Internalizing Name Changes

As most of you know by now, I was not christened Helen Boyd; it is not my legal name, although Helen is my legal middle name. But I’ve come to be known as Helen Boyd, & so when I arrived at Lawrence to teach for only a term, in the winter of 2008, I didn’t think twice about people calling me Helen. I was just ending a year of book tour where being Helen was a normal state of affairs.

Since then, however, we seem to have moved to this Wisconsin town, and the people who met me as Helen still call me Helen, & they introduce me to their friends & fellow faculty as Helen. The name plate on my door says Helen Boyd Kramer. Sometimes, in places where I regularly present a credit card, say at my salon, it’s a little jarring to be called Gail, and even more jarring when one of my friends who calls me Helen is with me, and yet it’s still odd to me that I’m not Gail.

So I’m wondering, trans folk & others who have changed your names, when do you internalize a name change? I find I call myself Gail when I’m talking to myself (and I assume I am (1) not the only one who talks to myself, and (2) not the only one who uses a name when I do).

Then I wonder if it matters much, since my name change has nothing to do with gender.

Where I think it matters is how it intersects with other aspects me that go unrecognized here – like my history of heterosexuality, for starters, and sometimes even my trans-partnerness (since it’s not like we’re out as a trans couple when we talk to our dry cleaners, say).