Thursday, August 23, 2012

Trans names

A recent event in my life with a family member prompted me to write this post.

We, as transsexual/transgender people, have a lot vested in our names. Gender is tied so neatly to names, with even those few names which are technically gender neutral being pushed to the gender lines (Ashley, for instance, used to be gender neutral, but now almost exclusively refers to a girl). Because of this close tie between gender and name, it's extremely common for trans people to change their name to better suit their gender. After all, when you're trying to be inconspicuous, nothing raises a red flag more than being a girl named David, for instance. As I've said before, passing is a delicate balance for most of us, where we're protected simply because most cisgender folk do not think about trans issues often enough to spot us. Having such a red flag is a dangerous indicator which can make them consider gender issues, and "blow your cover".

So, we change our names. Now here's where it gets foggy - people don't exactly change their names often. Last names, sure, through marriage, but first names? Beyond someone requesting a nickname, it's not exactly something that happens all that often. So naturally, it's difficult for people, at first at least, to accept your new name. Their mind has ties, memories of you with your old name. You're tied to that old name with them. So, naturally, its going to be difficult, even for the most well-meaning persons.

But what of those who refuse your new name? In my family, a few people are in denial about / ignoring my transition. I've had my name legally changed, everyone else in my life calls me by my new name, except these few people. Which brings me to what caused me to write the article in the first place. Often times people are at a loss for what to say or do when someone uses their old name. Here's my simple logic behind the name change, and those who refuse to accept it:

They cannot claim it's your legal name; your legal name has been changed.
They cannot claim it's your preferred name - you wouldn't have gotten a name change if you preferred it, and further, the discussion is happening in the first place.

So what are they left with? I suppose they could claim it's your birth name, but seriously, what weight does that carry? None legally, and none with the person who found their birth name so lacking as to change it. But you know what comparison I'm left with? Do you know what kind of person hears what you want to be called, then calls you something to the contrary? It's a word from those distant school days: A bully. Just like from back in the schoolyard days, they hear what you wish to be called, they've heard your 'legal name' from the roster, but they still call you what THEY want, as if they have authority over you to make such choices.

Only you can decide what you wish to be called. Not some bully, family or not.


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  1. I wont speak to my mother for this very issue. She refuses to call me "Emily". She even tried to pull a manipulation stunt to get me to go by my old name. She drove 100 miles to come and help me move in with her. Before she drove that, I sent her an email five days before saying basically "Hey, you know I am transgender. You've known for over a year now. Please call me Emily and use she/her to refer to me. It will be ok if you mess up, just try please!" She didn't respond either way so I assumed she would at least respect me. Nope. After my stuff was loaded up, I got an ultimatum from her: Go by my legal name or she unloaded my stuff.

    I wont be bullied. I went homeless for awhile because of that. You know what? I'd rather be homeless than with some one who doesn't respect me enough to even try.

  2. i still really don't understand what a trans person is. i usually hear that its a man trapped in a woman's body or vise-versa but it also seemed to be presented as people casting of the gender roles that are given to them at birth by society and just doing what they feel is correct. I do realize these are both overly simplified but am i close here? or just plain wrong?