March 29, 2013

What’s In A [Middle] Name?

So, I was driving out to see my third therapist in a week (I promise I’ll write that whole story up this weekend). It’s a good 25-30 minute drive depending on traffic, and I was alone with my thoughts. And I started thinking about names.

The name I use for this blog, Ali, is the name I’ve settled on for my “Self”, as discussed in an earlier blog post. I said in that post that I was undecided about what Ali was short for, if it was short for anything at all; but like the name itself, the long form Alison has taken hold in my head. Truly, it is not my favorite female name, but as I said before, I didn’t choose this name; it just sort of happened.

In terms of a last name, I will definitely be keeping my own last name. I’ve seen numerous stories on the Web of transwomen who took on new last names, but I have no reason to. Besides, it’s the name my children carry.

But today, as I was driving, my mind focused on the question of a middle name.

I’m not sure why I started thinking about it. I don’t even use Ali anywhere but on the Internet right now, and anonymously at that; so there’s no need for any middle name or last name. But I started thinking about it anyway. Something about the name felt incomplete without a middle name, and for some reason today was the day I decided that I wanted the name to be complete.

But where does one begin for a middle name? I didn’t even consciously choose my first name, so I didn’t have that to fall back on. Some of the most common middle names — Marie, Lee, Ann — I quickly rejected (though Alison Ann really isn’t bad). I randomly ran through some names I liked in my head, but none of them “sounded” right when paired with the first and last name — if I’m ever going to move forward and change this, I at least want the name to have a good rhythm to it.

Then I thought about my current middle name. It’s my father’s first name. That’s a little tradition in our family, to give the first-born son their father’s name as a middle name. Don’t think there wasn’t a moment of guilt when I realized I’d be breaking the tradition if/when I transition my name! But then it occurred to me that I could in some way keep the spirit of the tradition alive … not by feminizing my father’s name, but by taking my mother’s name as a middle name.

And it just sort of clicked.

Like with Alison itself, the middle name — Melanie — just settled in and felt right. Alison Melanie H_____. It’s got a nice rhythm to it, there’s some alliteration in the L and sounds (and it semi-carries through my last name, too), and the abbreviated forms — Alison M. and Ali M. — both have some strength. And to really stretch things, it feels to me like there’s an echo of Ariamythe in there, which is the Internet handle I’ve been using of late.

So, yeah, that happened today. My mind decided that Alison wouldn’t be complete without a middle name, and now she has one. Or now I have one, I guess. I don’t know; that part’s starting to get all confusing. Good thing I’m in therapy now.

Ali M., signing off! 

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  • I took my dad’s middle name as my middle name; it has the same initial and is the masculine version of my birth middle name. I had considered using my grandfather’s first name as a middle name since it also starts with the same letter and he was more supportive of me than I ever expected. Still, the other name won out. Like you express, it sort of presented itself.

    • It’s funny, isn’t it. Technically, when we transition we could chose any name we want, totally reinvent ourselves … but it’s like we always had a name and didn’t know it.

  • I’ve gone with a completely new name. I flat out hated my male name and loosing the last name has had a freeing effect. I don’t think this is an answer for anyone else, but it worked out best for me.

    Best wishes,

    Kira Anne Moore

    • If I had a bad history with my family, I would probably go for a more disconnecting name. But so far, I’d like to keep those ties. Of course, I haven’t told my parents yet, so …

      • I’m glad you have the chance to maintain your family ties. Too often we hear the stories of those who either lose them coming out or never really had them. I look for a day when being trans isn’t cause for these things to happen, but it is sad to say, we still see them when someone comes out as homosexual and they are years ahead of the trans* community so I doubt I will see it in my life time.

        • Well, I should qualify that by saying that I haven’t told my family anything yet. They don’t know about any of this, not even the more “normal” parts like the impending divorce. But I’m hopeful.

          • Well, it is never easy to share something like this with those we love and respect. I wish you all the best and hope to hear of your successful “coming out.” 🙂

  • We’re glad you chose to share with us that interesting story! Since you are a friend, I can tell you that I don’t care much for “Alison.” Now, “venison,” that’s different!

    Of course, I’m kidding, as usual. “Alison Melanie H____________” is a lovely name, and you certainly gave it a lot of thought. Keep us posted if you decide on a different name…..Especially, that clunker “Alison!” Sheesh! *hehehehehe*



    • It’s the truth: I’m not terribly fond of “Alison.” But I love “Ali” — I *am* Ali — and Alison just feels right. Alice feels too old, Alicia too young; but as a thirtysomething woman, Alison would be a realistic first name.

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