Pax (funcrunch) wrote,
Pax
funcrunch

Name change

After months of careful contemplation, I have decided to change to a gender-neutral name to align with my shifting gender identity. My new name is:

Pax Ahimsa Gethen

I am just starting to use this name socially this week. I will probably not file legal paperwork for some time yet, and my birth name, Julie Bernstein, will still appear in numerous places online and elsewhere as I transition.

My criteria for choosing a name were, in approximate order of importance: Gender-neutral, personally meaningful, relatively easy to pronounce, and relatively easy to spell. I rejected several candidates based on one or more of these criteria, and compromised on others, but believe that at least my new first name meets all of them.


Pax is Latin for "peace". Pacifism is one of my most important values. It drives my politics and personal behavior.

On advice from trans resources, I had originally considered a more conventional first name from a list of popular boys' names in my birth year (1970): "Terry", just because I liked the sound of it. But I ultimately decided that a personally meaningful name would be a better choice. (Plus, Terry could be seen as short for "Theresa", whereas "Pax" seems unambiguous.)

Ahimsa is Sanskrit for "do no harm", also used to mean "nonviolence".

Similar but not identical to pacifism, the principle of ahimsa is one of my most important values, and the primary reason for my veganism. It likely would have been my new first name had it been easier to spell and pronounce. A sweetie convinced me to make it my new middle name. (Another middle name I considered mostly because I liked the sound of it was "Kai", mostly to supplement and differentiate my original first and last name choice per below.)

Gethen is the name of a fictional planet of androgynes, invented by my favorite author, Ursula K. Le Guin.

Le Guin's novel about this planet, The Left Hand of Darkness, was very influential in my thinking about gender roles and sexuality. I originally considered using the English (or Hainish, in her universe) translation of the planet's name, "Winter", but decided I hate the cold so much that I didn't want that word associated with me. Plus, when I was originally considering the name "Terry Winter", I didn't like the results I got when I did a web search.

Gethen is actually used as both a first and a last name in some countries, and I originally considered taking Gethen as my first name and Pax as my last name. boyziggy convinced me to switch them, and I agreed that was a very good choice.


As far as the reason for this change, I have been experiencing growing discomfort with my assigned gender and sex which has peaked over the last several months. (A primer for those not already informed: Sex is what's between your legs, gender is what's between your ears.) I've been exploring these feelings in detail in mostly friends-only blog entries, and will continue to do so. But I am going public with the gist of this information, as it's critical to the reason for my name change.

I have decided my gender identity is neutral: Neither male nor female. I do not expect people to use gender-neutral pronouns to refer to me, as I'm not satisfied that any, other than the plural "they/them", are in wide enough use to be understood. Though I personally see myself as slightly more "m" than "f", I am fine with either she/her/hers or he/him/his. Just not "it", please. UPDATE 9/13/2013: I now prefer the gender-neutral pronouns they/them/their. I am not undergoing any surgical or hormonal treatments to alter my body at this time. My sexual orientation, bisexual with a definite preference for bisexual men, remains unchanged.

Whether I should use the term "transgender" to describe myself is unclear, but I certainly fall under the category of "genderqueer" even though I'm not particularly fond of that term. In any event, I was very moved by Chelsea Manning's announcement yesterday of her transgender status, an act I see as even braver than the Wikileaks disclosure considering her prison sentence, and the timing is fortuitous for me to disclose my own status in solidarity.

UPDATE 2/3/2014: In this early-transition entry, I incorrectly referred to "male" and "female" as genders, rather than sexes. I now label my gender identity as agender rather than neutral, and my sex as female-to-male transsexual as I began testosterone therapy in January. My sexual orientation is also more accurately described as gay male rather than bisexual. My "singular they" pronoun preference remains unchanged.
Tags: gender, sex
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