Changing Genders, Changing Names

changing genders, changing names

Many transgender people end up changing their names. Some pick new names that are very masculine or very feminine to make a clear statement about their identity. Others simply alter their birth name a bit (e.g., Charlotte to Charlie) for a more subtle change.

I’m really curious about why these new names are chosen, so I went out and searched for some stories. Here are three good ones I’ve collected so far.

Benjamin to Krista

From a BBC article called “How do people who change gender choose a name?

Krista Whipple didn’t get it right first time. Her first chosen name, Kaitlyn Taylor, reflected two things – the pressure to get away from her birth name, Benjamin Whipple, and a desire to be one of the masses.

“I researched common baby names from around the time I was born because I felt I could ‘hide’ easier if I was one of tens, hundreds or even thousands.”

[…]

“The time came for me to tell my father, who I feared rejection from the most,” says Krista, president of the Gender Identity Center of Colorado. “We had the conversation and an apparent miracle occurred – my dad not only supported me, but he surprised me a step further when he told me, had I been born a girl, my name would have been Krista.

“It was at that point that the second name revolution occurred and that name has stuck with me ever since. I truly believed it was my name by right as I had been born a girl, albeit not in the physical sense.”

Lindsay to Silas

From a Slate article by Silas Hansen specifically about how he chose his new name:

[T]he thing I love most about the name Silas is that I don’t know anyone else with that name. I’ve never met another Silas and so I don’t have a picture in my head of what one looks like, sounds like, acts like. Silas is a blank slate. If I were a Matt or a Jack or an Andrew I’d feel as if I had to live up to that name, as if I had to do it justice. If I were a Charlie, I’d feel as if I were carrying around my great-grandfather’s name, his legacy. But Silas is mine.

Sometimes, since strangers do not always read me as male right away, people assume that I am a girl named Silas—it doesn’t sound all that masculine, at least not the way a name like John or Joseph does. Part of me hates it when this happens, but at the same time, I’m a little bit grateful that the name borders on the land between masculine and feminine, the way I do. I see Silas as someone who can cross over into one or the other anytime he wants, anytime he needs to. I’m the guy they call when they need someone to help move their couch, or when they need something off the top shelf and can’t reach—and I balance it out by being the guy they call, too, when they can’t remember how to cast on stitches for the scarf they’re knitting, or when they need a good chocolate chip cookie recipe. That’s why Silas works for me. I can carry that name with me as I learn how to be a man, learn to navigate this land of men’s bathrooms and facial hair and talking to girls as a straight man without losing sight of who I am, who I used to be. And, in the end, what more could I want from a name?

Thomas to Laura

From a Rolling Stone article about Against Me! vocalist Tom Gabel (now Laura Jane Grace) that was published a couple of years ago:

For most of the band’s history, Gabel has been officially credited as “Tom.” But he’s always been “Tommy” to his family and friends, and he prefers it right now because it sounds less masculine. Once he starts fully presenting as a female, though, he’ll go by a new name that he picked out. The last name, Grace, is his mom’s maiden name. The middle name, Jane, he just thinks is pretty. And his first name is the one his mother would have chosen. “It’s Laura,” he says. “Laura Jane Grace.”

Back in 2007, Tom mentioned the name Laura in the lyrics of the song “The Ocean”:

If I could have chosen, I would have been born a woman
My mother once told me she would have named me Laura
I would grow up to be strong and beautiful like her.

Every story I’ve read so far mentions the name each person would have gotten had they been born the other gender (physically). Many times, this is the name they opt for. Silas is one the exceptions — he would have been a Scott.

And now the question of the day: If you were going to change genders, what new name would choose for yourself, and why?

5 Responses to Changing Genders, Changing Names

  1. The name I was going to have if I was a boy was Neil, but I can’t imagine myself as a Neil. I’d probably feel compelled to pick something to match my brothers, who both have classic names from royalty, so maybe I would be a Charles (unisex Charlie as the everyday name)or a Frederick (nn Freddie), in honour of my dad, whose nickname is Fred, or even a George, which is another family name.

  2. I’ve only ever had one story about a transgender person on my blog, and they changed their name from Peter Drouyn to Westerly Windina.

    http://waltzingmorethanmatilda.com/2012/12/22/names-spotted-at-home-and-abroad-spring-edition/

  3. That’s the most memorable name change (of this type) that I’ve seen so far! Interesting story. Thanks!

  4. According to NPR, Bradley Edward Manning’s name has been officially changed to Chelsea Elizabeth Manning.

  5. Transgender writer Kat Haché on changing her name from Kevin to Katharine:

    I am a woman named Katharine who was once called a boy named Kevin. If you find that contradictory, very well.

    I contain multitudes, and there are multitudes within my name.

    Source: What’s in a name? (via Longreads)

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