top of page
  • Micah Nicholson

A Trans Guy’s Guide To Changing Your Name

Mentord by Micah Nicholson (He/Him) 

A caveat, that this article is largely written with trans people in mind. However, there’s no reason that only trans people can change their names, and there’s no requirement for a trans person to do so either. All human experiences are unique, and this article is intended as a guide, not a set of instructions.

So! You want to change your name. Maybe you’re bored of it, and jealous of all your friends who had more creative parents. Maybe you hate it, and are sick of hearing the same stupid joke over and over. Maybe you, like many trans folks, feel that that arrangement of letters and syllables simply doesn’t encapsulate the person you are becoming. Whatever the reason, you’ve decided to sit down and pick a new name—good on ya!

The first thing that most folks say when they want to change their name is that they don’t know where to start. Don’t fret! That’s what this article is for. The advice most people are given is to hit up the baby name websites. While this is solid advice, the issue is that this really doesn’t narrow things down at all. 

Before sitting down and diving headfirst into the internet, make a list to yourself of what you want from your new name. Something gender-affirming? Something traditionally masculine? Feminine? Neutral? Do you want a name that reflects the end of the gender binary you feel more comfortable with, or a name that subverts that expectation? 

Second, think about what influences you want your name to have. Do you have a favourite character you want to pay homage to? Is there someone from primary school that had a really cool name that you remember being incredibly jealous of? If you’re able to, reach out to parents or older siblings who remember when you were born. Ask them what the discussions were around the reasons for picking your name. Family legacy? Cultural impact? They just thought it sounded cool? Think about if this is something you want to emulate with your new name—plenty of trans folks find themselves gravitating towards the name their parents had as a backup, in case they had been born the opposite sex. (I would’ve done the same, if my baby cousin hadn’t been born a few years before I came out and stole the chance from me!) Is there a noticeable theme in the naming scheme in your family? My siblings both have biblical names, and while my deadname wasn’t biblical, I did accidentally pick a name that matched that tradition!

If you aren’t vibing with that, it’s time to branch out. The next question to ask yourself, do you want to go in or outside the box? There’s plenty of names out there that started off as words for other things, and simply got co-opted into names over time. While it is a massive stereotype that trans people name themselves after inanimate objects, there’s no reason to let the existence of that stereotype stop you from being creative. Besides, there’s plenty of parents out there who name their cis children unusual names. (My sister has a friend named ‘Star’, and both her siblings have celestial names as well.) And think of the number of plant names that are already in popular circulation, Roses and Lilies, Sages and Ferns. Don’t let yourself be limited by what’s considered already acceptable.

I’m a big fan of lists, personally. And keeping track of all the potential names can be a lot! So I highly recommend actually having a written record of your search. List your sources of inspiration. Is there a time period you particularly like? What were popular baby names in 1963? What were popular baby names in 1742? Or maybe you want to swing the other way, ‘Josh’ might have been the most popular name for boys in 2002, but it doesn’t even hit the top 50, as of 2022. What’s been trending for the newer generations? Anything that particularly speaks to you? What are the types of sounds you like? Keep track of all the things that jump out.

When that list starts to narrow, start thinking of a few other things. How does this name sound with your last name? Does it roll off the tongue? Do you want it to? What spelling of the name do you like? What pronunciation? Be aware of all the different ways people can, and will, fuck up both of those things. Work out how much that’s going to bother you. And underestimate the intelligence of people, in this case. No matter how obvious you think your name is, I guarantee you there is someone out there who will get it SPECTACULARLY wrong. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been Mika, Mike, Micha, Mitch, Meeka, Michah, Meecha, and any number of other variations. 

If you’re able, start running the short-list by your friends! A name might sound cool in your head, but feel completely ridiculous when you try to introduce yourself to someone with it. Hit up a cafe where they announce your name when your order is ready—The Lab does this! It’s also a great way to discover some of the potential mistakes people will make with your name. 

Don’t be afraid to experiment. Don’t be afraid to change your mind. I went by three different names after realising I was trans. The first one, essentially only online, the second, to a very select group of people, and the third is the one I still have today. But I don’t think I would’ve necessarily settled on ‘Micah’ for good. It’s on my legal documents now (and that is a pain in the ass to change!), so that’s what it is for the foreseeable future, but a huge part of me wishes I’d experimented more when I was first working these things out. A very close friend of mine, at the time, complained that I was being annoying by changing my name “too often”, and so I settled far quicker than I felt I was ready for. If people in your life tell you that, ignore them. They don’t know you, they don’t know how easy or difficult this is for you. If you value finding a name that fits right, then they should value that journey for you too. And if they don’t? Fuck them! You deserve to go crazy and find something that feels you

Final notes to wrap up with, please, for the love of god, think about any potential implications with the name you pick. While it’s less of an issue these days, the early 2010s had a massive surge of white trans guys naming themselves after their favourite Japanese anime character. I respect the concept of claiming your favourite character’s name, but do actually think before you go jumping off the deep end. Double-check your initials, too. I did partially pick a middle name beginning with ‘A’, for the sheer comedy of having my initials spell MAN, but I also know people out there who have wound up with less-than-ideal combinations. (I knew one unfortunate person who had the initials KYS. On the other hand, a friend of mine deliberately picked names to make their initials spell LOSS.) 

And hang onto that list of discarded potential names. You never know when it might come in handy. Picking a middle name was something I found a hundred times more difficult than finding a first name, and that was partially because I had forgotten all the things I’d liked and considered the first time round. 

At the end of the day, whatever you want to name yourself, that’s up to you. Names are important. They help us know who we are, and who we want to be. They’re one of the first pieces of ourselves that we offer to other people, and one of the first pieces of another person that we are lucky to receive. So long as you feel content with the name you have to share that’s all that matters, and fuck anyone who tries to tell you otherwise.


bottom of page