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Gianna Israel Gender Library

Names

Our first and last names are interesting in that in many respects they seem to have a life all their own. They follow us around from day to day, and are regularly used as an introduction and references. Sometimes, even after we change our name(s), old ones pop up once in a while and remind us of our past. Occasionally, a person may even adopt a temporary name, which is used discretely while crossdressed or involved in role play.

Because names are important when creating a presentation for transgender living or activities, this article will outline important considerations when choosing a name.

Does a Name Enhance the Image You Want to Present? Following publicity experts, transgender persons are true masters (and mistresses) of building new and socially diverse presentations. Keeping with that idea, choosing a name provides a very real, outward representation of who you are on many levels. If your name change is to be permanent, it is important to consider how future friends and employers will perceive it. If you are a perky care-free individual, having a serious business-oriented name may hamper your style. Should you be career-oriented, a name like Barbie-Sue may slow your climb up the corporate ladder. Entertainment personalities and social butterflies may want to choose a name which is catchy and easy to remember, never one that is boring.

Is the Name Easy for Others to Say and Spell? While a unique pronunciation or spelling can enhance a name's aesthetic appeal, over the long-term these characteristics may prove impractical. It can be irritating to continually have your name mispronounced or repeatedly be required to spell it out letter-by-letter to others. If you prefer to avoid these hassles, or you are a person who has a short temper when dealing with others, choose a name which is easily spelled and pronounced.

Does the New Name Have Balance? -This question is particularly important for persons wishing to have the best presentation possible. Having a name such as "Candifay" or "LeornaSuzan" may look cute, however one may prove lacking if you want to be taken seriously. If you do not want to be associated with body parts or sex acts, avoid names like B.J., Richard (Dick), Muffin or Chi-Chi. If you intend on traveling internationally, you also may wish to consult someone experienced with foreign languages and name certain your new name does not translate into anything obscene or offensive.

Have You Chosen the Right Name? Frequently my counseling clients ask if I feel they have made the right choice in picking a name. My advice, look over as many names as possible before deciding on one. Doing so is easy. One can look in telephone books , genealogical archives, registrars and even movie credits to see a wide assortment of names. I found mine scrolling along the credits of some late night movie. The moment I saw it I knew it was right considering I had used "Joni" for years. "Gianna" i s the Italian version of JoAnn.

Finding out what a name means is also an important step during the selection process. Fortunately there are a variety of books available which can help. These include Webster's Dictionary of Proper Names and Penguin's Books Dictionary of Names. If your local bookstore or library does not carry these titles, there are also books available on "naming your baby" which may prove helpful. After you have selected potential names, invite others to provide you with feedback on your top three choices. Take in to consideration the suggestions of others, and then go with the one that feels right.

How Does a Name Relate To Your Generation Or Age Group? -Each generation typically has names that are more popular than others. Sometimes it may be wise to avoid commonly used names, particularly if you desire something more distinctive. Based on an informal survey drawn from my readership and counseling practice (ages 35 - 45), Jennifer, Susan, Victoria, Debra as well as David, Steve and Brian, tend to be the most commonly used names. If you choose one of these favorites and still want to create a distinctive impression, make certain it is not paired with a often used last or surname.

Because televisiona and movies are popular in our generation, many times people take names from these mediums. If you choose a name such as Oprah, Cher, Jean-Luc Picard, or some other showbiz title, you will find that persons who watch or remember these shows may consider your choice not very creative.

How Will Changing Names Affect You Psychologically? Generally, changing one's name can be a positive step, and in many circumstances doing so helps the person become better identified with a presentation he or she is building. I have noticed that a person's interest in permanently changing their name or even taking on a new one for private crossdressing activities can in part be used as a diagnostic tool. Typically those persons who choose a name which reflects their inner self, are at the very least aware of their transgender identity when compared to those who are hesitant or uninterested in adopting a name which reflects their new persona.

I have also noticed that people who continually change their name typically are still searching for a presentation which reflects their inner persona. In other cultures, people frequently have changed their names to reflect changes in personal growth or social status. For example, in some Asian countries, a male may transition from a name meaning "Young Tiger" (as a boy), to one of "Running Tiger" (after stealing the town's jewels) to "Aging Tiger Missing a Paw" (after being caught).

In more westernized cultures, however, continually changing a name is impractical. Anyone who wishes to avoid the hassle of having their legal identity confused by others, would be wise not to change names too many times. This is particularly true where bureaucracies are concerned. No one wants to lose social security benefits or have a mix-up with the Internal Revenue Service. If you are uncertain whether a name is right for you, "test drive" it first before making it legal.

How Will Changing Your Name Affect Pre-Existing Relationships? Sadly, there are numerous transgender persons who have become estranged from their family. So offending family members may not seem important right now. However, over the long-term, some family members may feel betrayed if one abandons their last or surname. In some cultures doing so carries the equivalence of being "dead" or being written out of family affairs. Generally, in most western cultures, gaining your family's acceptance of a ne w surname is possible. This is particularly true when it is made clear you are not abandoning the family, but instead are changing your name for aesthetic purposes or for career advancement. For example, authors are particularly known for adopting a "nom de plume."

How To Best Enjoy Your New Name? Use it with distinction and flair! Embellish it on new business cards for social introduction or business purposes. Choose new letterhead with a beautiful typeface or font. Practice and enjoy your new signature. Encourage others help you celebrate your choice by using it regularly. In fact, you may even wish to throw a dinner party to bring special attention to this new change in your life.


GENDER ARTICLES. This educational column authored by Gianna E. Israel is regularly featured on the 3rd Monday of each month in Tg-Forum, the Internet's most up-to-date, weekly Transgender Magazine <http://www.tgforum.com/>. Several weeks later each article is forwarded to Usenet and AOL <Keyword TCF>. Each column has been written to inspire contemplation and dialogue. Columns may be reprinted in any medium insofar as each article, its introduction, and the author's contact information remains unaltered.

GIANNA E. ISRAEL provides nationwide telephone consultation, individual & relationship counseling, evaluations and referrals. She is principal author of the Transgender Care (Temple University / in press 1997). She also writes Transgender Tapestry's "Ask Gianna" column; is an AEGIS board member and HBIGDA member.She can be contacted at (415) 558-8058, at P.O. Box 424447 San Francisco, CA 94142, or via e-mail at Gianna@counselsuite.com.


Copyright © 2001 by Diane Wilson. All rights reserved.