The Story of My Name

The Perfect Fit

A newly minted parent is tasked with the highly anticipated and/or much dreaded job of choosing a name for their baby. This soon-to-be alive little tiny person has yet to form an identity, showcase a personality, settle into habits and quirks; he/she/it/they are just an idea, an unformed blob of dreams and fears. The name that the parent(s) choose is based on the abstract – having a certain affinity for particular sounds, attraction towards a meaning or history, or honoring a long-standing tradition. Thus the impact this name will have on this future person – whether they’ll embody it or reject it – is pure conjecture. It is chosen for the person, not by the person, before the person even exists.

My brother’s first name “fits” him perfectly. He even has another name – complete with multiple variations – which we use on a regular basis for him. This name, unrelated to either of his two “real” names, is like his first name, spot-on. But my brother, for who knows what reason, is the only one in the family who has a middle name, and this middle name is anything short of appropriate. It’s one of those best kept hidden, a dusty remnant which, when discovered, kids laugh at in middle school, although mostly the laughter is directed at your parents as the children exclaim “what were they thinking?” and ridicule their complete lack of foresight.

But how could your parents have known that this name would fit you like a checkered bowtie on a polka-dottted bathrobe, while that other name would be the slick skinny black tie that completes the three-piece ensemble?

You, on the other hand, already know whether your name – current, chosen, future, or otherwise – fits you or not. To some degree. Because sometimes we can’t be sure.

The Story of My Name

Maddox “fits” me online. I see it and it’s me. People actually recognize me when I say “I’m maddox from tumblr / blog / forums.” “Oh THAT maddox. Of course!” It has become my brand, my online persona. But as my first failure succeeded in showing, it doesn’t work so well for me in person.

For the past two years or so people have called me Mich in real life. I get asked what it’s short for. I get very annoyed at this, but since you’re privvy to my history you can quickly make a good guess. And it came about because it is short for my original name. At least, it is the natural shortened version in Spanish, much like Tony is for Anthony or Chris is for Christopher. So naturally, I’d use it for emails and such, or whenever I needed a short-hand version. Upon applying for a new job, I got asked what name I go by, given the proliferate use of Mich in all my communications. It actually never occurred to me that I could change my name – on purpose – until much much later, but somehow I must’ve unconsciously felt this was a good opportunity for a change. And so it began to shift.

“How do you pronounce it?” Ah, another conundrum. In Spanish, it’s straightforward. But I’ve found people hear what they want to hear, so I’ve gotten anywhere from Meech to Meesh to Mish to Mic to Mitch, and then the nicknames Michy, Michelin, Michelada, Justin (as in Bieber, unrelated but whatever). Even I will pronounce it differently depending on who I’m talking to. My girlfriend has an awkward way of saying it too.

It just doesn’t really flow as smoothly as I’d like. Not to mention it is directly tied to my old name – the old me. Which may be good, because after all, this was me for a long time, and in a way still is. I will probably always turn my head when I hear it. But it is also a bitter reminder, like baggage, that my past is not as far off as I’d like it to be.

Coming Together

About two months ago, I was at the peak of my desperation; the hopelessness of ever finding a new name – the “right” name – was closing in with a suffocating grip.

Then, I stumbled upon it. My new name. It came out of nowhere, yet it was always there.

It all started with an experiment. A fellow trans* friend asked me what would happen if he changed his name on Facebook, whether his close friends and family would be upset, make a stink, not care, get the point, or perhaps politely ask. That got me thinking, what would my friends think, and would they would even notice? So I decided to go for it.

I picked a name I’d been mulling over for a few days, though hadn’t really given much serious consideration until then. For the first few days, nobody noticed. Or at least nobody mentioned it. Granted it’s hard to notice, mostly because I simply added one letter (an “a” for awesome) to my previous name, transforming Mich into Micah.

Then, all of a sudden it was real. In less than 2 weeks, the change had propagated into my email, twitter, netflix, dropbox, computer, and any other social profile that came my way. I found myself eagerly printing out the forms to get a CA Court Order name (and gender) change. It passed the last hurdle as I got the chance to test drive it at the latest trans conference. A part of me had already chosen it; it was my name.

I can’t really say why I liked it so much. It’s exactly what I was looking for: something not radically different from the previous, but different enough. Original, but not unknown. Pronounceable and spell-able, for the most part. Perhaps it was the way it looked written down, or that it has a good ring with my last name. Whatever the reason, it felt right.

Above all, it’s me. It just fits.

28 responses to “The Story of My Name

  1. When I was first choosing my name, I had been thinking of Dana Willow as my first and middle names. That way, I would have been able to keep my initials and email addresses. But, I decided that name didn’t fit. I looked up common names for my birth year, 1969, but few in the top 50 really “clicked.” I spontaneously chose Constance (and its diminutive Connie) and then selected Anne as a middle name.

    I felt it fit.

    -Connie

    • Initials were important for me, which is why I had such a hard time. I really liked how you kept it age-sensitive, it’s something important for a lot of people. Plus Constance Anne does have a formal ring to it!

  2. I’m pleased that you found a name, particularly this one. It never seemed to suit me, no matter how hard I tried to make it. I’m so happy it works for you!

  3. Great that you found a name that fits, and feels natural. I went back and forth for 6 months, read baby name books, and was confused since I always hated my girl name (Amy) and the name I used for myself of as a child (Paul) felt a bit pathological because of the private aspect, and too male, since I was not transitioning (merely being trans). I was in Starbucks, and had ordered an iced expresso, given my girl name, and when my drink came up it was for “Jamie” and it just felt magically right. And it came with a “here you go sir”, which is always a plus.

    • It’s funny how we find our names. For instance, I always thought Jamie would be a great name, but it doesn’t fit me at all. Like you said, I scoured name databases trying to find the right one, but I guess it just has to naturally occur.

    • It’s kind of funny how personal this stuff is. Jamie was my girl name. I tried to be cool with it as a boy name, but it just refused to feel right. When I did stumble on my name, it was really random and I wish I had a better story than “I saw it on the internet one day”, but it was really a eureka moment.

  4. Hooray! Congratulations on finally finding a name that fits! It’s true that it really suits you (at least, from the little that I know you) and I think it’s a great name in itself, too.

  5. I am also REALLY happy that we found a name. As mentioned for some reason whenever I say the old name it just sounds weird and awkward (part of the reason why when I talk about Maddox I do this funny thing of no name and no pronouns).
    When Maddox told me “honey, what about Micah” I spent the whole night using it “Micah and I are watching tv” and it felt right!

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  12. This post made me so vicariously happy for you! It’s so, so deep-down good when a thing just fits, especially something a monumental as a name.

    So, a question for you, if you don’t mind… My partner has always pushed for our hypothetical someday spawn to all have gender-neutral names. This is tricky for me because, while I like the concept, I have one particular girl’s name that I hold very close to my heart and would want to pass on to a daughter. But, as you say, there’s no guarantee she’ll like it, for a variety of reasons. Do you think the odds of you liking your name would have been improved had it been gender-neutral from the beginning, or do you think you still would have wanted a name change to represent all your other changes in life?

    Thanks for any insight you can give me!

    • Oh thanks! I’ve been loving my new name.

      My previous name sounds gender neutral in Spanish, and for a few years I was planning on just using the masculine version and dealing with a lot of mispronunciation in English. After all, it was MY name. On the other hand, a part of changing it was leaving that old me behind – that unhappy, confused me – and truly embody this new self I constructed. A celebration, a “rebirth” even.

      We also would like gender-neutral names for our little ones. I think with names, you need to go with your gut. Yeah, your daughter might not like her name for many many reasons, not just being trans or gender non-conforming (chances of which are slim anyway). As long as she knows it’s something she can change if she’s really unhappy with it, and you support her – it’s all about leaving the options open.

  13. I love male and many gender-neutral variations of my birthname, but I hate what my parents gave me. I hope to someday change my legal to either Karol, Searl, or something similar. And if this gay-marriage thing fails to pass in June, I’ll also go ahead and seek to change my sex, too.

  14. I chose my name to fit my Irish heritage and chose Patrick as my middle name as my parents were expecting a boy on St Patrick’s Day. I toyed with James but decided on Michael after doing a numerology on my three names – all positive. Not looking forward to telling my mother.

  15. I find it really interesting that you ended up changing one letter in your name, and it altered it from “before” to “now”. I think it is quite significant to have that change, to recognize the new life you live, as different and removed from the old one, even though It takes place in the same essential… form. A few months ago I went through an awful bout of general dysphoria to the point that I felt as though I was already dead and suicide would make it right- emerging from that, I realized that I couldn’t go back to being that person, and there was a part of me that really had died, but it was to make way for who I am now (part of which is to recognize and be “out” as what I am- genderqueer). I had been looking up gender neutral names, and decided that from then I was no longer “Ellen” but “Kell”. I only saw later how close they are, but it does feel like who I now am.

  16. Yeah, names are so difficult. I spent SO LONG scouring names sites, trying to find a name that didn’t sound like a “manly” name but also didn’t sound like a female one either. It was actually with a Victorian era name generator set to “male” that “Ennis” came up in, and it turns out that it’s a unisex name tilted towards being used more for boys. Except that it basically went out of vogue in the 1920s, but it’s pretty cool that I’ll probably never have the same name as anyone again! (Birth name I practically always had someone with the same name in my class.) Better still, the meaning of it was “the only choice”. It was like the name was saying “you know this is right, you can’t escape from this now” haha. I went from being sad because I didn’t have a name to ridiculously excited to have found the perfect one.
    Unfortunately though, because it’s uncommon I’ll have to get used to to telling people it’s just “like Dennis, but without the D”.

  17. I choose my gender-neutral name 30 years ago mostly because I was tired of my birthname. I wanted to disappear and be a “John Doe” but wasn’t ready to be that extreme/melodramatic however the initials felt right. I started using it right after high school when my circle of interaction changed a lot and it was a pretty easy change. I never told my parents I expected them to change what they called me at home but they soon switched anyway.

    If I tell someone my old name they always say J.D. suits me better. The biggest hassle has been people asking, “How do you spell that?”

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