My name is …

Yesterday I got a new birth certificate with my name on it: Dana Hope [Surname]

I might’ve happy cried a little bit.

Throughout my life I’ve finished “Hi my name is …” four different ways

First, I was just [deadname].1 It was fine. it was my name, and that was that. I tended to discourage variations, because, I don’t know. reasons.

Then, as a teenager I ended up with the nickname ‘Shoeshine’, and I liked it. It felt like my own, so I’d introduce myself as Shoeshine in casual social situations. It was invariably changed to something less cumbersome: ‘Shoes’,2 ‘Shiny’, ‘Shoesies’, depending on how cheeky people were feeling. I still think of it as my name, and please don’t feel like you have to stop calling me this just because I’m a girl.

Eventually I became a humourless adult and went back to introducing myself as [deadname].

As I was reinventing myself and preparing to move overseas, I decided to take ownership of my name, and ‘change my name’ to a variant of [deadname]. I got a new domain name. I changed my email address and my facebook. I moved my blog. I introduced myself as this new variant, getting past the slight stumbling awkwardness that comes when introducing yourself in a new way, and I actually finally started to feel like my name was mine. Little did I know, this was just practice.

I finally realised/admitted to myself that I was trans. My discomfort the gendered nature of my name grew, I needed to change it. But to what? I considered everything from Alice to Zoë, and Dana felt like it fit best. And now I can’t imagine choosing anything else.

I like that it doesn’t have a single origin or cultural connection, I like that it’s kinda feminine without being frilly or flowery. I like that it’s short, that it doesn’t invite variants,3 and I can be a knowledgeable beautiful pearl.

Don’t tell anyone, but I only just settled on my middle name as I filled in the name change form. I almost went with no middle name at all, or a bad joke like “Danger is my middle name”.4 I’m glad I thought better of it. I always liked the idea of uncomplicated English-word names, and especially had the name ‘Hope’ filed away as a good name for a daughter.5 It was even the name of the spaceship in my terrible nanowrimo novel.

I love the meaning of it: hope is so important. I like the feel of it and the sound of it. I like that it anchors my otherwise technically unisex name in femininity. And I particularly like its role as a big neon Don’t Panic sign in the middle of my name.

If you feel like your name doesn’t fit, Mix it up a bit. Change it, even if you’re cis. Maybe to a variation that people don’t currently use for you. Or your middle name. Or just something completely different. There’s something really powerful and beautiful about choosing your own name, and I wish it was more common in our culture.

  1. A trans person’s old name6 is called a deadname. It’s not trivia, or a Fun Fact. Because names are often strongly gendered it describes something irrelevant. It is a different situation than a maiden name which describes a family relationship that still exists. Or a Jacob/Israel type situation, which describes some kind of personal growth. Or a stage name, or any other reason people change their name. Don’t use it. Try to forget you know it. 

  2. I still use shoes for my code blog , because how could I pass up .shoes being available as a TLD. 

  3. Although it does invite a variety of pronunciations (I prefer day-na, but don’t entirely mind dah-na). And people are creative with how they spell it, so I’m getting in the habit of spelling it out. 

  4. Dana Danger is a great superhero name though 

  5. I never did this with boys names. Curious. 

  6. Some trans people keep their given names. Sometimes because they’re very neutral names, sometimes even if their gender/presentation is not typically what you expect from someone with that name. Even among cis people, boys sometimes have ‘girl names’ and vice versa. So just chill and let people do whatever they want with their own names.