On Names

If I had been born a boy, my name would have been Ian.

If I had been born a boy, my name would have been Ian.

My parents had an agreement. If they had boys, my mom would name us; if they had girls, my dad would.

My name is not common in the US. It’s actually Welsh, and much more common in the UK, Australia, and even South Africa. Sometimes I get messages for other people with my name and they're almost always from one of those places.

I’m not sure where my dad got the name from, but when people ask me about it, I brush it off as just having had hippie parents. I never really cared enough to know more than that.

I felt indifferent to my name as a kid, but as a teenager, I hated it. I hated it because people would get it wrong constantly. Pronouncing it wrong, spelling it wrong, and I can’t tell you the number of times that people have thought it was my last name. But the worst was when other kids would butcher it on purpose and twist it in ways to question my gender.

Oh, how I wished my mom had just named me Ian.

I thought a lot about changing my name when I was 13. I dreamed of being Max or Alex... a name that wasn’t girly, but if anyone ever questioned if I was a girl because of my name, I could point out it was just short for Maxine or Alexandra. A name like that would have felt better.

I almost changed my name to Brooke, thinking it would be a good compromise. It was kind of close enough to my name that maybe that would make it easier on other people. Maybe it would make it easier on my parents. They had to understand that I just wanted it to be easier, right?

I thought about changing my name for a long time. I don’t know when I stopped hating my name, but I eventually did.

At this point, it's kind of like an old t-shirt. It never fit perfectly, but the more I wore it, the more comfortable it became. It has some holes in it, and some stains, but it also has a lot of memories and adventures, and you know, I guess it’s a cool t-shirt after all. I don’t know if I can part with it at this point. I don't know that I need to.

But maybe I'll just cut the sleeves off. Maybe I'll just go by the short version, the more masculine version. Yeah, you know, that's even better. That feels like it fits.

My middle name, though... it’s more like the ill fitting pink sweater I got for Christmas one year and keep stuffed in the bottom of my closet, and will always keep stuffed in the bottom of my closet because I’ve been told I can’t get rid of it. But maybe it's time to finally ditch it for something more me.

Maybe that’s how we should all think about names. They’re just like clothes. Sometimes you’ll keep it forever, because you can’t possibly part with it. And other times, even shiny and new, the price tag still on it, you’ll realize it’s not you and you’re better off donating it with that old pair of shoes.

Sometimes you’ll grow into it, and sometimes you grow out of it. Sometimes you just need a new one... yeah, that one, from the second rack in the back of the thrift store. That might fit me better, and I mean, it can't hurt to try it on, right?