” completely unprompted (his parents have definitely never called me that) and I just started crying.

  11. Ooo I love a good name discussion. My full name is Gillian (pronounced like Jillian), but I go by Gill (pronounced like Jill). People tend to introduce me as “Gill…with a G”. I’ve been going by Gill for a long long time and I have yet to take on my full name. It feels too heavy and adult (though I am now technically an adult at 24) and heavy. I will admit it’s a pretty name and I like how my entire name, first, middle, and last, sounds, but I’m not ready for it quite yet. I like the short and sweet and simpleness of Gill.
    As for my last name, it’s my dad’s and I hate being tied to him, but it also connects me to my sister who I love dearly and my nephew and my soon to be born niece, so I hesitate to give it up one day. How do you keep a name that both hurts you because it came from a man who doesn’t talk to you but bridges 3000 miles to other people you love so dearly?

    • If he’s choosing not to talk to you, then he’s choosing to let your connection wither and to no longer contribute anything loving to the meaning of your life. That sucks, but it also means he’s giving up contributing to what your name means. Sounds like you have three people contributing love and connectedness to your name’s meaning. Maybe focusing on that part will help? 3 > 1 and love > disconnection any day.

      I hope he realizes what he’s missing.

    • Funny you mention Gill, because that was the last name that got vetoed by my best friend (whose last name was also Gill)!!!

  12. I love this.

    My given name is a name that my mom heard as a child and always loved. I feel connected to the name in that way. But when people say my name it never sounds like it’s really me- like it’s my marker or something I answer to.

    I just realized that I’ve had a sort of unisex name rolling around in my head since junior high. Like, literally just realized that it’s actual kinda a genderqueer thing. Although the name has become kind of trendy so I might just sound like someone 20 years younger than I am! Not actually what I’m going for.

  13. Hell yeah! I love this roundtable. I’ve gone by Bex since high school, and I’m planning to change my name legally soon. I’m just really sick of people saying, “Oh, what an INTERESTING name. What’s it short for?” Since I work in the service industry and have to be nice, I usually say, “It’s short for what you probably think it’s short for, but I don’t feel any affinity towards my legal name.” But more and more lately, people take that as an invitation to guess, so I think I’ll be happier when I can just say, “It’s not short for anything!”

  14. I just wanted to say how cute “Al & Archie” sounds (not that “Alyssa & Archie” doesn’t! I’m just very about that alliteration).

  15. I didn’t know how much I needed this roundtable until I started crying in my office at work, so thanks y’all!

    These days I go by Alex, a shortened version of my last name (Alexander) and I’m constantly annoyed that it confuses people because dudes go by their last names ALL. THE. GODDAMN. TIME. and no one is confused. But when I tell people I go by Alex they say, “wait.. you’re Alex Alexander?” ARGGGGGGGG.

    So of course the solution would be to change my last name too, which I have no attachment to as a last name whatsoever. I even know exactly what I’d pick — a family name that has only good feels attached to it. But changing my whole name seems overly complicated for everyone around me, and also like drawing a line in the sand with my family somehow? Rejecting not just my first name but the whole friggin thing. Which feels good but also complicated.

    It also feels complicated because I don’t feel like I have a “good enough” reason to change my name. I’m comfortably cis, it’s not about gender identity, I just have never felt connected to my birth name. But I’m not always sure I feel connected to Alex either? It feels more like me than my birth name ever did, and the people who know me best all agree that Alex fits me, but sometimes I wonder if any name will feel like it’s an actual part of me or if I will always feel outside myself somehow?

    Maybe I just need time. And I’m still going by my birth name in some scenarios like work (because I got tired of explaining it) so maybe I just struggle with the in between.

    In the meantime, it’s really helpful to know that I’m not alone.

    • You don’t need “a good enough reason”, being uncomfortable is more than enough!

      I too felt I needed “a good enough reason”. When I moved to Scotland straight out of high school, I felt like I couldn’t change my name because my given name sounded super-British and helped me integrate.

      Then I moved back to my birth country and I didn’t have a good excuse or clean slate anymore, and then I felt like I could never change it because my partner always called me that, all lovingly, and it felt like rejecting my name would be like rejecting all those sweet nothings.

      And then I changed my name, 14 years later, because I was really fed up and I finally had a (weak) excuse to tell my parents (immigration, looks less foreign on paper). But I didn’t change it enough, because I didn’t feel like I had enough of an excuse to drop my names and add more than one I chose myself, so after all that waiting, I still had to change it a second time to feel fully comfortable. Just because “I really want this” was never a legitimate reason in my head.

      (That said, it’s probably a good thing 18 year old me didn’t choose my name)

      • It’s that thing of I would tell anyone else to just do it because you don’t need a reason, but *I’m* not whatever enough to be able to do it for no reason which, I know, I KNOW. I have a therapist and I’m working on it.
        Life is rough.

        I’m glad you changed your name and felt awesome about it! This thread is definitely prompting me to seriously consider it again.

    • Yeah, the refusing to call a female bodied person by their last name on account of being in a female body seems to be a common occurrence. Everyone seems more concerned over their discomfort at calling one a name they asked to be called by than they are about the discomfort of the one asking to be called something else. Those people can’t relate to the experience of how their legal name makes them want to vomit. *Voice [uh, text] of Experience*

    • This roundtable and also this comment specifically really got to me because something I’ve been thinking about for a long time is my own discomfort with my given name — BUT I am also a very comfortably, very solidly cis person, and the name thing isn’t connected to gender for me. So, where to put it? How to locate those feelings? Thanks for articulating this.

      • I’m solidly cis, and a weird combination of tomboy and socially awkward that always wanted a nickname but my friendships were never the kind that doled out nicknames. I always hated my first name. It is really common and felt too airy and pretty to me, and it felt like it held the weight of all of my parent’s obnoxious 80s tennis playing, prep school, blond (my mom used to bleach my hair when I was a kid) dreams.

        When I started asking people to call me by a different name, most of the time I justified it as a purely practical choice based on the popularity of the name. Sometimes I pointed out how the new, more androgynous and blunt sounding name helped me introduce myself in the male-dominated field where I worked- my first name felt so flowery and airy when I shook someone’s hand.

        It took years and years to get comfortable with the idea that it was just a better name for me, and there is seriously no other reason I had to give for changing it.

      • There are various reasons for my feelings towards it but here’s the thing: aside from how I feel a name is just a word used so that people know when you have something to say to them, my legal one seems so common, people would call out and I would turn to find that I WAS NOT the person they wanted to talk to. Additionally, my parents had no idea what to call me so they were still looking for names up until when my mom went into labor. They decided to name me after an actress and while the actress is great, knowing this makes me feel it isn’t really mine. Couple this with all those people who have it and other factors, I just can’t relate to it at all.

        The only thing that is convenient about it is it can be shortened without people questioning it but the full name remains in the back of their minds so they inevitably say that extra syllable for whatever reason.

        • My first name is super common too! I feel like that is part of my discomfort. There were at least 4 of us in every classroom I ever sat in and every time someone says it I feel like they’re talking to someone else because 70% of the time they were.

          Also my parents never call(ed) me by my first name? There’s no diminutive version so they called me by a diminutive of my middle name, so literally no one consistently called my by my legal first name ever in my life.

        • So I have a daughter and am going to have another kid any day now, unknown gender. Part of the naming process for both, for me at least, was that the first name would allow for a wide range of nicknames. That way they can customize and hopefully appreciate their given names. Who knows how things will shape up years from now, and if they will he asked to be called something different. But for now I’m really hoping the possibilities the nicknames offer help.

          I’m past my due date for the baby and we have a handful of possible names so hopefully we see the kid and choose the right one.

  16. This forum is great for anyone thinking of changing their name. The experiences AS writers and commenters shared here really rang true for my name change adventure, too.

    I always hated my given names, and tried out a bunch of more gender-neutral names in my middle school journal, but hoped I would grow out of it or stop caring. Nope!

    So, a few years ago, I tried out various different names in various different social media situations, then finally posted a big Facebook post that everybody should call me Rey, and send emails to my current employers / co-workers etc. Man that felt great! Not as good as finally cutting off all my hair, but it sure does feel great! The downside is that like, two weeks after I announced it, they announced Rey as the name of the starwars character, so everyone assumed I named myself after her, instead of me just having a non-descript masculine name that I wanted. *facepalm* Whatever, man. I’m keeping my claim on Rey.

    I will change it legally as soon as I get a job and have some spare dollars to do so. My middle and last names also remind me of terrible family, but in a weird way, keeping those names gives me power over them: like in Harry Potter, I may have Slytherins in my family line, but I can choose to be a force for good in my own life. Also, both of their family names die with me bwahahahahah bite it, suckerrrrs.

  17. First time poster! I’ve been called Katie since before I could talk, and always preferred it to Katherine, but in college I started going by Taylor. First year, I did an icebreaker with the girls on my hall where we had to pick an alternate name for ourselves and explain why. I liked Taylor because it was less common than Katie and also gender-neutral. I admitted that I’d always been a tomboy and wanted a name that was less girly. Two other girls also chose the name Taylor! Wow, the fact that I remember so much about that probably-15-minutes-of-my-life makes me realize how significant of a moment it was.

    It didn’t stick at the time, but it did after a night of partying two years later. At a hangover brunch, telling the Panera cashier “Taylor” sealed the deal.

    Somewhat like Riese, people from one sphere of my life exclusively call me Katie while others call me Taylor, but Taylor isn’t part of my legal name at all. Some people are inexplicably upset when they find this out!

  18. I could read about this forever! The concept of names feels so fraught in so many ways – it’s wild that although these signifiers are so necessary for a whole range of practical purposes, there are so many ways to fuck them up and make people feel like shit in the process!

    “My whole life, Marie just felt so much more feminine than I ever felt or seemed to be (I was often chastised in various ways for not being adequately feminine).” – Riese, yes! My birth name is extremely feminine as well, to the point that people comment on how “pretty” it is upon hearing it for the first time. I get that they’re trying to give me a compliment, but… so uncomfortable.

    Tiara, re: the “she said I should be proud of my own name” part of your write-up, I’ve had the same conversation! It kind of made me feel like shit because I have a very distinctly ethnic surname and I hate feeling obligated to jump through hoops whenever I have to deal with someone who doesn’t know how to handle it – which is almost everyone I encounter. Like, I’m not ashamed of it, nor of my heritage, I just don’t want to have to put time and energy into coaxing random people through how to pronounce it and spell it and then answering questions about where it’s from and which parent I got it from every time I’m at, like… the doctor’s office or something. Special shout-out to the co-worker who asked me to pronounce my surname on a call with a client, and then laughed at me when I did.

    Cee, this spoke to me: “I hated the name Caitlyn and felt it didn’t suit me, and I loved how Cee was gender neutral.” I’ve been going by a gender-neutral abbreviation of my birth name lately, and although it feels more comfortable than my supremely feminine full name, it’s still close enough to the name I’ve been called for 30 years and am thus pretty used to.

    Does anyone else have a “Starbucks name” they give at establishments that only ask for names for the purpose of a brief, one-off interaction, like letting you know when your order is ready? Rather than going through the process of spelling and pronouncing my birth name only to have the person at the register misspell it and the person calling out the names to mispronounce it anyway, I chose a Starbucks pseudonym a few years ago, and it’s worked out well! It’s the name of one of my favorite actors, so my ears naturally perk up when I hear it :)

    • A Starbucks name ! Brilliant.

      When you add lousy handwriting to the mix, the result can by out of this world hilarious.

      My coworker Kathleen and I still bust up laughing at what happened to her name at a Starbucks once.

      It became her superhero name : Karthalgon

    • yes, i always tell starbucks that my name is “alex”! sometimes i have used the name of whoever my girlfriend is at the time, but alex is my default. because both ‘marie’ and ‘riese” are very confusing spoken out loud in a normal room, i end up getting like.. Alice! Mary! Grace! It’s so weird. “Marie” i have to repeat several times.

      but now the mobile app has changed everything.

  19. My legal name is pretty neutral, but at the same time, I thought about changing it to something less neutral and to a ladies name. For a hot moment, I was going with Alice because it was at the time the only character on the show I had met(she was parking her car I was on a bike and contemplated should I say hi, which I didn’t). But, it never stuck with me so I just shortened my name to Al, something some have called me for years and again because of Alice was also shortened to Al. I use to not be sure why I wasn’t using my name; but, now that a lot of people in the lbtq community are also going by Al I’ve found a reason to stick with it. It’s hard to come up with a name that one resonates with.


    What is Beth the shortened name for?! I thought it is its own thing!

    • I think it’s a full name for some people, but it’s also short for Elizabeth and Bethany.

      • Oh, I hadn’t considered that. I thought people stuck with “Eliza” or “Liz”. I also forgot the name “Bethany” exists.

    • Many short forms, and diminutives of names in English are very much their own names now. Other languages have a bunch of rules and stuff that make that not completely possible. English is horrifying mutant of language that continues to just do its own thang all over the place and I love it.

      • I don’t know, it seems English is something many like to think of as a language but takes a lot of words from others. ? Maybe what sets it apart is how dynamic it can be and that the speech isn’t gendered as with many other languages?

        • I also refer to English as a Frankenstein’s monster of language because that is true.
          Multiple invasions and settlings by peoples with non-celtic languages and then once it was “settled” as Modern English tons of borrow words getting added in all willy nilly.

          For example Romance languages you can’t just say Maria’s backpack, you have to say the backpack of Maria. The structure is like Shakespearean English diction at times and one has to know the gender of a definite article or inanimate object.

          So many rules compared to English, but that’s also a downside of English. The comparative lack of rules makes it hard to learn and use even for people who grow up speaking it.
          Something is certain way “just cause” is harder to understand and retain than something with clear and explainable rules as to why something is a certain way.

          French I know I’m supposed to ignore the syllables at the end and in Spanish H is always silent, stress the sound of this or that accent mark but English ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ and it’s the only language I’m fluent in.
          General consensus in a given region or group is the only thing that decides how something is “actually” pronounced in English and why the abomination of saying PEE-can instead of the less urological sounding pah-cawn.

          May as well have been together by grave-robbing medical school drop out. xD

  21. i really don’t like my current name, it feels far too feminine for me. Most people i know well including my mum have dropped the first letter of my name and call me Manda, but i still don’t really like it, and have been thinking for a while about changing my name to something more gender-neutral (my heart is currently set on Sam) but i don’t know that i could do that to my mum, my name is one of the first things she ever gave me, and i don’t know that i could just get rid of that even though i’m super uncomfortable with my name

  22. The meaning of names is um a hobby if not obsession of mine and I’m containing my excitement as best I can so bear with me. Gunna limit myself to one name etymology.
    I have cousins(plural) on the Sicilian side named Marie and also there’s Marie Romano so I do see how Marie just is in an American mind an odd name for a Jewish gal but the same time it’s descendant from Miryam(sister of Moses VIP jewish figure) and uh Riese itself is also Jewish sometimes found as an Ashkenazic German surname, variant of Reiss and just a gentile German surname from nickname for a super big tall person.

    My legal name is Alexandra and child me did not have the whatever to write all that plus I liked the way Alex cut off my tongue but still at doctor’s offices’ I defended my name because there’s not “i” in that. Alexandria was not my name.
    It was part a child’s pedanticness and defensive reflex from people insisting a “such a pretty girl could possibly be an Alex, that’s a boy’s/not pretty enough a name. Surely you meant Alice or maybe Alexis sweetheart.” Adults were like that but kid that took issue with it was purely a gendered thing and yet another thing to pick on me for like the oversized vocabulary, interest in Pre-Colombian Meso-America, and in Special Ed was enough ammo.

    I think I got told to get in the boy’s line once if I was going to have a boy’s name, but I got “That’s a boy’s name. Are you a boy?” multiply times (adult NB me wishes to answer Bitch, I might be) and some little pissant pipping up with suggesting they should check my pants to be sure. Don’t worry nobody ever did my rep for allowing people to punch me so I could grab their arm and twist it till they cried for mercy was enough of deterrent for kids to try putting their hands on me.

    In college I wrote my name as Alex one a bunch of things and someone going thru my paperwork realised I hadn’t registered for Selective Service(aka the mandatory military draft roll for AMAB people 18-26) and pull a hold on my ability to register for Spring classes after I had already taken Fall term. I gathered up my cash fully prepared to take my AFAB as down to the doctor for a note or something because of stuff I read, but I called to ask what I needed prove I was invalid for Selective Service and my voice was enough to clear it up.
    Felt relived but also a bit guilty because at 19/20 I was aware how much of struggle some people have in regard to names, gender, sex and paperwork

    Alexandra is a feminine variant of the latinized form of Alexandros, the first element is “alexo” and it mean to defend. I don’t believe-believe in the power of names or astrology setting someone’s fate but when something pushes at me or pushes at someone who can’t push back or needs help it makes something in me roar to life and refuse to back down even when that would the wiser, saner thing for me to do so. A friend of my mind told me she can’t decide between “The Trooper” or “The Reaper” as the song that best fits me because I “seem chill in fearless kinda way but when it come down to it you’re like movie monster double tap to be sure or else”

    Lastly I was Baby Girl[Lastname] for nearly a month, that’s right my parent didn’t have a name for me that long and didn’t baptise me until I was nearly 2 years old. Who’s ever around when “die” better cremate me I might come back hungry or something. :P

    • My middle name is Alexandra and I know alllll about what my first name means but somehow never thought to look that up? “TO DEFEND”!!!! Ahh I love it.

      • Oh boy I feel bad now for forgetting to mention the second half of Alexandros but I was rushing on my phone and about to be harried by a small child to swordfight so accept my apology.

        Alexandros is two elements

        First it is like I said “alexo” to defend and that is why I will always prefer to be called Alex in meatspace but…Second is “aner” man but when you think about it the Ancient Greeks referred to human beings as man so you could take it as Defender of Humanity.

  23. I said I was gunna do just one but I can’t stop myself because Archie.
    Archie is diminutive of Archibald which is one of those fun Norman name with an ancestor that looks the name of someone in a saga. Kay so the element of this name are “ercan” genuine and “bald” bold.

    Archie you’re genuine and bold ?

  24. I love how everyone is so supportive, “change your name! Do it for yourself! It’s awesome!” and yet everyone is also acknowledging how Transgressive it could feel, or worried about hurting their family’s Feelings to change their own name.

    Haha name change really feels different depending on whether it’s your name u wanna change, or be supportive of someone else’s change.


    i’m okay with saying, “my given name is x”, and I’m ok with being called nicknames that were given to me by loved ones based on that name, and i don’t mind when my grandma calls me that name

    but when people say it, even when it isn’t in relation to me, i freeze, and i feel weird saying it just in general?? like if another person has that name, “this is x”, i get a little rise of fear in my chest, and have to swallow hard, and it’s weird

    it’s really weird

    • also everyone calls me Mickey or Mick, and i introduce myself that way, but it’s a nickname for Michael, which i feel good about most days but which also sometimes i feel Not Good about, bc what if when i change it For Real someone calls me MIKE??

      awful, just god awful.

      also middle names are hard

      i wish i had the guts to just go thru with the legal name change bc i keep waffling

      “what if i keep my first name & make Michael my middle name??”

      “what if my middle name is Francis after my favorite saint”

      and on and on and on


        I’m absolutely bothered if and when I become attracted to someone with my legal one. I mean….. aside from not liking it for me, the thought of screaming that name is kind of terrifying and disconcerting.

  26. I hate the name Emily (at least for me). It’s too soft for someone who looks like they could really take a hit (as I do), it has too many syllables for the number of letters, and most people eventually shorten it anyway. It’s a dumb name. So when I recently moved to a new city/state, I just started introducing myself as “Em.” This is a very small change in comparison, but I do feel much more like myself now. It’s kind of amazing how a name can do that.

  27. If Cee wrote a memoir about their life on the coast they could call it “See Cee Shea Sashay by the Seashore”.

  28. My first name is Daniella, which I have never gone by, my parents never even intended to use it so no one ever has. I always resented them not just going with Ella but I think my dad didn’t want it as my legal name because of its meaning in Spanish.

    Growing up latinx in Australia I’ve ever felt Uruguayan enough,or Latin enough. like I don’t have a claim over my identity and a part of that is because of my name “Ella”. My last name is a pretty rare Spanish name and people here cannot spell or pronounce it. Names have power and I know in a way I’m lucky to have an Anglo first name because it does make it easier to move through white society. It’s complicated, I wish it wasn’t.

  29. I’ve never ever really liked my name… it always felt way too feminine to me, even as a small child. I used to give serious thought to what my “boy name” would be if I were ever magically turned into a boy… oops hah. Now I have my A-Camp name, which I really like, but I’m too self-conscious to change it in the rest of my life :/ Maybe someday!

  30. I’m so glad you all did this topic! Very relevant to my life right now!

    I just recently stopped using my given name and started using my initials instead a couple weeks before Mother’s day. I remember because my Mom had kind of a delayed reaction/realization that I was serious about not using my given name anymore and started to cry and get dramatic about it while we were together on Mother’s day.

    It was great to go to A-camp and use my newly chosen name and try out the they/them pronouns. I definitely like going by my initials instead of my legal first name and the pronouns fit just great. IRL, I’ve changed my name everywhere I could to JC, but not legally (considering it) and I haven’t changed my pronouns officially. Based on how much trouble my extended family had with my name change at a recent family reunion, I’m choosing my battles right now.

    For now, I’m going with the nickname angle – no one in my immediate family uses nicknames, so it’s kind of new territory for them – and let everyone know that I would prefer to be called JC, but if they call me Joanna out of habit it’s okay. I’ve never really felt my given name fit because it’s such a feminine name and that’s not me. I always picture some tall, slender, sophisticated woman in a silk blouse holding a glass of wine in a Lifetime movie, as a Joanna.

    A lot of people have asked, why not just use Jo? I tried that out a bit, but since I’m non-femme presenting, most people then assume I’m a guy, which isn’t what I want. Also, my Dad called me Jo and JoJo so that makes me think of being a kid. I had been called JC at a previous job because they had a habit of calling people by their initials. I liked it then and when I got serious about choosing a different name, I realized that JC should be it!

    Something I realized lately about JC is that when you say it, you end up smiling! Like saying “cheese” for a photo. Also, ever since I’ve made the change, I’ve been seeing and hearing “JC” everywhere when I’d never seen it before once in my life! That says to me that the world agrees that I made the right decision.

  31. oh wow this is great timing for me! i’ve been thinking about trying out going by lex, which is a nickname family and a couple other people use for me, though i’m not sure if that’s what i’d want to switch to long term.

    i don’t like my last name at all, or the extended family associated with it, and since i was a kid have wanted to change my last name if i ever publish a book or whatever. i feel like i don’t want to change my first name without also changing my last name, but i also feel like i need ~~~~a good reason~~~~ like getting published to change my last name because it’s going to cause drama and whatever.

    so i feel like if i start going by lex and actively telling people i go by that, but legally keep my first name, then i don’t have to worry about making any decisions with my last name. i don’t know why there’s such a mental barrier for me regarding asking to be called by a nickname but realizing i could do that felt like this big revelation.

    anyway, i still haven’t actually asked people to start calling me that because it feels like a really big first step onto a path that i know i want but am scared to deal with the realities of. but if i have a good chunk of the people in my life using they/them pronouns for me now i don’t see why i can’t also ask them to call me by my nickname at least some of the time! maybe i’ve talked myself into it.

    • Stephen King chose to publish the first books he wrote as Richard Bachman and I believe he did it because the name Stephen King is associated with horror books and that’s not actually what his first few books were about. I think he also wasn’t sure about the quality of his writing in those and he didn’t want his name to be tanked by writing people might not have considered up to par with what he was known for. People only ever found out because someone discovered “Stephen King” in the copyright part of one of the books.

      Also, remember that throughout Sad History, women would give themselves names considered man names because they would not have been published otherwise.

  32. man i love this topic so much and actually missed it on monday and was ironically linked to it thru my baby name news roundup, so take that as you will

    i love, love, love my given name for its connection to family (first name after my dad’s sister, middle after my mom’s sister) but at the same time have occasionally struggled with a weird disconnect to the name caitlin. my family calls me cait and caity occasionally, but with so many other caits and caitys around i never wanted to request that change. i don’t have any good alternatives to offer, so i’ve never really bothered

    that being said, earning nicknames is the fuckin best. my siblings called me k-k when they were small and caitlin was too much of a mouthful, and my college friend group called everyone by their full names as a matter of greeting (caitlin c—-! come sit down!) which made me feel like a superhero. my last name is italian, with a rolled r and unintuitive pronunciation, and growing up in Texas it was read as hispanic, which was confusing for everyone when my white ass showed up. but the alliteration of my first and last names is just spot on and again, superhero-esque!

  33. Late to the party on this one, but:

    The story of how I got my name is a long and involved one. For reasons of family history, my given first name was Thomson, but I usually went by my middle name, Mason (I occasionally tried switching to Thomson as a kid in an effort to reinvent myself, but would inevitably switch back to Mason without realizing it). However, I also had assumed that, if I had a female alter ego, her name would’ve been Melanine (the fact that I had picked a name for girl!me should’ve probably been a hint that I was trans).

    Years later, once I actually *realized* I was trans, I first thought about going by Megan, except my then-fiancee-now-wife and I both know too many people named Megan (including her best friend from high school and one of my ex’s). Thinking about it further, I actually decided I wanted to keep Mason as part of my name (I liked the family history behind it), and just decided I’d change my first name instead. I wanted to keep the initials the same (partially because then I wouldn’t have to update my C.V. :-P ), and spent some time on babyname websites, trying to find a good one. It was on such a website that I stumbled upon Tess, which clicked immediately- it’s a pretty name, not super common (and not one used by any of my friends at the time), but not unusually rare, either. However, my fiancee had recently had an unpleasant experience with a person named Tess, and therefore requested Tessa instead (which actually sounded better with my last name than Tess, anyway).

    For my legal name, I wanted to keep it relatively close to my given name- fortunately, I discovered that Tessa was originally a shortened version Teresa. I decided to make that my legal name, except I spelled it with an H, Theresa (I liked the parallels between that and Thomson).

    Nowadays, I happily respond to Theresa, Tessa, or Tess (oh, and also Nyx, which is a reference to my burlesque stage name, Nyx Mons Venus- but that’s a whole other story…)

    • I’m a habitual late person so my late compatriot I have party favour for ya.

      The oldest form of Theresa ever found is the Late Roman Therasia, the meaning of the name is not 100% clear. There are 2 contenders for the possible meaning and a Greek island(the 2nd largest island of Santorini). First we got “theros” which means summer and the other is “therizo” to harvest both are kinda cool. Summer as meaning usually is intended to give a name positive vibes cause it’s when the sun is out and food is plenty. Harvesting is a type of transition when one thinks about it, one that takes thought and planning no made how fancy agricultural-tech gets.

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