I decided to transition only after choosing a name. For months, I had thought of several names, tried them on intellectually, and finally felt I found “the one” when the name Austin came to me. Austin worked because I could see him when I looked in the mirror–the young-looking androgynous reflection responded to that name with a boyish smile. Having a name immediately gave life to the male figure inside me. Austin became a golem I was building in my closet, to be breathed to life when the form was sufficiently complete. Austin was the specter of the man I could become. Let there be Austin and there was Austin.
This started a series of events in quick succession: I decided to transition. I made my first blog post naming myself. I came out to my family and a few friends. I obtained testosterone. I started testosterone. Austin was coming into being. Two women in my life independently proposed an alternative name–actually one of the first names I had “tried on” so long ago: Andrew. I liked it, but it didn’t speak to me until it was introduced by other people who knew me well. Andrew. Andy. Drew. My mother proposed it because it connected me to a family name, my partner suggested it because it sounded right to her (maybe Andy made my transition real for her the way Austin had made my transition real for me).
Suddenly I find myself nameless again. I debate the cons. Austin has many of the faults of trans names: it belongs to a younger man than me; it ends in an “in/an/en” sound; it’s the kind of name you give yourself, rather than the kind of name your parents give you. Andrew has the opposite faults: it’s conventional, belongs to a person who was born a boy thirty-something years ago (creating a bit of an impostor feeling), it carries connotations from years of knowing Andrews.
I debate the pros. Austin matches my face. It has a personality that jibes with the qualities I like about myself and those I aspire to. It was self-generated and therefore carries an inner authenticity. Andrew has a connection with my family, it’s a name I might have been given at birth. It is serious, and does not mark me as having a trans name for the rest of my natural life.
I’m letting you in on my debate. Feel free to vote in the comments, but please don’t offer alternatives–the last thing I need is another name to choose from. Unless it’s one of these.