I legally changed my name as an adult.
It’s a long story, but here’s the punchline: some people still don’t use my new name.
This includes people I love, and who love me right back. It wasn’t that they wouldn’t do it, not exactly. It was that they couldn’t quite wrap their heads around the possibility that someone might change their given name.
At the time, my uncle was – as he often is – the hero of the story. Steve calmly said “people should be called what they want to be called.”
He never used my old name again after that moment.
It was one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received. Acceptance, and above all else, acceptance without requiring me to offer an explanation.
I know it’s awkward to look at a person your brain knows as Melanie and say Quinn instead.
It takes effort and energy. Sometimes it’s just downright puzzling.
But I do think that Steve’s Principle is bedrock to being a good human being.
Call people what they want to be called.
Without expecting justification or reason.
And yes, even if it you find it a little silly.
Names matter, but people matter more. Steve’s Principle honors that reality.
Long, antique names for boys and girls. Sign me up! Laura’s round-up ranges from Rosamund to Archibald to Ignatius to Clarinda. Such a gorgeous collection!
What a sweet little book. Alix has just released Goodnight, Little Name. It’s darling!
I’m going to need a class list:
The names of the kids in my son’s preschool class – my son’s included – are indistinguishable from the names of the residents in most Palm Beach retirement homes.
— Bess Kalb (@bessbell) October 12, 2022
Oh look! Just what I asked for, waiting in the replies. Arthur, Orson, Rosemary …
It’s true! I’m a preschool teacher & I say my class sounds like “the old folks at the home”. Highlights include Rosemary, Adelaide, Arthur, Alice, Henry, Orson, Josephine, Margaret, Thomas, Edward, Audrey, and Eleanor.
— Sheffia S (@chineseslippers) October 13, 2022
And Mandy Moore’s kids would fit right in at that school. The actress and her husband Taylor Goldsmith welcomed son Oscar “Ozzie” Bennett, a little brother for August “Gus” Harrison. Gus and Ozzie! I love a good grandpa name on a sweet baby boy …
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That’s all for this week. As always, thank you for reading – and have a great week!
Why do all Steves or Stevens/Stephen/-ans are so accepting? It’s 1 of those names that I’ve come across that people have and personally experience Steves to be usually open-minded individuals. Most times, they can relate for they’re usually unique in some way, despite having such a “traditional” or widely-recognized name. One I’ve met is currently studying to be a physicist, another was a former engineer for the navy, later designed clothes and is very good at making different types of knots, and there a many others w/ unique interests and are always friendly!
Very good post and love that Mandy Moore and her husband chose “Oscar”. It’s very underused compared to a lot of other “old man” or “traditional” boy names.
Our grandson is now 15 and doing well. Our family hopes to have another family reunion next summer.
Your story of your Uncle Steve immediately using your chosen name brought to mind a different reason for a name change that occurs when a young person comes to believe “I was really meant to be a…” — person of the opposite gender. That’s what happened with one of our grandchildren, who was identified as female at birth, but later self-identified as male. This grandchild and parents started on this journey when the child was 11: the child said the words quoted above and asked to be called by a male name. Because this child’s family live on the west coast, far from any of the rest of our very large family (who live mostly in the Midwest, where our 9 kids — by birth and adoption — grew up; also one family is on the east coast), and because of the pandemic, most of our family have not seen this young person (except briefly on Zoom calls) since our last family reunion in 2019, when we were not yet told “they” had a new name — and gender ID. When just my husband and I are talking, we usually remember to refer to this grandchild by his chosen name, but sometimes the original name slips out. For transgender individuals there is so much more involved with a name change, and it can be critical to the person’s emotional well-being that those who care about the person try to follow your Uncle Steve’s advice that, “people should be called what they want to be called”.
Thanks for sharing your family’s story, Patricia. And yes, thank you for the reminder about how much higher the stakes are in such a situation. It feels like the least we can do is use the person’s preferred name. I hope you do get to have that family reunion next summer!
Your uncle Steve sounds so great!
He is! Thanks for saying so.