Question: Changing your name… and nothing else

Someone asks…

I am a female teacher at a progressive school, where I have many good friends. I always present female, but I would like to change my name to a masculine one.

I am worried that people will expect me to identify as trans* and that I will really rock the boat with my middle school students, who always have personal questions. But being embraced by masculine language would help others see me as I really am.

How do I swing this?

Please post your response in the comments below.

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Posted by on August 11th, 2013 at 08:00 am

Category: questions 9 comments »

9 Responses to “Question: Changing your name… and nothing else”

  1. Anonymous

    I don’t have an answer, but I’m in a similar situation — I’m genderqueer, but presenting as female at the high school where I teach, and thinking of eventually (maybe at the start of the next school year, as a natural time for introductions) asking my colleagues to call me by the gender-neutral name that I now use socially. I would present it as just “I go by this nickname now because I like it better than my legal name,” not a big coming-out of my gender identity.

    Would the issue even come up with your students? My students call me Ms. [last name]; it’s only my colleagues who use my first name. Or would you be changing your title as well?


  2. Ryan

    I am a genderqueer/trans high school English teacher at a progressive school. Over the last 6 years at the same school I transitioned on the job, both having top surgery and changing my first name. Since I am not taking hormones, I still look female to most people most of the time, but I do now have a masculine name.

    My school is a last name school, so I asked my students to go from calling me “Ms. Lastname,” to simply “Lastname.” They mess up from time to time because Ms./Mr. is so programmed into them, but they were totally cool with it.

    I changed my name mid-year and my announcement to students went something like this:

    A monday morning in January. Me: “Before we start class I’d just like to let you know that I’ve changed my first name to X. My school email has been changed to xlastname@school. Ok?”

    My students: “Cool.”

    And then I started class.

    I had built up both top surgery and name changing a TON in my head, but it was basically a nonevent. The night before my principal sent an email to families of my students that was very simple and to the point “Your child’s teacher has changed her first name to X. Her new email is xlastname@school.”

    There were no negative responses from parents, even from kids of conservative families. I got a few emails of congratulations from parents, and a few also send really nice emails to my boss appreciating his support. And that was it.

    I spent the 3 years before this angsting about how hard it would be and feeling very much like I was one person at work and a different one in real life.

    I’m happy to share more of my process as a nontraditionally gendered trans high school teacher if it’s helpful. Best of luck!


    radical/rebel replied:

    this comment was really beautiful, and really cheered me up! I’ve been angsting really hard about applying for jobs or grad school with a masculinely-gendered name even though I’m mostly read as female, and this comment makes me feel hopeful and like I can be who I say I am! Thank you for posting and for being an (I’m sure) amazing, incredible high school teacher who can inspire and mentor queer and trans youth!!

    radical genders and radical education,


    Anonymous replied:

    Yes please! I would love to hear more.


  3. Just Another Soul

    I think Ryan summed it up perfectly, but I’d also like to say that these days it’s not uncommon for a girl to have a traditionally male-coded name. I’ve met women named Jasper and Ryan and Scotty (although Scotty did have the y permanently attached). Some people who could potentially have a problem with it might just think about it that way.


  4. Noah

    To all who commented, thank you so much. I am a female-bodied college student with a non-binary gender that leans more towards the masculine side of the spectrum. I am studying to be a teacher, but lately I’ve been very worried that I would not be able to undergo any type of physical or social transition without having to change careers as well. You’ve given me hope.


  5. Anonymous

    I don’t know if this is helpful or has already been covered by the above comments, which I’m not reading because I’m in a hurry…BUT. I have a legal name and a nickname which I’ve gone by since birth, both of which are not really linked in any way other than that’s just what I go by…Usually I get a few ruffled feathers here and there, but mostly if I introduce myself as the nickname and then later, (if it’s necessary), say that my legal name is different and explain, usually people are really cool with it. If anything, they think it’s neat. I just have to correct people a lot and be patient, but I’ve learned this is really not a big deal, if you just are able to discern between people just being forgetful and people who are purposefully using the wrong name to mess with you, (the latter jerk-faces are few and far between).

    I’d also like to add that, (I know this is the other way gendered around, but still…), my grandfather went by Morgan, and I have a close family friend who is male who goes by Sharon. This in no way invalidates their genders as male…It’s just what they go by. Obviously, those names are more likely to be male than some other female names, (like Lucy, for example), and the level of subversiveness with your name choice may vary depending on where you live, but I think you could make it work if you just negotiate the situation carefully.

    Best of luck!


  6. Anonymous

    What about a name that covers both sexes? Like René or Terry?

    There must be a name that suits you and embodies who you are.
    Good luck!


  7. Anonymous

    OMG, thanks, you guys. I am the original commenter, and I thought my question had not made it onto the blog, so I was so pleasantly surprised to find it today.

    I have been floating around in indecision about this for ages, and I am still not sure if I am going to stick with being female or go whole hog and get top surgery and switch pronouns — or something in between. I think speaking with people like me would be a lot more helpful than trying to explain myself to sympathetic people who are not like me. You guys really drove that home for me. So I need to reach out a bit.

    Thanks again, everybody. And I do have a name all picked out. :)


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