For the sake of clarity, I’m going to give myself a pseudonym dead-name, for this article. Assume that before changing my name, my name was “KD Shorts.” And my new, legal name is “Kameron.”
A little over two years ago, I was at a workshop at the Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference, and one of the presenters was mentioning that they go by the honorific, Mx. (Mixter) in their professional settings. I had heard of this before, but I thought it was just a theoretical pipe dream. Here was someone who was actually using it, in their actual life! I felt soooo jealous. I thought to myself (with a good dose of biting envy), “Oooh, look at the progressive academic who gets to waltz around in an enlightened and indulgent bubble all day long.” I never thought I would get there. Furthermore, even though I’m in my thirties, it was tough to envision a world where I was grown-up enough to have an honorific of my own.
I’d done an excellent job at avoiding it. No Mr. or Ms. for me! I am a janitor at an elementary school: a place where there’s a lot of “Mr. / Mrs. / Miss / Ms. [last name]” around the kids, and then first names amongst ourselves. Except for the custodial staff. It’s first names all around for us, generally. Everywhere except for our name plates on the custodial office door. There, we are “Mr. [last name]” and “Mrs. [last name]” I had somehow gotten away with requesting that I be simply “KD Shorts.” It was awesome.
There was another sticking point though: every year, at school pictures time. We get our pics taken, and then we get some freebies, as well as a sheet of all the staff pics – just like a student would get a sheet of their class. And so, we had to give our names, to be recorded on the sheet. It would vary from year to year, depending on how vocal/empowered I was feeling. I usually told the portrait employee, “no Ms. or Mr. Just KD Shorts.” There were a few years though, where I was “Ms. Shorts” as the default.
These past few weeks, I’ve been riding the wave of legally changing my name, which has been especially gratifying at work, where I was still known as KD Shorts, (she/her/hers). Everywhere else in my life, I had been going by “Kameron” for about two years, and (he/him/his) for many many years prior to that. So, essentially, I utilized this time of change as a chance to come out at work.
I talked to the principal and assistant principal on Friday, December 23rd. I stated that I was changing my name and my pronouns, and that I identify as neither a man nor a woman. The impromptu meeting was less than stellar – they fixated on bathrooms and the fact that the change was going to be hard for people to remember. They did mention that they wanted me to feel comfortable, but didn’t offer any concrete ways that that could happen. I did not panic though – I was thinking, “do not catastrophize this.” I remained neutral and open, but I didn’t use it as a teaching moment. I shouldn’t have to! I thought that things would work out fine, ultimately, and if not, I could always call in the big guns: my local gay alliance’s speaker’s bureau, to do the educating on my behalf.
We all took a time out for winter recess. I then came in on Tuesday, January 3rd, and the principal asked me if I’d come speak to her. Of her own volition, she had consulted the head of HR, and she had basically done a 180. We had a much more fruitful discussion. She still was strong in her opinions, but she made it clear that every choice was up to me, and I could take some time to think it over. We ended up talking about:
– How to come out, and the timeline
– How my name would appear on my name plate on the custodial office door
Coming out: I said that I have already pretty much told the people I would naturally tell in person, the ones I see regularly or semi-regularly. And I wasn’t going to be able to get to everyone, so if she could either make an announcement at the next staff meeting and/or send an email, that’d be great. We agreed she would do both. I told her I’d get back to her with the content I’d like her to say.
Name plate: The biggie! I said I had two ideas, but I didn’t say exactly what they were. (I’ll say it here though! Either 1. just “Kameron” and nothing else. 2. Mx. [last name].) She said that her thought was that my co-workers have Mr. _____ and Mrs. _____, so it’d be great if I conformed to that and picked one or the other. I said, “OK! Great, there is another option that I will go with. It’s Mx. That’s pronounced ‘Mixter.'” She wrote it down in her notes. It was a done deal!
Bathrooms: I could write an additional article about this (heck, probably more like a dissertation!), but to keep it short and sweet: We agreed that I get to pick where I go, and I am making no big deal of it, and it does not need to be a part of any announcement.
All’s how it should be! Just one more small way I am joining the world of adults. That’s Mixter, to you.
This has been my biggest transition goal. For a long time. I always knew I would / could, at some point in the (distant) future, but usually it felt like there’d be no way. I’ve been riding the waves of my legal name change though, and getting in on that as an opportunity to say that there’s more to it than just that I am going to go by a new name now.
Monday – My supervisor had been out of work for 3 weeks, and Monday was her first day back. During her absence, I had received the signed court order from a judge in the mail, and was starting in on some of the bureaucratic processes: going to the DMV, going to my bank, etc. So it was good timing for when she came back – I told her (again) that I was changing my name, and I deferred to her in terms of what she thought I should do. I did not tell her anything beyond the name change, and she expressed concern that she wasn’t going to remember. I also came out to my 2nd co-worker (my one co-worker has been in my corner this whole time.) She was emotional in her responses, but I’m sure she’ll be fine / nothing will change.
Tuesday – Before work, I went to the “third floor” to speak to the benefits lady. I filled out paperwork. She asked me if I had my new Social Security card, and I was like, “uhhhh…” I made a mental note to get on that. She said we could get things started anyway, without it, and I just send over a copy when I get it. While at work, I came out to my favorite teacher. It went well. The reason I like her is because she just seems real. We don’t talk a whole lot, but when we do, she’s always reserved yet super thoughtful in her insights. She shared with me a couple of impressions her 4-year old daughter has had of me (she’s met me a handful of times.) That was nice. I told her the name and the pronoun thing, but I didn’t get as far as “neither male nor female” in this interaction. It was good enough for me right then; she said, “I’m happy for you,” a couple of times.
Wednesday – I gave it a day or two. My supervisor basically seemed to think now I just wait for things to trickle down from the “third floor.” I wasn’t feeling that – I was feeling more proactive than that, but I gave it a day. I In the meantime, I emailed our union president (the benefits lady prompted me to do this) to give him a heads up. We just had an election in November, and my favorite buildings and grounds guy was elected. It’s always a buildings and grounds guy, and if it has to be one, I’m so glad it’s him because I think he can absorb the news and take the lead on it within all those guys – electricians, plumbers, HVAC, maintenance, conservatives, white men, Trump supporters, etc. etc. Hopefully.
Thursday (today) – I talked to my supervisor about when can I change my badge, stuff like that, and she reiterated that I just wait and it’ll all happen. What I was really most concerned about was talking to the principal (again), so that she hears it from me, and so that she hears all of the information. I knew that once I talked to her, she’d take it from there (I’m not sure how she’ll do it, but the whole school will know through her.) My supervisor said she mentioned it to the principal, and I took that as a green light. I came out to three more teachers (one of them told me about a relative, and I was able to get to the part about “not male or female” with her, which felt great!) I was feeling pressure to talk to the principal either today or tomorrow because we’re going into Xmas Recess, and having everyone know when they come back from break would be ideal. So I made it happen. After school but before the admin. assistants leave for the day, I went to the office to see if the principal was available. The assistant principal happened to be with her in her office right then, which worked out perfectly. Kill two birds with one stone! Plus, the dynamic with both of them was so much better. A lot of times, they are like foils to each other. I said the stuff (the name, the pronouns, the “neither male nor female,”) the principal brought up bathrooms (which I have mixed feelings about), the assistant principal brought the energy and excitement, but also brought up how he was not going to be able to remember, and that’s not anything about me. I said yeah yeah I know it’ll be an adjustment period. (In my head, I’m thinking, how long is this adjustment period, exactly???)
Friday (tomorrow) – I have about 5 other people I’d like to tell in person, if I get the chance. If not, no big deal. Everyone’s gonna be focused on Xmas parties and getting ready for domestic family things and cookies and blah blah blah. We’ll see. The best part is there’s really no more pressure!
And so, that’s it! Now I just wait for things to happen around me. Next week, during Xmas Recess, the only people who will be at the school will be me, my two co-workers, my supervisor, and maybe the principal and assistant principal. So, that’s a whole week for the people who say my name the most, to practice. I have a feeling my co-worker / ally will step up and lead it, followed by me correcting everyone every single time.
Then teachers and kids come back. And teachers will have a heads up from the principal one way or another, and then I just start correcting, correcting, correcting. For how long? Not sure.
(I gotta say, I definitely feel good and accomplished, but I don’t feel that “wheeeeeeeee” feeling that often comes with big comings-out. I’m attributing that to my medication, for better and worse. It makes so many things so much easier, but those roller coaster feelings – yeah, I miss the good ones…)
I started going by “Kameron,” socially, in May of last year. I had a turning-point conversation with my spouse a couple of months before that, but I wanted to let it sink in, because once, years ago, I picked out a name I thought I wanted to go by. But then I just didn’t do anything more with it. So I wanted to see if that was going to happen again, or if I would actually move ahead. My spouse started calling me the name around the house, and then, a pivotal moment was trying the name out within a group of strangers that I was only seeing on a temporary basis: Being transgender while in a partial hospitalization program. That helped immensely; to hear the name repeatedly and see if it would sink in. Once that felt right, I emailed a bunch of people with this new information (and with a new phone number). That was a big move, but I haven’t regretted it. It’s been a super easy transition – no one, surprisingly, has messed up in front of me, once. Plus, acquaintances and friends of friends heard word from others, so I barely had to tell or remind anyone! So cool! (Well, ok, except for family members, which is different).
Last Monday, I finally went downtown to get the process rolling on getting it legally changed. I think the hold-up was: I wasn’t ready to come out at work, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to change my last name, too, while I was at it.
I’m now feeling good about coming out at work within the near future. Also, I decided to change my first, middle, and last name. That’s going to take some getting used to, since I haven’t changed that anywhere yet, even socially. Guess I gotta come up with a new signature too.
The process was not too bad: I printed some documents out from an online site, and fortunately my spouse’s dad is a notary, so we were able to go over to her parents’ house to get that all in order and signed, the day before. I had Monday off work, and it turned out to be a gorgeous day, so I decided to bike. (So glad I did because I ended up having to go back and forth, and to a few places. Parking is tough downtown, and I was able to zip around and lock up at VIP spots anywhere I was going, haha – VIP spots meaning street signs and trees.)
I first went to the information desk at the County Clerks’ office. The lady was brusque, giving me 2 other documents that had to be filled out, asking me if I had my index #, and telling me I needed 3 copies of all these papers. Luckily, my spouse’s dad, who works downtown, had told me I could contact him if I needed anything else. I called him, biked over the few blocks to his office – it was cool to see where he works! – and he helped me fill out the rest, plus he made copies of everything and paper-clipped everything neatly and efficiently, with clips on both the top and the sides!) I thanked him and rode back and got in line, where I stood for probably a half hour. When it was my turn though, I got through quickly. I paid the $210 fee, got my index number, and got a receipt.
They told me I then had to go to the Hall of Justice, to the Judicial Clerk’s office. This involved more bike riding, plus a walk through a metal detector and asking around in order to find the right room. Things went smoothly there too, although I noticed that on the receipt I got from the County Clerk’s office, they spelled “Kameron,” “Kamerson.” Aarrgh! I asked if this was going to be a problem, and I was assured that it was fine – the judge wasn’t going to be looking at that at all.
I then biked to a coffee shop and worked on some writing for the rest of the afternoon. About to head home, I ran into a friend, and we chatted for a while. Then a stranger approached us with a digital recorder, and he asked if he could ask us a question for a radio show. I said, “probably!” So he launched into, “OK, so the Cubs won the world series, and that hasn’t happened in 108 years. And then Trump was actually elected president. So, with all this going on, what’s next?” I said, “Flying lizards,” just because it was the first thing that popped into my head, but if I had thought for even just a second, in retrospect, I would have said, “SUPERMOON!” because I’d heard that on that day, (November 14th), it was the biggest it’s been in 69 years, and it’s not going to be that big again for another 34!
Oh well. Next time I’ll make more sense.
This post is in tandem with a post from back in February, Being transgender while hospitalized.
For the past two weeks, I was attending a partial hospitalization program every day from 9:30 – 3:15. Our day was broken up into 5 workshops / activities, and we pretty much stayed with the same group and the same social worker / teacher. Every day we had new people arrive and people finish their 10 days and leaving.
The first session was always “process group,” where we talked about our previous evening and if we used any of the skills we were learning about. Right off the bat, while introducing myself, I let everyone know my name is Kameron and I’m transgender and use male pronouns. The social worker replied, saying “thank you for letting us know – sometimes we have people who don’t say anything about it. I really appreciate it.”
They had to use my legal name for paperwork and official stuff, but it seemed like they could use my chosen name for the daily roster, and I asked the social worker about that. She said, “yes let’s change it – I’ll make a note and you can mention it to the administrative assistant.” During break, I went up to talk to her, and surprisingly she said, “No, it has to be your legal name.” The next day, my legal name was on the roster, and next to it, “Kameron.” Like that, with quotation marks. It felt weird but I guess it was a compromise. Other than that though, everyone always called me Kameron.
During a break one day, someone shared their People magazine with me – a recent one with an article about Bruce Jenner. It felt good she wanted to point that out to me, like she was connecting with me. I read the article, which was actually well done. They referred to Bruce with male pronouns, but made it a point to explain that at this time, Bruce and his family are using male pronouns, so People magazine is too. Seemed logical.
When new people joined our group, I continued to say I’m trans and I use male pronouns. On one occasion, I got into it a lot more, saying that I feel somewhere in the middle and don’t plan to live my life as a man. That strangers almost always see me as female, and it’s difficult to navigate in the world. Later on, I got the best feedback ever. A new person came up to me and said that if I’m going for in between genders, I’ve got it down. They could not tell which gender I am, and when I spoke and gave my name, they still couldn’t tell. They had no idea, but if they absolutely had to guess, they would have said “male.” They gave me a thumbs up. That really brightened my day (for a short time because I’m depressed and am having a hard time absorbing the good things.)
One person told me that they worked with a lot of transgender people in the past. They asked me, “Have you had any surgeries.” I quickly and calmly steered them away from this, saying, “I’d rather not talk about that; that’s personal. What I am interested in talking about though is the social stigma and daily struggles.” That then turned into a discussion about stigmas surrounding mental illness, and everything was fine.
Other than that, everyone was respectful and consistent. This was the first time I was trying out the name “Kameron,” and it felt good. No one knew I’m not using that name in my life yet, and it didn’t matter. I’ve since been telling more friends about my name, and when my partner leaves notes for me, she writes, “Kameron.” This is really starting to have some forward momentum. It feels scary right now, but also it feels affirming, so I’m going to keep going.
The number one piece of advice I would give someone who isn’t 100% yet about a potential new name: try it out in a controlled setting where you are surrounded by strangers (if possible). If it’s a temporary setting, even better.
I’m the type of person who isn’t going to go with something till I’m really really sure. Other people might be fine with trying a name amongst friends and then switching it at a later date, or trying out a few names with a few people all at the same time. These people can disregard my advice!
Sometimes finding a new name is more of an ordeal. It has been for me at least – I’ve been considering new names for many many years. What could be a fun and creative process might end up feeling like a never-ending search for a perfect fit. About a year ago, I wrote a post on finding a new name. I thought I had it! I was pretty excited about it!
It is here: Ruling With Elf Wisdom
I started using my new name at my new doctor’s office, and then I made no further progress after that. Something was off, but I assumed it was just that it would take some getting used to. Now, a year later, I can easily say it just wasn’t the right name for me. (And/or I just wasn’t ready.) It looked good on paper. It sounded good in my head. However, it sounded strange, for me, in the real world. When a nurse called me back from the waiting room, it just did not feel right. Lots of other blog writers have addressed this too:
A few years ago, Micah wrote about how he had an online presence as “Maddox,” which he thought fit well until he started trying out the name at a conference. It is here: Misnomer
Jamie Ray wrote about their process of over-thinking a name until one just came to them, through a Starbucks barista hearing their legal name wrong. It is here: The Name Game
I started thinking about names again a couple of months ago, once I really started to accept that the name I thought I might go with, “Avery” was not a good fit. I wanted an androgynous name, and I felt like I’d heard them all (and I might have, with all the time I spent searching names online). It wasn’t until I had a conversation (not the first) with my partner (at a Starbucks, coincidentally), that a name I had glossed over many times before suddenly popped out more. “Kameron.” I like it because it’s more of a masculine name than a feminine name. I like it because it’s close to my legal name. I like it because Cameron is the name of the first trans-guy I met in real life (the first trans-guy I knew to be trans anyway).
I just feel more sure this time. It’s not really explainable – it’s just a feeling. So far I’ve told a handful of friends, my mom, my partner’s mom, and the partial hospitalization program I am currently attending.
The PHP is a perfect place to try this out. No one knows me there, and I probably won’t be seeing any of them again after 5-10 days. Plus there are lots of opportunities for people to address me, and everyone else, by name. I started to get called “Kameron” a lot, and it’s been treated like it’s just my name. They don’t know I’m not using it yet; it doesn’t matter! When someone says “Kameron,” it fits.
I don’t yet have a timeline for legally changing my name, but I know that I will. I know the change-over will be hard and it will take a while for everyone to get on board and remember. That’s OK – a lot of good things take a while. Even settling on a name to begin with can take a while. Try not to get discouraged – your name is out there!
The term, “ruling with elf wisdom” is linked to the names, “Aubrey” (f) and “Avery” (m/f). They are of English origin. In the case of Avery, the meaning is derived from the Old English words aelf, meaning elf, and raed, meaning counsel. What does this mean exactly? Elves have made appearances throughout time in different cultures’ storytelling and mythology, most notably Germanic and Norse mythology (which may be the basis for today’s understanding of elves as helpers to Santa Claus, of the North Pole.) Not to mention Tolkein’s imaginings. According to Wikia, a website for fandom,
“The elves were originally imagined as a race of minor nature and fertility gods, who are often pictured as youthful-seeming men and women of great beauty, living in forests and underground places, like caves, or in wells and springs. They have been portrayed to be long-lived or immortal and as beings of magical powers. In Norse paganism, Light elves were beautiful creatures and were considered to be ‘guardian angels.’ Light elves were minor gods of nature and fertility; they could help or hinder, humans with their knowledge of magical powers. They also often delivered an inspiration to art or music.”
“The Dark Elves hated the sun and it’s sunlight, because if they were touched or exposed to it they would immediately turn into stone. They use to annoy and threaten humans, to the point that nightmares were thought to be produced by the Dark Elves.These elves could also haunt animals, especially horses. They are also known as dwarfs. “
Elves are known to be playful, mischievous, and flighty, yet loyal and duty-bound. So, to rule with this wisdom can only be a good thing! To “rule with dwarf wisdom,” if there were such a thing, might be something else entirely.
I have not heard any follow-ups from the Washington Post reporter in over a week, so I’m assuming she went with someone else. I’m kinda bummed – it felt like it would have been a good personal challenge. Maybe I’ll have more opportunities to talk with more people in the future… I’ll share the link to the story as soon as I come across it.
Having the chance to talk with her via phone and then to think about the potential of her coming here to hang out with me as I live my life definitely made some specific types of thoughts more pronounced, for many many days in a row. Mainly, what do I want to share with others, and what feels too vulnerable? Hypothetically, to what extent would I choose to be anonymous? These questions have been on my mind quite a bit for a while, but suddenly it felt like I might need to make some definitive choices. And even though the pressure’s off on those decisions, I’m still pressing myself about it, at least some of it. I finally decided to settle on a new name.
The name situation has been a thing I haven’t directly addressed but have thought about for roughly 10+ years (like a lot of particulars about my gender identity). I do not like to go by my legal name, or the name I used growing up. Somewhere in my mid-twenties, I skewed it slightly, and that started to stick – almost everyone knows me by this slightly masculinized version of a pretty feminine name. But ultimately, it’s not what I want. I’ve toyed with the idea (off-and-on) of going by a male name. The biggest contenders were Adam (this is my drag persona) and Konrad (just because I like it).
But, I have to admit that ultimately, it would be too hard for me to request a name like that if I’m not ever going to be appearing definitively male. I wish it were no big thing. And to many people, I imagine it wouldn’t be, and they’d easily make the switch. Just… it would be too awkward for me. I already know.
Ideally, I’ve wanted to go by a name that is right in the middle of androgyny. I mean, a lot of names can be male or female names, but usually, they’re much more commonly used for one over the other.
I talked to my partner about a potential new name about a week ago. This is a conversation we’ve had at other points in time, for sure. But it was always more whimsical – sort of like, what if?… This time it was more like, OK, I really need to pick now. I have this piece of writing I want to submit to our local LGBT literary magazine, and it’s due in 3 days, and I need a pen name!
That ended up being pretty tense; note to self – don’t try to rush these kinds of decisions. Haha. But we got through it; she helped me come to a name that I’m going to start using ASAP as a pen name. Avery. And if I still like it, I’ll start using it more and more online, and then if I’m still liking it, the big switch to real life (which I envision will involve legally changing it as well.) But all that feels pretty scary, so for now, it’s just a pen name.
“Avery” definitely seems androgynous to me – maybe skewed more to masculine, but feels like either, for sure. I looked up the origin / what it means, and that pretty much sealed the deal. A few websites confirmed, “the name literally means, ‘ruling with elf wisdom.'”
Not sure if I could find a better fit!!!
If you picked out your name, how did you come to it / narrow it down???