When we trans people go through a gender transition, we spend a lot of time and thoughtful contemplation considering what our new name will be that matches our gender presentation.
So when we hear someone ask us the question “No, what’s your ‘real’ name?”, which is a roundabout way for that cisperson to broach the subject of what was the name given to us at birth that no longer fits our lives, it can be irritating, unsettling and insulting to the trans person.
Read my lips and this next sentence. My real name is what I tell you it is.
So use it, and get used to having it cross your lips on a regular basis. Calling me or any other transperson by a name that doesn’t fit the way we live our lives now is not only disrespectful, if you do so in front of a person who didn’t know our gender business, you have just inadvertently outed us by doing that. If that person is a transphobe, you may have just set the wheels in motion for that person to experience discrimination at their place of employment or set them up for a hate crime.
And using a transperson’s name in all situations is to them vitally important and a sign that you respect them.
One of the things that pisses me and many transpeople the hell off is when media people reporting on trans issues or transpeople use that ‘born as _____” line in a story about them, put their chosen name in quotation marks or ask them that question during an interview.
It’s unnecessary, and you don’t do it to Cher, Muhammad Ali, Tom Cruise, or any other celebrity or cis person who has changed their name for whatever reason. So why do you feel you need to know what the transperson in question’s old birth name was? That’s in none-of-your-business territory just like what genitalia we are currently sporting between our legs.
So the next time you think about asking a transperson what their ‘real name’ is, don’t. Our real name is what we tell you it is. Accept that fact and move on.*
– Monica Roberts
Monica Roberts, aka the TransGriot, is a native Houstonian and a trailblazing award winning trans community leader. In addition to participating in a long list of panel discussions and speaking engagements to various colleges, groups and conferences over the years in January 2006 she founded the award winning blog TransGriot.
*Cross-posted with permission. The piece originally appeared on TransGriot.