This post might be completely irrelevant for you – Many of our people have been carrying a name around inside of for years and don’t need to choose one. However for some, the concept of living as another gender may not have coalesced into specifics like what you would want to be called.
If you have been using a name but it’s not deeply part of your identity, it might be worth evaluating it. Here are a few questions to consider:
1. Is it a daytime name?
I know a few people who decided to transition after a period of experimenting, mixing and socialising within crossdressing circles. Some people in that community have names that might be a little fun or tongue in cheek for a flamboyant night out at a club, but less appropriate for everyday life. If you want to be taken seriously (and I think you will), it’s worth asking yourself if you could imagine being taken seriously in a business meeting or other more formal setting with your chosen name. I call this the stripper test: If it’s a name that could plausibly be used as a professional alter ego for a stripper or porn star – ditch it and chose something else.
2. Is the spelling ambiguous or unusual?
My old name could have been spelt with a ‘G’ or a ‘J’ and literally every time I gave my name to someone on the phone or an official there would be the standard clarifying back and forth. “No… it’s with a G”. It might not sound like a big deal, but it can be a little more friction in every situation that you may not want if you’re feeling a little socially awkward. If there are two names that you’re thinking of maybe it’s worth weighing them both up on this basis.
3. Is it hard to pronounce?
You will want people to accept your new identity with as little friction as possible. If they are struggling to pronounce it, then you could be making things less easy for the people around you.
As a secondary point, also consider the number of syllables. I was at one point considering choosing ‘Natalie’ as my first name. My voice therapist pointed out that three syllable names are significantly harder for people to say. My aunt, Dorothy confirmed that her name had always felt like a bit of a mouthful before she changed it to Dorrie. This is a super minor point and probably shouldn’t be considered as a barrier to a name that you love, but another one of those 0.1% decisions. However the more syllables that a name has increases the chance that friends and family will want to shorten it to something that they consider more familiar, which is a segue to the next consideration…
4. What will it be shortened to?
People will find a way to shorten your name. Even if it’s a single syllable, they will find a way. Our society seems to have built a rule where a shortened version of someone’s name is somehow more intimate. This may for you be true or misguided, but it’s going to happen. Have a think about what the likely shortened versions of your name are, because this is probably what people will end up calling you. Do you like ‘Lou’ rather than ‘Louise’ or ‘Sal’ rather than ‘Sally’. Again, this isn’t a deal breaker, because you can just express your preference for the full version of your name, but it’s worth a few moments of consideration.
5. Is it unusual?
I think this question relates to the strength of your desire to blend in. Naming yourself something particularly obscure like a colour, city or animal can be another signal to others that this person is different. You may be super keen that you want to cherish your diversity and non-conformity, but in the years to come, may become wearying. Some compromises to consider are a more standard first name with a more individual middle name or perhaps a more common name for legal purposes and a name that you use amongst friends and informally.
6. Is it generationally appropriate?
Names go in and out of fashion. Some seem to have very short periods of popularity and others seem timeless. Ideally, you probably don’t want a name that is incongruous with people of your age group. One interesting exercise to do is to look back at popular baby names for the year of your birth. You may already know what name your parents would have chosen had you been born another gender. If not and you are already open with your family about your trans status and transition, maybe it could be interesting to ask.
7. Does it have deep significance for others around you?
The name you choose is almost certain to have connotations for people around you; They once fancied a Sarah at high school or they can’t stand a woman at work called Rachel. However you may want to do a quick check around your immediate circle that you’re not missing anything really major. Is your Brother’s Ex-wife your chosen name? Did someone in your network recently lose a mother, sister, or daughter with the same on that you’re going to be asking them to call you every time you see them.
8. Are you thinking outside the box enough?
So many trans people take the gender varied version (if one exists) of their own name. Paul becomes Paula, Carl becomes Carla, Chris becomes Christina and so on. For me, there was no obviously feminine version of my name, so this wasn’t an option, but you may have settled on this as the default position; Because it’s the done thing. Your first instinct might be right – it may in fact be easier for people around you to get to grips with a more subtle change and it may give a clear sign to others that it’s all no big deal – it’s only a couple of letters and some clothes: “Nothing to see here”. But there’s a couple of reasons you might want to think more broadly. Firstly, there’s a school of thought in the world of product management & marketing that says that a new name is a great way to launch a new product – the same can be true of our new lives; A variant of your old name could make it harder for people to let go and serve as a reminder of the old you which can be both good and bad obviously. But also, there are so many wonderful names out there and you’re undertaking this momentous adventure to build a new life – choose something you really love, something that reflects the inner you, not just the easy default.
9. Can you imagine being called this for the rest of your life?
This one isn’t quite true as you can always change your name again, but once you’ve started using it, names gain a life of their own. You may not want to go through the hassle of telling friends another time that you now have a new name. Then there’s all the documents: Passport, Driver’s License, Bank, Credit Cards, Doctor, Mortgage, Payroll, Employment Contract, Insurance and so on. Your new name will develop a certain momentum and to some extent changing it again could be like a mini transition all over again, so be sure that you can imagine saying it, writing it and being called it every day for the rest of your life.
All of the above doesn’t really matter: It’s your name; Your choice. Pick whatever makes you happy and don’t look back.