names

An open letter to OKCupid about the proposed “Real Name” policy

I just heard about this new OKC policy shortly before this post popped into my feed. OKCupid is planning to replace usernames with people’s first names (presumably to be more like Tinder?) There’s a whole pile of reasons why this is a shitty idea, and the Bearded Genderqueer makes the point very clearly here.

The Bearded Genderqueer

Here is a copy of what I wrote in the OKCupid feedback form in response to their proposed policy change that would require real first names instead of custom usernames by the end of 2017.

Dear OKC team,
I’ve been a user since 2004, I met my spouse here, and I’ve had many relationships ranging from casual to long term that started on your site. I love a lot about your site and I am usually a fan of your changes, especially those to reduce unwanted and harassing messages. I’m not the type to complain every time someone releases a new feature, even if I’m not a fan.

However, I sincerely hope that by “real name policy” you don’t mean to police that like Facebook has done to the detriment and harm of transgender people. For many people, the name that everyone knows them by is not the name on…

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Name change weirdnesses

I’m still occasionally surprised and amused by some of the upshots of having changed my name (and especially of having changed my name in the particular way I did, making my old first name into my permanent last name.)

For one thing, I am now one of those jerks with the dreaded two first names (I mean, kind of. I was given my grandmother’s maiden name as a first name, so it was actually a last name all along, but it is also a name that is used as a first name about 50% of the times that you see it.) On top of that, my work email displays the last name first (as in Lastname, Firstname), so sometimes people who aren’t paying a whole lot of attention will respond to emails from me with “Hi Lastname”

Which means they’re actually sending me emails addressed “Hi Deadname” and I always, *always* have a weird moment of “Wait, how did they knoooooooooow?” before remembering that I did this to myself.

Another weirdly specific thing I deal with is the fact that, oddly enough, both my previous name and my current name sometimes get mistaken for the same wrong names. Before I was Kasey, I had an uncommon name that regularly got transmuted into variations on Kelly/Kayley/Kelsey etc. And… that still happens with Kasey. I just got called Kelsey a bunch by a customer who misread my name.

On the up-side, though I’ve been getting a new wave of compliments on my name lately (my current firstname-lastname combo is very satisfying to say, and more than one person has told me I have a very ‘rockstar’ name). It’s cool that I can take full responsibility for that, too; it’s not just something I got lucky on, it’s something I actively did.

Basically, I did real good job at rebranding myself, y’all. Even though sometimes it’s also weird.

The ‘Shit Cis People Say’ Alphabet: R is for “Real”

Welcome to another episode of the Shit Cis People Say Alphabet! Today:

R is for ‘real’

The idea of realness is often levied against trans people. The misuse of the word ‘real’ by cis people is actually one of the reasons why we need the word ‘cis’, because without a word to identify the group of people who (basically) identify with the gender they were assigned at birth, people commonly default to describing such men and women as ‘real men’ and ‘real women’, thus implying that trans men and women somehow aren’t real (or rather, that their man- or womanhood isn’t real).

Cis people seem to think trans people(’s identities) aren’t real because they’re different from what some doctor announced when we were born, and even that our names aren’t real because we may not have the same name we were given when we were born (though we at least have that in common with a majority of married women (somehow), and they aren’t often asked what their real name is, or if their current name is their real name. I wonder why that could be?*)

I know that sometimes this misuse of the word ‘real’ (especially with respect to names) is fairly innocently intended – I know because on the occasions that I have questioned people’s use of the word in these contexts, they’ve  been clear that wasn’t what they meant and have fumbled for a more appropriate word.

For names, the phrase you want is “birth name”. Some trans people also refer to their birth name as their “deadname”; I’m going to go ahead and say that it’s never ok to ask someone what their deadname was, because when people use that term, it is giving you an idea of how they feel about that name, ok?

For people, if there is some reason why you need to specifically denote the subset of men and/or women who had their gender (basically) correctly identified at birth (and for the record, unless you’re talking about their privileged position relative to trans people, you probably don’t), the word you want is ‘cis’ (or ‘cisgender’ if you want to be formal about it).

Stop implicitly invalidating trans people in this way. And call out other people you see doing it, too.


*Rhetorical question. I know it’s because of cissexism. And heterosexism. And, to some extent, plain old misogyny. Triple whammy of nesting/intersecting oppressions!

Check out the rest of the “Shit Cis People Say” alphabet!