Posted by: Shula Asher Silberstein | 4 December 2010

What’s In A Name? Transgender Name Changes and Consent to Transphobia in the Transgender Community

As you may know, my roommate, Hadassah D Gavi Chayim, is currently trying to figure out how to legally adopt Hadassah as her first name and drop her male name. The state of North Carolina will not allow her to do this because she changed her middle and last names legally two years ago for religious reasons. According to the state, it is perfectly okay for a woman to be stuck with a male name because the law says people can only change their names once.

Since we began a fan page on Facebook and I wrote a blog about the issue on Squidoo, we have received very mixed responses from the Transgender community. Many people, including people who claim to be advocates for the Transgender community, have commented that the law “is not discriminatory” because non-Transgender people can’t change their names twice either, and that we should not attempt to get a lawyer — we should simply move to another state that doesn’t have this kind of law.

By this logic, same-sex couples should not fight for the right to marry because the law is not discriminatory (after all, heterosexuals can’t marry same-sex partners either) and should just move elsewhere where same-sex marriage is allowed.

I’m seriously irked, obviously. It’s bad enough that non-Transgender people sometimes assume that a Transgender person is “choosing to become” the opposite gender or isn’t really the gender they say they are. Transgender people themselves should know better.

Recently, a woman in Houston was arrested for using the bathroom that matched her gender and the same people who consider it okay for a state to force a Transgender Woman to have a male name are posting her story everywhere and complaining about the lack of acceptance for Transgender people.

It’s the same principle, people. If it’s okay for the state to tell a person that she has to have a male name, it’s also okay for the state to tell her she is male for the purpose of using the restroom.

For all that some Transgender people complain about mistreatment and discrimination, we as a community do it to ourselves. We do it every time we decide someone else’s battle isn’t discriminatory enough for us to fight, we do it when we don’t stand up for ourselves, we do it when we hide who we are because we are afraid of bigots who we likely will never cross paths with and we do it when we applaud or consent to subtly transphobic activities such as allowing a Transgender man to play on a women’s team.

Yes, those of you who think it’s wonderful that Transgender athlete Kye Allums can have his male name while playing on a women’s team, I’m looking at you. Mr. Allums is allowed to continue to play on a women’s team — even though he’s a man. In order to do this, he must agree not to take hormones or do anything else that would aid him in transitioning. Mr. Allums has agreed to this because he does not want to lose his scholarship.

And the Transgender community is cheering, saying that finally a Transgender person gets recognized. Uhm… no. What’s actually happening here is that the school is sending the message that Mr. Allums is a woman — just a woman who prefers to be called by male pronouns or use a man’s name. It also is setting the precedent that it is okay to control whether a person transitions or not by threatening to take their education away from them if they choose to do so.

Now, not everyone who considers themselves Transgender wishes to transition, and I’m not judging that choice, but choosing to play on a Women’s team when you are male and agreeing not to transition until later so that you can play on that team is not helping Transgender people gain acceptance in society. And those of you who see this as progress are cheering for discrimination against Transgender people. So are those of you who think it is not discriminatory to require a Transgender person to use a legal name that does not match her gender.

Next time a Transgender person is thrown out of an establishment or arrested for using the bathroom that matches their gender, next time a Transgender person is thrown out of their home for refusing to hide who they are, next time a Transgender person loses their job because they are transitioning…

ask yourself whose actions contributed to that type of discrimination.

And see if you can look at yourself in the mirror.


  1. […] See original here: What's In A Name? Transgender Name Changes and Consent to … […]

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