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Finding a middle name

October 13, 2009

Finding my first name was easy: it popped into my head suddenly and I simply knew that it fit. My middle name won’t be so important, so I can relax and think about what it will mean to me: do I want it to have a symbolic meaning, honor someone I admire, or be original?

I thought of using something rare because my first and last names are pretty common — there are two people at my school with my same full name. I considered a couple of non-Spanish names, but using something non-European seems like cultural appropriation, and using something from the elsewhere in Europe –especially something in English– seems like selling out to cultural imperialism (although, of course, Spaniards came to this land through colonialism). I want to read more about these issues, but in the meantime, I think I’ll stick to Hispanic names. At least they feel more familiar.

I also thought of using my old name as a middle name, but right now, it’s hard for me to even hear it. Sometimes, when I stumble over it unexpectedly, I feel a little confused — is that really my ID? Both reactions –rejection and detachment– aren’t exactly positive, so I can rule out that option. Actually, I don’t even know if it’s legal for a guy to have a girl name: the Argentinian naming law forbids any names that cause confusion about a person’s sex (it also forbids “extravagant”, “ridiculous” or hard-to-pronounce names, which sounds rather imprecise). There are traditional exceptions, such as María José for a girl and José María for a boy. In any case, right now, it’s impossible for me to get a name or gender change on my ID for legal reasons that I’ll explain in a future post.

My best choice is my dad’s middle name. I love it for several reasons: it’s a way to pay tribute to my father, I like how it sounds, and I like its initial — it fits well into the rest of my name.  Plus, I identify strongly with it, and its meaning seems appropriate: “new house”. My first name, by the way, means “free” — interpreting broadly, I’d be free to find my place in the world.

Those meanings aren’t uber-important to me; it’s nice to know that my name doesn’t mean “cranky”, but that doesn’t have much weight in daily life. People are more likely to associate other people with their namesakes rather than with their name’s origin. For instance, the name Eva, to most Argentinians, would evoke Eva Perón rather than Adam and Eve. None of my names has such a strong association, which is fine by me — it could become an onerous burden. And I want to be “free to find my own place in the world”, don’t I?

For now, at least, I’m enjoying the freedom to try on different middle names.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. nome permalink
    October 13, 2009 11:47 am

    That’s very exciting, choosing a middle name. Ya, I still haven’t worked out the name stuff from my last post about it but it’s really cool that you’re making progress! Woot!

  2. October 13, 2009 1:07 pm

    Best of luck to you in your quest to find your middle name. I had trouble with both my first and middle names and have blogged about it quite a bit :)

    I’m happy with what I’ve chosen and can’t wait until it is legal on Nov. 2nd.

    I love the blog and reading about your gender journey!

  3. Andrei permalink
    October 13, 2009 5:03 pm

    I had that same idea of old name as middle name, but then my initials would be ARM. Plus my mum started going on about the name she would have given me.
    I would say stick with Spanish, it sounds better when said all together.

    • genderkid permalink*
      October 13, 2009 5:11 pm

      Imagine naming yourself Frank Thomas — that would make for strange initials (although, if I recall correctly, you don’t identify as ftm, do you?).

      I had forgotten about the option of using the name my parents would have given me. I don’t like that particular name AT ALL, though, so I’m glad I wasn’t born “male”!

      • October 14, 2009 10:11 pm

        Had I been “born male” I would’ve been named after a Saint and an explorer who disappeared. lol

  4. Sui permalink
    October 13, 2009 7:29 pm

    What I want to change my name to is the only spot of my transition so far where I’ve encountered indecision. My first name was easy, chop off the last two letters. My middle names though? I have two and I absolutely cannot decide.

  5. October 13, 2009 9:10 pm

    best of luck with picking a middle name and going through the legal process!
    for myself, i attempted to honor both parents with my middle and sur name – my middle name is my mother’s maiden name and my last name is my father’s family’s original last name…

  6. Malcolm permalink
    October 14, 2009 10:03 pm

    Hey, good luck with this. I wound up deciding to go with “Malcolm” as a legal middle name and something slightly related to my birth name as my legal first name. I know it’s going to wind up with issues for people calling me by the first rather than the middle, but I like the way it looks and sounds better than the other way around.

    And I can keep my first initial and last name the same, which is really useful for kind of continuity. My old nickname was that set of initials, so I can still go by that, or have references to it without problems. I had thought it might help my parents with the transition, but it hasn’t, so I’m glad that I didn’t have that as the main reason.

  7. October 14, 2009 10:10 pm

    I’m also in the process of choosing a middle name. I really like my first name, but now I am stuck too. I am named after one of my uncles, but the middle name that I wanted was the name of the other one, and personally I think that’s overkill. Right now I am just kinda looking at names that I sorta like and seeing what fits and what doesn’t, and who I wanna honour and so on. I’m also trying to find a good last name, because the one I have is so rare that my dad and I are the only people in the western part of the country with it. Kinda singles me out, so I really want to drop it. ;)
    Hope you find something that works.

  8. Adisson permalink
    October 20, 2009 3:49 pm

    When choosing my new name, I wanted my full name (First and Middle) to reflect both my parents, as they both had a part in my original name. My birth first name is my mother’s first name, and my middle name was chosen by my father (which in turn, gave me the nickname that I currently use). So when my new name came up, I decided to use my mother’s middle name, as it is traditionally a male name (Lee), and my first name (which is based off my nickname) would represent my father’s contribution.

    It’s nice to see another person who is thinking of their parents and heritage as they pick their new name instead of just grabbing whatever seems cool at the time like I’ve seen a lot of guys do.

    -Adisson

  9. November 4, 2009 3:14 pm

    I’m always pleased to see that you and I think along similar lines, and this was especially apparent to me when you mentioned culturally appropriating names. Cultural appropriation is my big pet peeve!

    I personally have decided to keep my very gendered middle name. I was named after my father’s childhood best friend (and my godmother) who was murdered and it seemed important to me that I honour their intentions. Besides, I want to honour her in my own way. Besides, it’s kind of fun to be gender bending in my name ! :D

    Good luck picking a name, and let me know what you pick.

  10. Matt permalink
    February 28, 2010 9:44 pm

    Formerly, here in Quebec (which unlike the rest of Canada is a civil law jurisdiction instead of common law), you would not be permitted to change your name to one of the “opposite sex” until after you had undergone legal change of gender, which required surgery (and still does, although the process has been simplified).

    A trans lawyer named Micheline Montreuil took the Registrar of Civil Status to court and won the right to change her name legally. Among other things, the court noted that the ‘requirement’ on gender was not actually anywhere in the Civil Code, and that it was not up to the government to decide what gender a name was, pointing out that, say, “Jocelyn” is a man’s name in French but a woman’s name in English, or “Andrea” is a man’s name in Italian but a woman’s in English or French.

    Legal name changing is still expensive and difficult in Quebec but has been made easier for people who get a legal change of gender than for others. Fortunately, in the rest of Canada it can be done at will, although costs vary.

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