Friday, December 19, 2008


What's in a name?
To many of us trans* people, names are important. Unlike most cis* people, we have to choose our names because the names we were given (forced on us?) are not suitable. Very rarely do our parents give us a name we can keep; so that when we tell someone our legal name we are either misgendered or outed immediately.

It seems like there is always a post about names in the general trans* forums I read; recently, there is one asking for names that do not easily get “misheard” and transformed from masculine to feminine.
Many transition guides and trans* resources have posts with tips on choosing names. All sorts of advice is given; don't choose names that are currently trendy (Aiden/Ayden/etc), ask your parents to help, find meanings you like...

Names have power.
I've read a lot of fantasy where magic can be performed by knowing a person or object's true name; where people or demons can be controlled or destroyed by those with their true name.
Here, names have the power to out, to get you extra “random security checks”, to color peoples' gendered perceptions of you, etc.

I'll be changing my name later this week.
To Kristopher [current middle name]-Rivera [lastname].
I didn't exactly choose Kristopher; my friends sometimes called me Ristopher after I started going by my nickname Riss. I'm not Christian, but I liked the name and I felt like Kristopher...suited me somehow. Even friendly acquaintances who didn't know I was questioning said that Kristopher suited me.
Both of my grandmas have the same middle name, so my parents gave it to me—and I chose to keep it because I like it.
Rivera is for Sylvia Rivera, an amazing woman and one of the first trans* people I ever learned about.
With my real name legally recognized I'll be able to apply for college, jobs, etc. without (much) anxiety. I'll be able to attend classes without emailing the teachers to begask to be referred to by my nickname.
There'll be less anxiety around my name, but now when I apply for a job I'll be more worried about my legal sex. Hopefully, they won't notice it or realize it's a mistake.

[I wrote the above last week. I went to court just the other day.]

I was extremely anxious about court; not everyone's name change is granted after all.
Luckily, it went without a hitch.
After going through security in my nice clothes and tie, I spent more time waiting (and listening to half a dozen divorces—and they say queer and trans* people will ruin marriage...) than actually in front of the judge. Seriously, he asked me why I wanted to change my name (personal preference and common usage) and if I was changing it for fraudulent reasons (err, no) then granted it.
Though according to my friend who drove me, whispers did break out in the seats when my case was called; I admit I wasn't paying much attention to them at the time...
And next I get to change my name on my BC and state ID and whatnot.

9 comments:

Jay said...

That's cool of you to honor Sylvia Rivera in your name.
At my name change hearing the judge didn't even say a word to me. Didn't ask me any questions. It was pretty palpable in the court room why I was changing my name though. Oh well. LOL

Helen said...

Congratulations! I'm glad it went okay.

Oliver A. FP said...

There's no such thing as a legal name in England - though you need a witnessed document to change your name with the important institutions, and said institutions do their best to bleed you dry.

After reading all this about having to go to court (!) to change it, I'm very appreciative of that.

Congratulations!

GDad said...

Wow. Glad it went well. Congrats on your new name. I hope all of the other miscellaneous paperwork (bills, etc.) is easy.

Drakyn said...

Thanks y'all. ^.^

The questions he asked seemed to be just procedure; said in the same sort of tone as when he asked the divorcing folks if they were sure.
He did sort of grin at me when he said he was granting my request. Dunno if it was just general friendliness/reassurance (I'm sure I looked terrified), if he assumed I was a cis* guy & had evil parents, or if he knew I'm trans*...

Kate AuH2O said...

Congratulations! That's huge. I changed my name six years ago from my dad's last name to my mom's and remember how amazing I felt even though the procedure was pretty uneventful. The only annoying thing was that it cost $380, I got mine changed in Wisconsin, was yours expensive too?

Drakyn said...

Mine was over $200, plus lunch & a movie for my friend who drove me; I haven't sent in the stuff for my BC yet (and thats another $50-something at least) or gotten a new state ID (don't remember how much that'll be).

nixwilliams said...

wow! can't imagine having to go to court to get it changed. but congratulations! :)

Sophia said...

congrats and kudos on the Rivera bit. i had my hearing at the beginning of the month and when asked why i was changing my name, i kept it very straightforward - "this is the name i am known as," "i am graduating this spring and would like my diploma to reflect what i consider to be my real name," [regarding my middle/last names] "because this is a name that is personally meaningful to me" etc. i actually didn't use the words 'transgender' or 'transsexual' or 'gender' at all, it was just kind of obvious. happy xmas.