Reggie’s Guide to Changing Your Name During Your Transition
By: Reggie Eaton
Hi, my name is Reggie, I use He/They pronouns, and I identify as a Queer, Trans-masculine, Person of Color. I am usually known as “that loud, gay person who just won’t shut up about music”. I used to call myself Alexander/Xander/Alex, but those names don’t suit who I am anymore. My name and pronouns have a significant meaning to me. They mainly help affirm my identity to those that cannot place me in their understanding of the gender binary and choose to misgender me and insult me for being my authentic self. To me, names are similar to any other label. Similar to gender and one’s sexual and/or romantic attraction (if any), names and pronouns are as flexible or as rigid as they need to be. My pronouns and the use of them have changed over the years, and I am now at a comfortable place to announce them and live my full truth.
When I first came out to my family, friends, and supporters, the reaction was overwhelmingly positive. I was welcomed into the hearts of those who care about me with open arms. I connected with my school counselor who helped me settle on ways to announce my name change. I decided to send an email, similar to the template I created (below), to all the teachers I had that year. It was easier for me to send it in an email than confront my teachers about the change face to face. As I got closer to my teachers and school counselors, I felt more comfortable talking about the transition pieces of my life. Most teachers were pretty accepting and compassionate to my situation and embraced the change altogether. I made great connections to my French and English teachers during this time, which made the social transition painless.
When I chose the name Alexander, it became obvious to everyone that I needed to legally change it. I advocated for my needs and had it legally changed in the state of Wisconsin in 2018. My English teacher was there during my court hearing, as a familiar face and a cheerleader. With my school district, I submitted my legal documents to the administration, stating the name change. When I went back to school later that day, my name was changed on our school’s roster.
Some of my personal strategies are emphasized by the fact that I come from a family where I am fortunate enough to express myself. I have been told to always be myself, especially in the ways that I want to express, communicate, and affirm my gender identity. When I am dysphoric, I typically shave or wash my face, take time to reach out to my supports who can help to affirm my identity, and I write and/or talk to myself using the name and pronouns I want to hear (like a “speak it into existence” sort of way). When I talk to myself and use my name and pronouns, it helps me familiarize my face to my body. I am also fortunate enough to have the possibility to physically transition into the person I need to be. Other ways I affirm my identity is by applying nail polish, dyeing my hair funky and fresh colors, taking my testosterone, and sitting in the tub singing along to my favorite songs.
Regardless of how I treat myself and my main supporters treat me, the rural community that I live in unintentionally and intentionally misgender me. I currently attend a large high school, which in itself is a rough time, but when the compound damage of misidentification and constant misgendering from classmates and teachers hit me, it creates damaging and painful experiences. I have teachers and classmates that emphasize the name and pronouns to others when I am misgendered and/or the wrong name is used. I also use the practice of talking to myself to help advocate for my needs when these situations arise. Whether or not you fit into societal standards of gender roles and expectations or not, it does not give someone the right or ability to misgender/misidentify who you are.
I have a handful of strategies that work for myself when these feelings are too strong, and they have made all the difference. I have also consulted with my confidants, and here are our pieces of advice for those trying to assert your identity and (in my case) trying to socially change your name. I now present:
Reggie’s Guide to Changing Your Name During Your Transition
- Test out identifiers (names/pronouns) on a lower scale. For example:
- Write/ journal to yourself using your identity and talk about things you like about yourself with identifiers. For example: “There is this person I know named Reggie and they are really kind to strangers that he meets at coffee shops and thrift stores.”
- If you have a supportive person in your life, broach the subject to them and ask them to be your pen pal where they use your name!
- Talk to yourself and refer to yourself using the identifiers you want to try out.
- Order a coffee at your local coffee shop with the name that makes you feel comfortable. I personally have used this and I find it very helpful. Hearing my name being called was euphoric for the first time. I had such a positive experience that I only can recognize that someone is talking to me when they use Reggie.
- Create an anonymous social media account that you can test out names and pronouns on.
- Practice self-care!
- Create or put on a playlist that makes you feel feminine/masculine/androgynous
- In the case of uncomfortable or dysphoric feelings, save funny/cute/affirming memes/YouTube videos/TikToks to your phone that you can play when you need a “feel good” moment.
- Buy/make small things that you associate with your identity and/or your names and pronouns.
- Join a GSA and/or communities that are accepting and affirming either online or local to you.
- Email your teachers/counselors/academic staff about your name change and/or pronoun change using this template, whether you were able to legally change it or not.
This is a similar letter template I used when I first announced my name change. When I changed my name from Xander to Reggie, I used the line “but most of you know me by [old name here]”. The template is customizable to your needs and is a conversation starter with you and your school.
My name on the school roster is [your legal name here] and I am in one of your classes, and wanted to inform you that I am now going by [new name here]. I use [new pronouns here] pronouns. If you hear another person using the incorrect name and pronouns for me, please correct them immediately. I appreciate all efforts to use the correct names and pronouns.
If you have any questions, feel free to email me.
See you in my classes and in the halls,
[Your name here]
Throughout your process, no matter the circumstance, know that you are loved and valid. If you need support in your name change ventures with your school, you can reach out to students@glsen.