The Power of Names

As I have written about before, no one is born voluntarily. Additionally, as soon as we open our eyes and see light and the doctor arbitrarily announces “it’s a boy” or “it’s a girl,” we are involuntarily assigned a series of names that we are forever associated with.

Changing one’s name is an extremely difficult process, if one wants to do so. Upon marriage, laws allow for last names to be changed with more ease. 

Why does our culture make it so very complicated to be legally known by something one is comfortable with? Shouldn’t there be some kind of process whereby at a certain age people can easily change their legal name, if they wish?

“Legal” names matter a great deal, as they are what are on everything! While I personally love my name, many people find their name painful and uncomfortable, especially our trans friends.

One of the many things I love about the University of Houston is that students and faculty can log into their account and enter a “preferred name.” This is the name that appears on emails, Blackboard, graduation materials, class rosters, etc., etc. This name can be ANYTHING. Trans individuals can get a UH ID Card with their preferred name, too. 

And, on another note, why do people involuntarily edit other people’s name? For example, I use my full name on everything, including this blog. I’m (Dr.) Andrew Joseph Pegoda. Yet, all the time, people abridge my name. They omit my middle name without my permission and against how I always write my name. Or they turn my middle name into a letter and a period. And all of this irritates me! It probably shouldn’t, but it does. 🙂

Regardless, our name begins defining and shaping who we are and our positionalities from day one. We learn very, very early on whether or not we have a “male” or a “female” name and what this means. We learn very, very early on whether or not our name is “easy” to pronounce and spell. We learn early on whether our name will help us gain attention and respect and privilege or not.

Names are powerful.

People want to know your name and whether you are “male” or “female” before anything else. 

What kind of power does your name have?  

Dr. Andrew Joseph Pegoda