legal name change

Questions from the search terms: “I changed my name but people still call me by my old name”

From my search terms this month: “I changed my name but people still call me by my old name”

Dear searcher,

I am so sorry that is happening to you. I want to be very clear, in case you don’t know, that this is a problem with other people and not with you. But, since they aren’t doing the work to fix it, you’re going to have to take up some of the slack. There are some simple things you can do to (hopefully) help these folks start calling you by the right name.

First, get in touch with the people who are calling you by your old name, and directly remind them of the change. Keep it as simple and direct as possible:

“Hey, you may have forgotten, but I changed my name [x days/weeks/months] ago. As a reminder, my new name is [your new name]. It is important to me that you do not call me by my old name any more.”

Optionally, you might want to add a statement like “I’ll try to remind you right away if you forget again.” This will do a couple of important things: it warns them of your intent not to just let it slide from now on (I don’t know if you’ve already been correcting people every time or not, but even if you have it may be helpful to reiterate that you are going to keep doing so); it sets up your reminders as something you are doing as favour to them, to help them out with this transition; and hopefully it will make them less defensive when you do correct them, because you’ve established that you mean it in a friendly(ish) way.

Step two is to do your best to actively correct people, immediately, when they mess up. If you’re already doing this, great! It’s actually something I am terrible at, so you are doing better than me on this front. If you haven’t been actively correcting people, then they may push back when you start (though this is why I recommend sending a direct message first, since it clarifies your position and sets the stage for the idea that you expect them to be taking your name change seriously, and makes it harder for them fall back on an excuse about how they didn’t realize it was important).

You may get some people (parents are especially prone to this, since they will likely have the strongest attachment to your old name, having chosen it themselves) who will ask for special dispensation not to have to change to your new name. For them, just reiterate that it is important to you that people call you by your new name – if there are specific reasons for this that you are comfortable sharing with them, do so. If it’s relevant, you may also want to point out that it would be confusing for other people to hear them still calling you by your old name, and might send the message that it’s ok for them to do so too. You can even tell them that because they are important in your life, it’s especially important that they call you by the correct name.

If people really are being stubborn about it, you may want to pull out somewhat more overt or aggressive methods. Start wearing a name tag around them. Flat-out ignore them when they call you by the wrong name (this tactic may also go over better if you state your intention explicitly: “Because it is important that you call me [new name], I will no longer be answering to [old name].”)

You can continue to escalate your insistence on people using the correct name as far as you need to, up to and including deciding to start cutting people out of your life if they refuse to respect you by using your new name.

This is really a boundary-setting exercise, and I encourage you to seek out general advice on setting boundaries to get other ideas about how to make this boundary stick. The “boundaries” category on Captain Awkward is a good place to start.

I wish you the best of luck!

Changing my name is exhausting, y’all

I somehow keep forgetting to write about this/keep putting it off but my legal name change came through in the mail last month!

I have actually started and scrapped at least half a dozen posts about my name since I won the name battle against my old library job. I have been having weird feelings because, on the heels of that victory, I went back to a previous job, and didn’t tell anyone there about my new name. I just… never got around to it on the first day, or on the next one, and then after a while it got weirder and weirder and I kept putting it off.

Anyway, eventually, I just decided I would wait until I had the certificate in hand; this decision worked for me on a bunch of levels, because it motivated to get the name change application fixed up and sent in once and for all, and because getting the certificate in the mail was an event that would help me avoid “but why didn’t you tell us before now?/why is this suddenly important?” conversations.

And, true to my word, the day after I got the envelope, I stopped procrastinating on telling folks at my retail gig about the change. As soon as I got in to work the next morning, I popped into the office and let the admin folks know about the change. And then I went about letting my actual coworkers know as they turned (I’m always among the first to arrive in the morning).

I adopted a super positive, “hey guys, I’m so excited, you’ll never guess, my legal name change came through in the mail yesterday!” attitude to letting people know, and people generally picked up on the vibe that this was a happy/momentous/celebratory occasion for me. I also have a really pat answer that effectively satisfies anyone wanting to know why the heck would do this, without having to get into my gender etc (I have, since I was in high school, seriously wanted to change my given first name into my last name; I was given my paternal grandmother’s maiden name to carry it on, and I can better do that if it is my last name.)

People have generally been positive and supportive and curious about the actual process of the legal name change. I actually have a lot of things to say about specific kinds of reactions I’ve gotten, and the transition process that is still ongoing as people get used to the change, and as the news is still trickling through to people in other departments, or folks I work with less regularly, but I’m going to hold those for another post.

The whole process has gone just about as smoothly as I could have reasonably hoped (i.e. everyone didn’t just magically start perfectly calling me Kasey all the time, but everyone is trying). And yet.

The thing is, this process is so exhausting for me. I think that’s why I put it off for so long, honestly; because I am, without a doubt, an introvert. And when I got home from work the first day I started telling everyone about my name change, I crashed harder than I have in a very long time. Despite everyone being positive about it. Despite no problems whatsoever. Simply repeating the same, slightly fraught conversation so many times over the course of a day felt like a lot. In part because it is a strangely intimate sort of conversation, talking about your name and why you chose it. And in part just because it is an extra interaction on top of the ones I am accustomed to and can handle.

Since the first day, I have been pretty passive about making sure everyone knows – I know a bunch of people haven’t been told yet, and I’m inconsistent about correcting people when they call me by my birth name (in part simply because sometimes I don’t want to derail attention from the actual work-related concerns they’re dealing with, and in part because each time I need to evaluate whether I have the energy to have that conversation right now, and that in itself is a tiring mental check-in process), but the information is trickling through at its own pace anyway. I have had a few people come to me and apologize because someone just told them, and they wanted to make sure that the only reason they’d still been calling me by my birthname is they hadn’t known yet (because they are all lovely people, when I get right down to it).

But yeah. It’s not an easy thing for an introvert to do, this name changing game.