What’s in a Name

For someone who has thought about being a woman for their entire life, I never gave a female name much thought. Probably because I never thought I’d live as a female, so what would I do with a female name?

Anyway, when I was talking with my partner about coming out, they asked me what name I was going to go by. I said I hadn’t seriously considered using a female name before and they started rattling off names.

Then we were brainstorming and Googling, and I was saying, “No…no…oh, I like that,” and eventually we came up with a list: Sadie, Abbi, Julia, Molly, Evie, Aimee, Hannah, Lilly, Charlotte, Mia, Rebecca, and Sarah.

They’re all pretty names, and I’d be glad to take any of them. But the next day I kept looking at the list and didn’t feel like anything was jumping out at me. I thought Molly would be a nice name, and I was going to choose that.

Then I started saying the names to myself as if I was responding when someone introduced themselves. Doing that was like magic because I couldn’t see myself saying, “Hi, I’m Molly,” or any of the other names. They just didn’t feel right.

Until I got to Hannah.

“Hi, I’m Hannah.”

It was as if the skies opened up and the name gods tapped me on the shoulder with a fishing rod. Which is to say that it felt right, and I knew instantly I would be Hannah.

That sound frivolous, doesn’t it. “Oh, let’s find a female name for you,” then you start listing and Googling. Doesn’t sound very inspired, or like finally getting to use a name I’d been yearning to use since I was seven years old or something.

But how much thought goes into names anyway? None, as far as most of our own names are concerned. We were given names and most of us keep them.

You grow into your name, I guess, but I have to say that I never liked saying Michael. “Hi, I’m Michael.” Stuck in my throat or brain every time. I never thought much about why that might be, but apparently the name gods have answered that question for me.

And mulling over a list of female names that I liked for a couple of days is the opposite of frivolous. It’s way more thought than I’d ever given to my name before. Well, until very recently when I made a big stink on my podcast and all my websites about changing my name. Oops. But all I was doing was adding my middle name, so it wasn’t much of a change anyway.

Now I won’t have a middle name, which is as it should be. Who needs so many names?

I’m not just asking people to call me Hannah, I’m legally changing to Hannah. The papers are already finished, I just have to file them and then wait months for a judge somewhere to tell me it’s okay to be who I already am.

The name change is pretty easy in California though. After you pay the state $435 for the privilege. And the form you file with the court even has a box to check if you’re changing your name for gender identity purposes.

So when the order or decree or whatever it is comes through I’ll start changing my name in the eight million places it’ll need to be changed.

Starting with the DMV, which now lets you choose an X on your California driver’s license, instead of M or F.

That’ll be one down and 7,999,999 to go.

And after all of that, I’m sure a lot of people I’ve known forever will keep calling me Michael.

Getting people to change what they call you is difficult. I’m not sure why. Decades ago I asked people to stop calling me “Mike” and start calling me “Michael.” But maybe half the people I knew then still call me “Mike.”

So good luck with Hannah, I guess. Maybe if I point out to them that Hannah is a palindrome they’ll remember. Probably not, but who doesn’t like a good palindrome?

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