“Choose your name, choose your alter ego, choose your destiny!” – something I posted on Facebook some time ago
My mom asked me recently if she could call me “Emily-x” where “x” is my short-form birth name. I said absolutely not!
Choosing one’s name is an act of taking control over one’s life. I recommend that everyone do it. By naming myself Emily I began publically abandoning a masculine identity I want nothing to do with. By declaring it my legal name to a judge I took a public, on-record stand for who I want to be.
I expect that my mom is having a hard time letting go of my masculine past. But I am still the same person as before, faults and all. She understands this and supports me. But I know she really liked the name she and my dad gave me.
I could have chosen the feminine form of my birth name, and seriously considered it. The reason I didn’t was that I wanted a break from the past. I wanted my friends to use a name for me that has no masculine counterpart (in English) to emphasize my femininity.
For over a decade I used the name “Vanessa” privately with my then-wife. I chose the name because in Greek the word means “butterfly”, and I saw my true gender expression as emerging from a cocoon into a beautiful butterfly.
However, my then-wife, now ex-wife, became very abusive and once we divorced I associated the name with her. The name wasn’t the problem; the problem was that we kept both the name and the abuse secret for many years. I developed trauma from that abuse and its associated secrecy. Therefore I abandoned a name I also associated with secrecy.
So when choosing a name, I looked for candidates that did not match anyone I worked with, was a friend with, or had feelings for. No problem there. But I did start thinking of women in my life that attracted me for their class, spunk, and femininity that I don’t associate with much now (because they live in another city). That is where the names “Emily” and “Marie” came from, and I decided to choose one as a first name and one as a middle name.
But which way to go? I repeated “Emily Marie” and “Marie Emily” over and over again in my head to see which sounded better, eventually choosing the former.
Regarding the women that inspired these names, yesterday I confessed to one of them that I nearly proposed to her twice in the last three months. I said I wasn’t in love with her but that I valued her so much—think she is so awesome—that I would follow through with marriage and being a great partner if the proposal were accepted. (I know I would quickly fall in love with her, and that strong marriages are built primarily on friendship).
I retained my last name because I have no beef with my family, who has come to accept my gender transition and who has been very supportive through my struggles with mental illness.
One last thing: It took me awhile to get used my new name. For about a year after my legal name change, I felt I picked the name too fast. Basically when I finally decided to change my name legally, I decided to file the paperwork within about two weeks. At that point I made the decision not to become legally “Vanessa” and that I needed to choose something else. So I brainstormed and tried on names quickly. I’m not convinced I gave it the thought I should have. But I did look up the meaning of the word “Emily” and liked it. And then promptly forgot the meaning.
Now that everyone in my life calls me Emily, except my parents sometimes by mistake, I like the name. It is now a big part of who I am.
I looked it up again just now: “Emily” is Latin for “hard-working and industrious”. Sounds great to me!