The Name Game

How-I-got-my-nameOctober 19, 2013 was the first anniversary of my legal name change. It is the best thing I ever did for myself.

I first thought about changing my name in my early twenties. A lot of butch women (wimmin, womyn, or w/o men) did. They chose names like Willow, Blue, Shad, Birch, and Sky. They used their initials like JP and DJ. They took nicknames; Barbara became Bobby, Andrea became Andy. They did not take names like Michael, David, James, or Robert (the top four boy’s names the year I was born). I told Donna that I was going to take an urban name like Concrete, Asphalt, or Fire Hydrant. She did not take me seriously.

When I accepted that I was trans* I knew I had to change my name. I never liked Amy. I never felt like it fit me. I’ve written about recognizing that I could not be happy as an Amy, and I’ve written about the logistics of changing my name, but this is how I got my name.

I thought it would be easy to pick a new name. It wasn’t. At first, I let my thoughts drift to different names. Nothing clicked. Then I concentrated. The name had to swing both ways, like Randy, Sandy, or Terry. It had to be suitable for my generation (no Aidans, Jaydens, or Justins). I had to be comfortable using it professionally. It had to sound right with my last name. Donna had to take it seriously.

I went to the library and took out “How to Name Your Baby” books. I looked at lists of Biblical names, and lists of Hebrew names with interesting meanings. I thought about Dov (bear in Hebrew). I thought about Ravi (sun in Hindi, originally from Sanskrit). I thought about Rahm, Theo, Ray, Leif, Rayfield, Walker, Corey, and Dylan.

I found fabulous dog names (Beckett, Hudson, Echo, Cocoa, Mango, Yogi, Spike, and Bagel). But none of the human or canine names felt quite right for me. I didn’t want a name that might end up feeling silly or pretentious. I’m not a dog. I waited it out. I got impatient.

Every day I walked to work and thought about names. Over and over. I’d say them out loud. I’d look at myself in store windows and call myself by the name. I’d practice introducing myself to thin air. I was considering settling on Charley.

Every morning I go to the Starbucks in my office building, in the Financial District. I am known there as “Grande dark personal cup.” I have a Starbucks loyalty card, and for every 12 drinks I buy I get a reward. I don’t use my freebie for another $2.29 Grande, I want my money’s worth. I get something pricey. I’ve read that the most expensive drink you can get at Starbuck’s is a Quadriginoctuple Frap, but I usually get a three shot latte. I order it hot in the winter and iced in the summer. It is supposed to be a treat, not a dare.

I never get the freebie at my regular branch. I don’t want to confuse my regular baristas by changing my order. They know exactly what I want when I walk in. I went to the Starbucks on 8th Avenue and 13th Street, and I asked for a triple iced latte for Amy. The barista took my order, wrote on the cup, and swiped the reward off my card. Next thing I knew another barista was holding up a drink asking “Jamie?”

The moment I heard him say it I knew that Jamie was my name. I thanked him more profusely than anyone has ever thanked a barista in Starbucks history.

Note: This post got its name from “The Name Game” by Shirley Ellis. Starbucks got its name from the first mate, Starbuck, in Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick.” I got my name from a barista at Starbucks.

30 thoughts on “The Name Game

    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I’d read the names James and Jamie, but hearing Jamie said aloud and in reference to me made all the difference. There are blogs devoted to Starbucks mangling people’s names, but in my case it was a mitzvah.

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      1. micah

        Hearing it aloud does make all the difference! It made me realize my pseudonym would not make a good real name. For me the deciding factor was seeing it written down next to my last name, and suddenly it all clicked.

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  1. RonaFraser

    That is an awesome story! They do say that if you put your question out there, and are open to receiving an answer, it will come to you — but I didn’t know it worked exactly like that! 🙂

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I like that I got rewarded for being greedy. If I’d just gotten a regular coffee (grande dark) they would have put it in a regular cut and handed it to me. They did the whole write out the order and put your name on it thing because I ordered a “specialty” drink.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      If you don’t like your name, being called by it is like hearing nails on a chalkboard. I’m surprised by how many people think it is a superficial change; it definitely allows me to feel more connected to myself and it has taken the edge off of my dysphoria.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Everyone’s story is interesting. If you haven’t written about it for your blog you should give it a shot. The change was very minor in words and pronunciation (Amy to Jamie) but a huge difference psychologically, and an interesting experience telling people and explaining it to them.

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  2. BC Craig

    My own name change came in exactly this sort of accidental way following the fruitless pursuit of the perfect androgynous name. Of course, you’ve made me feel like something of a cliche for my choice.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Your name has a pretty funny story attached to it. It isn’t like BC stood for Barbara Cartland Craig. And at least you did it before you got out of grad school instead of waiting until you were 50 to find the perfect name.
      I’ve probably also annoyed a large handful of butches with country dyke names (Birch, Moss, and Moose), a few Bobby/Bobbies, and the lone Michael. Sorry.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Thanks. And thank you for reblogging.
      Good luck on kicking sugar; it is a tough project to take on (the US runs on coffee and sugar, almost impossible to avoid it).

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Thanks for the read, comment, follow. Right after I changed my name I took great pleasure in being called Jamie in public. But once I ordered a latte and it got called out as “Jazmin” and that was a bummer.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Thank you. I think most names have a good story behind them. A friend of mine has a teenage son named Micah, but they pronounce it “mee-cah”. He was named after MIcah in the Hebrew Bible.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I’m glad you liked the post. I was afraid that I would get chastised for buying my morning coffee there (exploitation of coffee pickers, exploitation of workers, corporate politics etc.). I still get a little thrill when my name is called out (properly).

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  3. Pingback: How do I know if a name is right for me? | janitorqueer

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