By Raven Hawkins (he/him)
Changing Your Name
For a lot of trans/gender diverse people, choosing a new name is a big step in transitioning. It’s usually one of the first steps of living as your true self. Some trans/gender diverse people keep their birth names, and this doesn’t make their identity any less valid. It’s important that you like your name and it feels right to you.
Choosing A Name
There are heaps of ways to go about choosing a name. A good place to start is looking through baby name websites (though these can be very binary), name generators, or those quizzes that give you a name based on your personality. You could compile a list of names you like the sound of and once it’s got a few options on it, narrow it down until you’re left with one.
If you have already come out, it may be a good idea to ask friends or family which names they think suit you or if there are any other names you could include on the list. Some parents/guardians/caregivers might like to be involved with choosing your new name, since they often chose your old name too, and asking for their thoughts can be a good way to open the dialogue. The risk there is that they might feel entitled to insist on a name that they like, but makes you feel uncomfortable. It’s your name, and the most important thing is that you like it, so it’s up to you how much you want to involve other people in that process!
The pronoun dressing room is a good way to try out names and pronouns in relation to yourself in a safe way. You can also ask a particular group of friends, or even just one person, to call you by a name you’re considering, so you can try it out first. It’s perfectly fine to change your name more than once to find one that’s right for you. A name that you like now may not feel right in a few years time, and that’s okay too.
Telling Friends and Family
Letting your friends and family know that you want to change your name can be difficult. Remember to take your time and only come out when it’s safe and you’re ready. It can take some time for everyone to adjust to a new name, so giving people time or explaining why your new name is important to you can help. Pointing them to resources like this one can give them a better understanding of the situation without putting all the work on you.
Telling Your School
Like telling your family, there are heaps of ways to tell your school about your change of name. If there’s a teacher or other staff member you feel most comfortable with, they would be able to inform the rest of the staff of your new name and pronouns. It’s also possible for you or your parents to contact the principal and let them know why you’re changing your name. Feel free to use email templates such as this one from Tumblr:
Dear Professor [name],
My name is [Preferred name], and I will be attending your course [blank] on [days] at [time] this [term]. I am transgender and have not yet legally changed my name. On your roster is my legal name, [Legal name]. I would greatly appreciate it if you refer to me as [Preferred name] and use [pronouns] when referring to me. Thank you for your understanding, and I look forward to starting your course next week.
Legally Changing Your Name
You can apply to change your name if you are 18 years of age or older and you are born in Victoria, or born overseas and have been living in Victoria for at least 12 months before your application. If you have moved interstate, you must apply to the Registry in the State or Territory of your birth. The adult change of name form can be found on the Births, Deaths and Marriages Victoria. (here)
If you are under 18, you will need permission from your parent/s or legal guardian to change your name. The same residence rules apply no matter what age you are. The application form and other information can be found here.
After you have changed your name, you will receive a new birth certificate (if born in Victoria) or a change of name certificate (If born overseas). The certificate will show your birth name and your new name, as well as any other change of name history. Once you have received these certificates, you will need to update any legal identity documents such as a driver licence, passport, bank account, electoral enrolment, utility accounts (water, electricity, gas, etc), superannuation and insurance. You are able to change your name every 12 months.
With all the different people to tell and decisions to make, changing your name be a lot of work, but once it’s done, you’ll have the name you want!