Changing one’s given name in Western culture is often viewed as unusual; thus, a choice to change a name is often met with resistance, disapproval, and even ridicule. At the same time, it is accepted practice for a woman who marries to change her last name to her husband’s surname, which can create a shift in her sense of identity. Sometimes those who marry invent a new married surname to circumvent the impact of this tradition, or the man might take the woman’s name, thus encountering his own identity issues within our patriarchal construct. In the LGBTQ community, name changes are increasingly common to fully inhabit one’s gender or sexual identity. And sometimes those who immigrate to the U.S. change their names to more easily assimilate. And what if one’s name has simply never fit?
Writers Kylee Cushman and Jaquelyn Rieke are creating an anthology, A Tiny Death: Stories of Transformation and Identity through Name Changes, of nonfiction essays and poems to share the stories of those who have pioneered a name change for themselves. We hope to open up dialogue about names and identity in America.