Choosing a New Name
By: Peter Buggert | Last Updated: July 23, 2019
For many trans guys, an important part of their transition is to change their name. Being a man stuck with a feminine name can be very frustrating, not only because it makes it you much more likely to be clocked, but also because it can be a huge source of gender dysphoria. A name is who you are and is often one of the first things someone knows about you. A name is a vital part of who you are, which may be why choosing one is so difficult. Never fear, here are some tips and tricks to help you find a name that is really you.
Step 1: Start a List
This is by far the easiest part, although it can take a while. Start making a list of all the names that you love, like, or are thinking about. You probably already have some names in your head, and you can expand your search using baby name websites like this one which allows you to search by gender (including unisex), name meaning, first or last letter, number of syllables, and nation/culture of origin.
You can always cross names out later so don’t be to picky, just write down ones that catch your eye. Make sure that you keep the list someplace safe that you can access easily. You can easily find notebook apps that have password locks if safety is an issue, although I have always preferred pen and paper. Since you can carry the list with you, that means you can add any names that you may hear while you are out and about.
Making a long list may seem excessive and take a while, but there is no reason to rush. Some parents argue about their child’s name until they are on their way to the hospital. You don’t only have nine months, you have as long as you want. This will be your name for the rest of your life, so take your time. No pressure.
Most people have a first, middle, and last name. While last names are usually gender neutral coming from the father’s side, first and middle names can be gendered. Name changes tend to cost the same no matter if you are changing your first name or all three of your names. You will need to decide what names you will change and what you will keep. While most trans men decide to change their first and middle name, changing your last name is much more personal. If you are close to your family changing your last name would be awkward, but for those who are not close to their family or their father in particular, changing your last name can be freeing. You are going to want to create a list for each name you are looking to replace or are thinking about changing.
Step 2: Building Your List
You probably already have a small list, but lets make sure you aren’t leaving any out. Here are a few ideas to help you along.
- Look at the masculine version of your current name. Some feminine names have masculine counterparts. For example Ashley can become Ash and Carrie can become Casey. Choosing a name closer to your birth name can mean that you get to keep your nickname, initials, and can possibly make the social transition easier for both you and those around you. Some people want a name far away from their birth name and others don’t, it is your name and you can go with whatever makes you comfortable.
- Find names with meanings you like. Maybe you have had a deep connection with music your whole life. Many names have a connection to music such as Ronan, a Hebrew name meaning joyous song.
- Find names that fit with your family/culture. If your culture and heritage is something you are proud of then find a name that expresses that.
- Think of the inspirational people or characters in your life. There is nothing wrong with naming yourself after someone real or fictional. I mean, okay, naming yourself after your favorite boy band singer, especially if they are still alive, might be a little creepy, but fictional characters are totally fair game. Just be aware that if you pick a name that is obviously from a work of fiction (like Zelda or Loki) people will catch on. You have to be okay with what people may think or say.
- Find names with sounds or letters you like. Maybe you have always liked names that started with J, or you always liked named with one syllable, or you like names that end with -son. You can search with all of those criteria on many baby name websites.
Once again the point here is to just make a list as long as you can, writing it down doesn’t mean you’re suddenly stuck with it. We will shorten the list in the next step. Continue to manage your list until you are satisfied that it is complete. Again there is no rush, you have as much time as you want.
Step 3: Narrowing it Down
Start crossing off names that you feel iffy about in favor of those that you feel strongly about. This should shorten it down by quite a bit rather quickly. It is usually picking between the top few final contestants that the real decision making comes in. In order to really get down to that last name here are some criteria for elimination.
- What will your initials be? There are a suprising amount of bad initial combinations including FAT, KKK, POO, SUC and TIT. On the other side there are some great initials out there. like PBJ, CAT, MPH, or ABS. Having a middle name that starts with J will also give you the option of having a cool nickname like CJ.
- Will other people know how to pronounce or spell it? This is one of those things that may bother some people but not others. Spelling Jason as Jaisin may seem cool, but everyone spelling it wrong can get to be a problem. Rhys might seem like a great name, but you can only be called rice so many times before you snap. You may think that is fine now, but imagine it for the rest of your life.
- Is it professional? This is going to be the name that you put on job and college applications, people are going to judge you based on your name in some very important scenarios. Make sure that your name isn’t something unprofessional that may loose you opportunities.
- Are you okay with unisex names? Some people want a unisex name and some don’t. Decide if you are okay with a unisex name or if you prefer a name that is clearly masculine.
- Does it fit in with your family and culture? If all of your siblings have names that start with P, it would probably be nice to fit in. Your parents might not appreciate having to introduce their kids Penny, Peter, Paul, and Gryffindor. My siblings all had very common christian names so I picked a name that fit in with theirs. Also, if you are Caucasian and American choosing the name Jabulani will probably get you some weird looks. If you choose a name from a culture that is not your own, make sure that you understand the meaning and that it isn’t offensive to the culture to use that name.
- Can you grow old with it? Some names are pretty sweet when you are 20 and really into BTS, but when you are 60 and stuck with that name J-Hope you may begin to hate your younger self.
- What do your friends and family think? I ran almost all of my names by my mom, which was quite difficult to do discreetly since I wasn’t out yet. Turns out my mom didn’t like every name that I picked, so I just went with one that she didn’t hate. My best friend was much more helpful in the name picking process.
- Who else has that name? You don’t want to have the same name as your cousin, and some names have just been ruined by others either in history or other people we have known. It never hurts to google a name before you settle on it just to see what comes up. Despite my uncommon last name it turns our there is another Peter Buggert out there, but he’s just a sci-fi author from Sweden.
- Think long and hard about any possible way that someone could make fun of that name. You may love the Undertale character Asgore, but it does not take much imagination to think of how that will backfire on you pretty hard. Elliot seems harmless at first, but it wont take long for the chorus of Smelliot and Idiot to arise. If you love a name however don’t let this stop you, you are talking to a guy named Peter.
- Does it fit you? It is an undeniable fact that for some reason there are people who are Chases and there are people who are Phillips and for some reason they are completely different groups. Pick a name that fits you over a name that you like but doesn’t seem to match up. There are trans friendly places online where you can post your picture anonymously and ask what names might suit you such as Reddit’s r/transpassing or r/FtM. There is also Tumblr although recently their demographic has shifted even more towards teens, and I have found that Reddit has a much larger, more mature, and experienced community.
- Ask a friend to use it. If you can’t quite make a decision you can always ask someone close to you to call you that name for a while to see how it feels. It will probably feel strange for a while, but it shouldn’t feel bad or wrong.
- Bring it all together. Look at your full name with the changes, think about the flow of it all together and if you like how it sounds.
- Check the meanings. If you are stuck between a few names it doesn’t hurt to look at what they mean and see if you like them. Also, check and make sure they don’t mean something in another language like poor Randi, which means prostitute in Hindi.
- Does it mean something to you. All jokes about Randi aside, one of the most important parts of a name is not what it means, but what it means to you. I highly suggest finding a name that means something to you, not just something that you like the sound of. A name with meaning is going to feel much more genuine and you than just a random name that you like.
Step 4: Pick the Name
The time has finally come, I have given you all of the advice that I can give. All that is left for you to do now is to pick your name, so yeah, the hardest part.
Okay, I lied, one last piece of advice. You have to understand that you probably won’t find a name that feels perfect right away. Changing your name is something that you probably never planned on doing. After years of being conditioned to your birth name, a new name is going to feel strange. Just give yourself time to adjust.
Once you are sure you like a name you can start the process of asking people to use it for you, and then getting your name legally changed.