Why I Changed My Name
It seems that almost every time I tell someone I changed my name, the person I tell reveals to me that they never liked their given name or felt like it fit them, which is why I'm writing this post. I'm also writing this post in order to challenge the patriarchal line, which conditions us to take a man's last name (whether it's our father's or our husband's). In my latest interview with Diane Twineheart, Diane shared that she and her husband created their own last name together as a way to detach from that patriarchal line. I believe that more and more, people are realizing that the name given to them at birth does not fit them in some way, and are creating their own names for themselves. If you are one of those people who never liked your given name or felt like it fit you, then this story is for you!
It is important to have a name that feels good to you because your name is what people call you. If every time someone calls your name and you wonder who is that? (like I did), then it's probably a sign that you need to find a name that fits you. I'm of the belief that we should choose our names. For some people, their given name suits them just fine and that's great, but I believe we should be encouraged and supported to choose our own.
I never liked my given first and last names and didn't feel like they fit me. Growing up, I was always playing around with other names; it was one of my favorite things to do. When I hung out with my friends, I wanted us to pick different names to call each other that day, which they were always game for. But, I would become like a drill sergeant when my friends would forget and call me by my birth name. I may have taken it a little too seriously during play times, but that seriousness stemmed from desperately craving a different name. I knew my birth name wasn't for me and I was destined to change it!
When I was around ten years old, I decided that I wanted to be called, Sam. I told my parents to call me Sam, and they laughed at me and refused. But, when I told one of my best friends and her family to call me Sam, they happily affirmed my new name. A friend in art class at school started calling me Sam too. Admittedly, I was too shy to ask my teachers and other friends to call me Sam because I feared that they wouldn't take me seriously. Eventually, I lost interest in the name Sam and dropped it, but I knew that I would change my name someday to something more permanent. When I was twenty years old, I knew it was time. I felt the strong pull to find a new name.
Telling My Friends And Family
When I thought about what name I would choose, for some reason, I thought that I couldn't have my favorite name. Then, I realized that was silly and asked myself if I could have been born with any name, what would it have been? The answer was obvious: my favorite name! Cameron had been my favorite name for as long as I could remember. Androgynous names always appealed to me, plus it was short and sweet, unlike my birth name. So, it was final, my name was Cameron!
Telling friends and family about my new name and insisting that they get it right was the hardest part. My family still hasn't completely come around to accepting my new name and I'm okay with that. There might be a day when I'm not, but I've realized that I'm okay with that for now. Choosing my own name is a personal, almost sacred, decision, and it's one that is in opposition to my parent's decision. I am actively rejecting the name they gave me at birth, and that's hard for them. I believe that parents should have less attachment to their children's names because I believe that only YOU can truly choose and know what you want to be called. It might be practical for a parent to choose their child's name at birth, but having an openness to their child changing it down the road is important.
Being patient with friends in the beginning to call me Cameron was necessary, but there came a point when it was no longer acceptable. That line is different for everyone, and I encourage each person to find their boundary and stick to it!
I Wanted My Name To Choose Me But It Didn't
As a feminist, taking the name of the paternal line has never sat well with me. Of course, I didn't realize this until I gained a feminists consciousness, but I never liked my last name either. It was long, unusual and sounded harsh. Unusual, I like, but this one had all the wrong letters strung together for my taste. Creating my own last name was just as important as creating my own first name though it took me a lot longer to discover a last name that I would actually want.
I always thought my new last name would come to me in a dream or while I was meditating, but years went by, and nothing ever struck. I reached a breaking point where I needed to change my last name ASAP! The name was not going to come to me, I needed to be active in choosing it. I do believe that names, sometimes, do appear to us in dreams, meditations, or a moment of an epiphany, but it was clear that mine was not doing that. My new last name had been there all along, I just had noticed it yet.
I thought about and researched various last names and became uninterested fast. I didn't want a "last name" last name. I had always liked first names as last names, so I decided that I would have a first name be my last name. I dug through all of my favorite first names in my mind (there weren't many) and Aaron/Erin popped out at me, but I didn't know how I would spell it. So, I decided to create my own spelling of it with Airen. Of course, I didn't make the name up; Airen has existed as a name with a few different origins and meanings. One origin of it is a Hebrew name for a boy meaning "mountain of strength." Another is the Chinese origin meaning someone you love. And in Spain, Airen is a white grape that's often used for winemaking. All good meanings, I thought, so it was official; Airen was my new last name!
I fell in love with Airen as much as I did with Cameron. And because they are both "first" names, I can use them interchangeably. Sometimes, I refer to myself as Airen as a first name. This is the beautiful thing about names, we can change them! We can change them to what feels good to us, to a meaning that resonates with us better, and we can spell them in a way that suits our pleasure.
Undoing The Patriarchal Line
The more I gained a feminist perspective, the more important changing my last name became for me. I wanted to break free from the patriarchal line. Names are important because they help define our culture and society. If we want to create real social change, we have to question and think about the language we use. We, also, need to think about how we're complicent in the patriarchy-in what ways do we perpetuate it? It can be incredibly uncomfortable to face these ways and create something entirely new and different from what we've always known, but if we want real, sustainable change, then we must examine these aspects. With that said, I'm not necessarily suggesting that every feminist change their last name if it upholds a patriarchal line; that's a decision that each feminist has to make for themselves. But, I am encouraging us to question, examine, and become more aware of the choices we make because then we know that we're making a conscious decision and one that we want. I do believe that feminism is here to support your right to choose what you want and what feels good to you even if it's not what another feminist wants.
So, what about you? Has your given name been at odds with who you are? Is it a gender thing? Is it a patriarchal thing? Or just a strong dislike and a feeling of "this isn't right for me"? Or all of the above? Share with me in the comments section your story around your name! I'd love to hear it.