Finding Your Name Revisited
Our first post ever was on how to find your name. Since then I’ve thought of some things to add, so here is a new and improved version:
Most transguys go through the experience of choosing their own male name. This can be a difficult process, as you’re making a decision that will stick with you for the rest of your life. Tread carefully, as your name is often an integral part to shaping the first impression you send to other people. There are three major approaches most guys take in choosing a name: using the name your parents would’ve chosen for you had you been born male, choosing the masculinized version of your original name (i.e. Michael from Michelle), or choosing a unique name you feel best represents you and your identity.
Using the name your parents picked out for you at birth ensures that you’re using a name that is appropriate to your birth year and is a good way to acknowledge your parents during your transition. This is a particularly good choice if your parents are supportive of you as it includes them in your process. This honors your parents original choice and may make them a little more likely to use your chosen name.
The masculinized version of your name also respects the name choice your parents made because it sticks with the overall theme that they envisioned. These are also easier for your family and friends to get used to, as they often sound similar to what they are used to calling you. This also is a good idea if you want to keep your initials, which can be helpful if you have a student email address that utilizes your initials.
Choosing an original name is good for people who want to experience a symbolic break from their previous identity or to represent their rebirth through their transition. It is very popular for people to use gender neutral names like Alex or Dylan. People also often will utilize “fashionable” names that are popular right now (Jayden, Xander, etc) or names with unusual spellings (“Zander”, “Aydan”, etc). The only thing to watch for here is that when you choose a name with an unusual spelling, be prepared to constantly have to correct people’s spellings, inform people how to pronounce it, etc. This may or may not be a problem, but keep in mind these are issues you may have (this coming from someone who had a unique, unusually spelled birth name).
We settled on some basic guidelines for choosing a name, regardless of what approach you take:
1. Think about using your name in various situations: applying for a job, placing it after various titles (Dr. Mason Smith, Mr. Riley Kaplan, etc), using it as an old man or a father, etc, etc
2. Think about what names were popular the year you were born. This may or may not be something that is important to you, but having a name that corresponds with your age may help you fit in (if that’s your goal). Here’s a website that lists popular names for different years and calculates the changing popularity of different names: http://www.ssa.gov/oact/babynames/
3. Keep in mind that you can use whatever nickname you’d like with whatever spelling, but that your legal name is what employers and colleges will see. It can be useful to have a more mainstream, “professional” version of your name to use in those types of situations (for example, having your legal name be Alexander but going by Xander). You may also find it helpful early on in your transition to have a more gender-neutral nickname for various reasons.
4. If your parents, friends, and/or family are supportive of your transition, it may be nice to include them in this important process. Remember that your parents likely agonized over what to name you, and they may feel a little offended that you are casting off something they put so much thought into. It’s always nice to make supportive friends and family feel included, especially since they may feel a huge lack of control during your transition.
5. Choose a name that has a special meaning to you. You may want to pay respect to your cultural or ethnic background when choosing your name. Sites like Behind the Name provide lists of names by origin as well as information about the meanings of names. Or you might want to choose a name that has a unique meaning that speaks to you (for example, Zachary means “God remembered”).