Sensuous in Satin

Reflections on Transgender life

Choosing a name

Posted by Adrian • Monday, September 10. 2012 • Category: Being transgender
Choosing a name is often an important start in our journey of understanding ourselves.
But we often make that choice very early in our journey of discovery.
Which means we choose a name without any real understanding of its implications for the future.

I suspect that I was not alone amongst many of our "older" members in having to choose a "femme" name on joining one of the support groups like Seahorse.
I guess that in these times, the choice often occurs when selecting an alternative email address or social media identity.

At this early stage in exploring our gender identity often secrecy and privacy are upper-most in our minds. And choosing a completely different “femme” name meets that need for anonymity.
With the first opportunities to express a more feminine gender, choosing a very “girly” name seems to underline the significance of the steps we are taking. It is a chance to say goodbye to boring drab David for a few hours and explore the exciting new future opining up for Gwendolyn!

For some of us, the opportunities to express a more feminine gender are confined to the internet, support group meetings or perhaps occasional outings in public. For someone forced to switch in this way between David and Gwendolyn that initial choice of name, with its re-enforcement of the split persona, may well remain appropriate and comfortable.

But for many others our journey of discovery leads us to present our gender identity more frequently. And in that context the name we first chose may no longer facilitate the changes we are looking for.

One of the early actions frequently taken by those who decide they wish to present a feminine persona to society is to change their name legally. Often this means legally selecting that same name chosen in the euphoria of coming out. Having worked through all the paperwork and official bureaucracy to change names on everything from academic qualifications to power bills it is perhaps too late to reflect on the appropriateness of that initial “femme” name!

So perhaps it is timely that I present a case for adopting less overtly “feminine” names.

A) A feminine name cannot change how you are perceived by others.
In many cases the harsh reality is that others will perceive you as a feminine male or a masculine female. If that is the case, then fewer questions will be asked if your name matches that perception. If you are called “Chris” then the name fits no matter what is read. A Gwendolyn with a deep male voice is asking for a little more acceptance.

B) For many (most?) of us our journey will not include changing physical sex. So for those who transition to express their gender full-time an unambiguously female name combined with a male sex is bound to cause practical difficulties with bureaucracy. It would be nice if we could change these stereotype associations overnight – and throw away with those forms asking for “sex” and the archaic salutations of Mr and Mrs. But without widespread change in society that initial feminine name can easily be a liability in everyday life.

C) There are many names that are perceived by society to be unisex. A recent informal survey we ran showed that maybe up to a 1/3 of TgR members have at least one legal name that is perceived as unisex. Just think how convenient it would be just to stick with that legal name as one goes forward on one’s journey of gender discovery. No issues with society over changes of name, or names not matching official records.
Though such a name would perhaps be seen as boring and unfeminine when first coming out – they can be far more practical for so many of the paths we find ourselves exploring later on.

So perhaps the onus should be on those who collect and encourage “femme” names to educate. We could make it clearer that femme names, far from being a necessity, may turn out to be a burden to carry on our exciting journey of gender discovery.

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