Road to a Name Change: Part 1

When we leave Arizona this summer, I don’t want to be carrying my deadname around with me. I’ve known that for quite some time; because a new home in a new state will mean applying to jobs and starting over in the workplace, I pretty quickly realized I didn’t want to put myself in a whole new set of situations where my name would get me misgendered likely before I even had a chance to properly introduce myself. Particularly after the absolute barrage of anti-trans bills introduced across the U.S. in 2021 (and in light of the several dozen filed in over fifteen states in the first half of January 2022!), I decided that in part for my own protection and in part to more easily navigate new relationships of all types, my birth name needed to be gone by the time we started seriously preparing for our next destination.

Once I’d articulated all of that to myself, I started working backwards. What else would I need to do for this to work? On a personal level, the answer was pretty much just “update my socials.” Irritatingly complicated sometimes, but no biggie. Professionally, though, things were more complicated:

  • To avoid using my deadname on my resumé or when potential employers want to check on me at my current job, my name would need to be officially updated with district HR, as well as with my division heads.
  • My scores (all sixty-ish of them) would need to be updated to keep my deadname from circulating further.
  • Any press I put out—realistically from that moment on—that I did not personally control would need to be under my new name.
  • My website would need a new URL and as many redactions of my deadname (especially on my blog!) as I could manage.

So . . . uh . . . that’s a pretty long and complex list, and NONE of that even includes getting my name legally changed and birth certificate updated. As I contemplated my options, back in early October, I realized that most of the next six months to a year would be a complicated machine with many moving parts dancing around and sometimes through each other. My mind was full of questions—did I really want to be Eris? What if I chose wrong? Would the state of Arizona even allow me to change my name for gender reasons when they do not legally recognize nonbinary identities?—and they were all expedited to the forefront of my life thanks to one small detail:

I’d very recently agreed to a podcast interview with my friends at Diversify the Stand, which I’d been told would release in early December. The more I thought about it, the more I realized I wouldn’t be super thrilled about putting my deadname on something that, as an audio artifact across several streaming platforms, we would likely never be able to fully retroactively edit my deadname out of. And I DEFINITELY didn’t want to introduce myself and my work to DtS’ expanded audience as my deadname.

That interview was a little over a week away.

Suddenly, I didn’t have the luxury of time—not even taking the rest of the month to really sit with things. Yeah, I could’ve asked for a reschedule, pushed the interview back until I’d had some time to get my life together. But even though my mind was a jumble of questions and information, I knew one thing: the lingering specter of “what if I DON’T really want to be Eris?” wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.

I’ve been Eris in some capacity or another since at least 2018. It was the first name I ever chose for myself, back when I needed a gamertag to play Destiny 2 with my family. The name cemented itself in 2020, when I joined the CBSS Discord and was gradually immersed in a found family that almost never called me anything else. I had time to experiment and grow, and I realized that yeah, I liked being Eris. The “what if I don’t?”/”what if I’m wrong?” was internalized transphobia.

I’m fortunate that I could, at least in this situation, easily call it what it was, but I think it also speaks to how pervasive and insidious transphobic (and generally cisnormative) rhetoric can be. A great deal of arguments against transition for AFAB folks revolve around this idea that we’re just confused, brainwashed even, to the point of making decisions we will inherently regret. But here’s the thing: transition, even medical transition, doesn’t always mean you can’t go back (or somewhere else entirely). Yeah, it might not be the same exact version of you that you left, but that’s arguably true of any decision anyone makes that leads us down different paths than we’d been expected to take. It is not a specifically trans phenomenon, though people who enjoy transphobic rhetoric will certainly try to convince you that it is.

So, with the support of my partner, I set the fear aside, let Ashley know (on super short notice) that actually, I wanted to be introduced on the podcast by a different name, and set my eyes on December 1, 2021–the day the interview would drop and I’d announce my new name to the public at large.

I just had to figure out how to get there.

This is Part 1 of an ongoing series in which I document the process I underwent to legally (and publicly) change my name. I’ll take you through a different part of the process every week, until we get as close to the end as we realistically can. (Truly, I think it never really ends.) Check back in next week for the next installment!

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