Of course I am aware that I can if I want to change my name legally. However I feel that there is some sort of unofficial, yet totally official list of reasons why you can change your name. I am not entering into witness protection – or at least I do not recall being told I was – nor am I getting married, though again sometimes you just do not know.
The idea of changing your name sometimes seems drastic. It is the signifier that people use to identify you, like some sort of easy short hand for allowing you to communicate with other people. A simple way to change your name is to merely ask people to call you something else – introduce yourself by this other name and people will call you by it. Believe it or not but names have power. Naturally after the Second World War the name ‘Adolf’ dropped in popularity in certain parts of Germany, similarly the name ‘Gary’ after Gary Glitter was found guilty of owning child pornography and rape seemed to basically disappear off the map in the UK.
I do think that people should be encouraged to change their name. After all we may get to a point where our names do not reflect who we are, or rather who we have become. Perhaps we should give people the option at the age of twenty four to legally change their name. Send off your form with your new name and all your legal documents would just get sorted as well with out you having to send off a thousand and one different forms.
Your name is chosen by your parents most of the time, it is decided upon and given to you before you have even started to experience the world properly. It makes sense that it such not just be given to you for you to carry around forever. There should be a point to reflect upon this in the early stages of adult life.
Family names that are passed through the generations, or whether they skip generations at a time, seem to have a weird energy to them. I get that it is about honouring your loved ones but it seems somewhat strange to me to insist that a new person should be called the same as a previous person and yet still be an individual. Although obviously chances are, unless you name your child something ‘unique’ and different like Eastern Boulevard, that your child will meet someone with the same name throughout their life.
Choosing your name should be seen as a sense of identifying yourself rather than some sort of backhand slap to whoever you were named by people who just met you. That is the same as walking up to someone on the street and deciding to name them Barbara without knowing if that is what they want to be referred to. Perhaps twenty four is too early, maybe it should be a case of you get the form at the age of twenty four and it last ten years. Of course there is also the option to not fill out the form and in fact keep your name. No one is saying you have to hate the name you were ‘born with’, you may be perfectly happy with it and how it has grown to suit who you are to people.
There is a stigma to changing your name. It carries connotations of hiding something or running from your past. A key group of people who would benefit from this socially acceptable idea of name changing are trans people. They would know that once get to a certain age they would be able to change their name without having to seek it out. It would merely be given to them as an option. Another group are people who have lived less desirable childhoods, people who have either suffered abuse or have a fractured relationship with major people in their lives who they would associate with that name. That name may have been used as part of the abuse through a process of mental abuse which dehumanised them and hearing or saying the name would leave a bitter taste. By normalising things such as name changing we as a a society would be encouraging these people to be able to leave their pasts behind them and move on to a better future.
Give people the option to create themselves as they see appropriate. Allow them to possibly make a mistake. Naturally by the age of twenty four they should have enough cognitive functions to process a rational decision, and if not then they just have to wait five or six years then be allowed to pay and apply to change it again.
Another solution is to simply name children names that can be shortened to a range of nicknames, names like; Cathleen, Katherine, Elizabeth, William, Richard, Robert. These can all be shortened in a range of names that add a sense of freedom and creativity to any situation the named individual finds themselves.
I do not honestly know what I would change my name to given the opportunity but I quite like the sense of self discovery it opens up. Who am I to people around me? Or to myself? What name suits my face? These are the sort of things that once you start thinking about it is clear to see that maybe one name does not suit you, perhaps several do.
Throughout my life I have met a range of people, some of who do go by names that were not given to them legally by their parents but have not changed them. Only months or years after calling them ‘that’ name do you learn of the other. They do not suddenly morph into someone else, they simply remain themselves with a different name now associated to them.
We need to break the stigma on a lot of things in our society. We need to break the whole system and rebuild it. I personally think that by allowing people to live freely as who they want to be or who they see themselves as it is a strong step in the right direction. Being able to identify as your true self is such an empowering experience. So let us change our names. Let us be called by what suits us more. Maybe we would keep our original names, maybe we like them or perhaps have grown to like them – similarly to growing into a larger school uniform in Year 7 because school jumpers are pricey and you’ll only need a new one next year. Possibly start ordering your Starbucks under a new name, change your Netflix name or get Siri to call you something new and see how it sounds to be called by something other than what you recognise as ‘you’.
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