A good place to start

This is as good as any place to start I suppose.

This morning was the morning that I informed my parents of the name I had been thinking for myself; Madelyn. I told my mom first, she said it was a nice name, but she was reminded of Madeleine Albright, which was a bit of a bummer for me (although admittedly I thought the same thing when I first considered the name). I have nothing against Ms. Albright, but she’s just not the reason I chose the name, nor a particular source of inspiration for me personally. My dad came in the room and my mom told him, I think he must have said, “that’s a nice name” or something like that in the background. It was somewhat a non-event, and we were on to other topics.

When I first started thinking about the possibility of transitioning (some years ago) I thought it could be nice to find a name that was reminiscent of the name my parents gave me upon birth. I didn’t feel like “Matilda” fit me very well, so I thought through other similar names like Madison, and Madelyn (and it’s various spellings). At the time I too could only think of Madeleine Albright as a Madelyn I knew of, and the image of her didn’t fit me either.

But as time when on I think I’ve started to like the name more. After all, there are a number of wonderful women who have had that name, starting with Mary Magdalene (the roots of the name), and going through modern history where there’s a bunch of Madelyns that have had a positive impact on the world and even a popular book series featuring the tales of a girl with that name. Seeing the name with these other histories helped me appreciate the name more, and it grew on me.

There’s a number of reasons I selected the name, but when it comes to choosing a name it’s not really a scientific process, but an emotional one. After all, this is something that will be linked to you for a very long time. It’s true that the name is somewhat related to my boy name given at birth, it allows me to have the same first initial, and my friends can still call me “Mattie” for short which might be nice. But ultimately it’s the feeling that helps seal the deal – it just feels like it could fit me.

Not a lot of people in the world change their first names. It’s legal to do so in most places, but many people feel strange about doing it because their name was given them by their parents. Most trans people don’t have much choice in the matter since continuing to live life with their given legal name can create problems and draw unwanted attention. While a name change is basically a requirement for a trans person that embarks on transition in my case I’ve always thought that as far as boy names goes my given name was a beautiful one – although not appropriate for a girl at all.  It’s more about what the name represents that I think makes me realize it will need to go; a lifetime living what feels like someone else’s life, the ‘boy’ suit that I have worn so well for so many years, and a reminder of my gender incongruence each time my name is used. And yet, it was the name my parents chose for me, it was the name my loving wife and many important people in my life have come to know me by, and the name that will represent all the good aspects of my life up to now as well.

And so here is where I begin, with a new name in mind for my future, and a place to share my thoughts about living in transgender, and the thoughts and feelings about journeying across the gender spectrum to the place I have always felt I should be.

2 thoughts on “A good place to start”

  1. Terry Shultz

    I love the name and understood instantly why you chose it. Names are very important to me and I think that Western culture misses a lot when it comes to the importance of names. I also think it might be really great to have different points in life where we all take on different names that best suit our transformations through living.

    When I honored the true me by “converting” to Judaism, I too had to choose a name for myself and went through a naming ceremony similar to African ones. I ultimately decided on two names…Aviva Avigail. The first represents my future as it means “Spring” and implies rebirth and renewal. The second name came because I included my mom in the name discussion because I wanted her to be a part of the process. She told me she almost named me Abigail after the woman who was Kind David’s wife. Ironically, this was the other name I was considering because that very person demonstrated the gifts of being an empowered woman while peaceably navigating a patriarchal world…something I’m still learning how to do.

    Choosing a name is challenging because of all the emotions that come along with it…as you said. So, for whatever it’s worth, when I read your choice today, the first thought I had was of a recently published book, “Two Kisses for Maddy,” also about transformations and death and rebirth of life. So…maybe, in spite of all the trauma and challenges and heartache, it’s a sign of good things to come 🙂

  2. Abby A.

    I love the name and think it’s perfect! When I think of the name Madelyn, I think of some kind of yummy cookies, and I think of a fun character in a children’s story series, and I think of proper English ladies sipping tea with their little fingers pointing out and eating scones (or eating those yummy cookies… except would that be cannibalism?), all of which are lovely associations. 😉

    I also really love the nickname, Maddie.

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