A few days ago, I received a prescription with my name on it. For lots of people this is quite a mundane, not noteworthy experience, but for me, this was my first time ever seeing my real name on the bottle. Ali Moros Taylor, it read, the name I choose for myself well over 3 years ago. Ali.
Names in the transgender community mean a lot. Calling yourself a new name can be all kinds of scary and intimidating, and yet speaking your name into existence is such a beautiful and powerful thing. It’s one of the most prominent ways of communicating to the world who you are. It took me a while after coming out as nonbinary to realize that I was even allowed to change my name. Until that point, I had just never thought about it. Although, I was beginning to realize that I was growing uncomfortable with it. It just began to feel too feminine for my taste. But still changing it just didn’t occur to me. It took listening to other trans folks talk about their names and how they choose them and why, for me to really question why I was keeping that name.
One night at my local transgender youth support group, the topic of names came up. In this group we always begin and end the session by going around the circle with our names, age, pronouns, and a check in/out question. That nights closing check out question was ‘what does your name mean to you.’ And my initial thought was “oh! well my parents named me after a good friend of theirs” which is a perfectly reasonable answer, but as the other people in that group answered my mind was opened. These kids talked about loving the sound of their name and loving how it’s written. They mentioned the people they named themselves after, whether that be a close friend that’s now out of touch or a family member that they’d always been close to. There were old family names that they had always admired that they were finally able to give themselves. They talked about feeling such a connection to their name. And I was inspired. How could I hear the passion in their voices and not be? I wanted to feel like that too! And so, onto the baby name sites I went, curious of what they could hold for me.
I knew I wanted something ambiguous that wasn’t too masculine or feminine, a name that was as gender neutral as I am. I looked and pondered and came across Ollie. Now I’ve always loved the name Olivia and one of my friends at the time, who I went to when I began to question if I was entirely cis, went by Ollie or Oliver. I absolutely loved the sound of it. I remember late at night whispering to myself “Ollie” “my name is Ollie” and feeling so so good. Now evidently my name in fact is not Ollie currently, and to be candid it was only Ollie for at most a couple months. As I tested out this new name, I had found that although I loved the way it sounded I hated the way it looked. It just felt completely wrong. So, I continued thinking and contemplating names. I began thinking about how my parents and siblings named me.
Our mother on several occasions recounted us with stories of when she was pregnant with each of us. She would always start with Alexa, the oldest and then Omar and then me. With Alexa my parents chose not to be told the sex of their baby. So, they had to pick a boy name and a girl name. They went through tons and tons of names. Some, our grandparents had problems with (“ NO. Not Carlos. Every Carlos I’ve met has been a troublemaker.”). And others they grew wary of the nickname(s) their kid might be called (“what about Socrates?” “Oh I like that but everyone would call him Soc…nevermind”). Eventually they found criteria for the name to meet: the name must be short enough so that it can’t be nicknamed, and the name needed to be pronounced and spelled the same in English and Spanish. And after Alexa, it was easy to find names for me and Omar with this given guideline.
Now this is something I could work with. I needed a short, non-nickname-able, gender neutral name that could be pronounced and spelled the same in English and Spanish. And all of a sudden it hit me! Ali. The perfect name. It fit the criteria and sounded nearly the same as Ollie. And I fell in love. I wrote my new name everywhere and practiced my new signature, I wrote in different scripts and sizes. I spoke my name and heard the different spelling in how I said it, and it truly was perfect. This was my name! My very own name that I chose, and I get to call myself. A moment of pure euphoria.
Changing my name socially was no problem. I had already done the big thing of naming this change in how I wanted people to think of me. This was just one more switch to make. Legally it took a lot longer. For one reason or another it was only until last November that the courts ratified my name change. So now anywhere and everywhere my name is officially my name. On school records, my ID card, and now medical records and prescriptions too. Seeing Ali Moros Taylor on all these things makes me so happy. I even cried a little seeing my name casually written on a prescription bottle.
All of this to say: please respect and honor your trans brothers, sisters, and siblings’ names. Whether they have changed or not and whether they want to or not, our names are a very special and personal topic, which we don’t need your input and thoughts on unless asked. Not everyone has a name process as smooth and simply as mine; some people go through hundreds of names and seem to change it every week. Others might change their name after months or years of using it, and that’s okay! They’re still looking for their perfect name, and they can take as much time as they need. Maybe they need no time because they’re keeping their birth name. Remember to always lean into love and compassion before you make judgments.