What's In a Name?

What's In a Name?
Photo by Biel Morro / Unsplash
What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet...
- Juliet, William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene 2

As you can imagine, one of the major things that trans people have to worry about is what name they'll use when presenting as, and eventually living as, their proper gender.  Even crossdressers will often choose "femme names" which they use when presenting as women.  There are a variety of strategies that people will use when determining what name they will use:

  • Simple gender-flipping: If someone's name has an obvious equivalent in the opposite gender, this is an obvious choice. "Robert" may become "Roberta"; "Charles" might become "Charlotte" or "Charlene"; "Stephen" becomes "Stephanie"; "Michael" becomes "Michelle."
  • Same first initial: Many people prefer to keep the first initial of their name when selecting a new name.  "James" might become "Jane" or "June"; "Larry" might then become "Lana"; "Kyle" might become "Kayley."
  • Name they would have had: If the person's parents remember what name they would have been given if they had been born "the right way," they might adopt that for themselves.
  • Relative's name: A person might take the name of a caring relative, such as an aunt.
  • Name they admire: Someone might adopt the name of a person they admire, such as a movie star, musician, or other famous individual.
  • Name chosen for its meaning: Someone might choose a new name for its meaning, whether literal or personal to them. Books and Web sites used for naming babies can be useful here in researching names.

I started out with no particular strategy of my own in selecting my name.  I remember toying with the name "Suzanne" once, but never really used it or wrote it down.  Only when I started dressing more of the time at home, after my ex-wife Pamela left, did I give it much more thought than that.

I dismissed the obvious "Erica" because that name had never really appealed to me.  For lack of a better solution, though, I took my middle name "James" and feminized that, spelling it "Jaymie" in honor of a close friend from my college years.  I also elected to conceal my last name, instead adopting (as another online source suggested) my maternal grandmother's maiden name, "Tapie."

For a middle name, I chose "Ruth," after the first female mesh avatar shape in the Second Life online environment.  There used to be a glitch in the software where your shape wouldn't "catch up" with the rest of your avatar for a time after you teleported to a new location, and you would wind up with Ruth's shape as a default (which could look decidedly strange on a "male" avatar).  This was known as "getting Ruthed." Linden Labs later bypassed this glitch by showing "shapeless" avatars only as floating blobs of mist until their shape data was available. Ruth's shape, however, is still available through the object library.  Since Second Life was crucial, in some ways, to my exploration of self, I honored it by taking Ruth's name as part of my own.

I even went as far as to practice signing my full name "Jaymie Ruth Tapie," and labeling my makeup case with that name.  It might have stayed that way, had I not had a conversation with my mother where I asked her what I would have been named if I'd been born a girl.  She told me that, though she'd never had a daughter, only me and my two brothers, she always wanted to name a daughter "Amy Gale."

When I heard that, I knew that was my name.  And, as her eldest, I had the best claim to it.

I don't know if she would have spelled the second name "Gale" or "Gail"; I just wrote it down the way it looked best to me, as "Gale." I wanted to keep the middle name I'd chosen for myself, though, so I adopted two middle names, and became "Amy Gale Ruth Tapie." It was as "Amy Tapie" that I first registered on Crossdressers.com and later on Facebook, and as "Amy Tapie" that I first ventured into the world.  "Amy Tapie" is listed as a member of the Host Committee in the National LGBTQ Task Force's Creating Change 2015 program.  And, when I signed my application for the 2015 Majestic Hearts Pageant, and later my contract as Miss Majestic Hearts, I signed it with both my then-legal name and with "Amy Gale Ruth Tapie," to emphasize that I was serious about complying with the terms thereof.  Among the community, I never used my original name, I only used "Amy Tapie" or my performance name "Amelia Storm."

The only change I made to my name is when I decided on what my legal name would be when I changed it; I dropped the name "Tapie" and reverted to my original last name "Bowersox," symbolizing the uniting of the two "halves" of my soul into a new and better whole. (I think it also made my parents happy.) I first used "Amy Bowersox" on the trip to Portland in 2016, because it would have required some uncomfortable explanation to people as to why Michael's unmarried elder sister would have a different last name.  For the legal forms, I also dropped the "Ruth" middle name (as the form only had one blank for "middle name") and just became "Amy Gale Bowersox," which is now the name appearing on my driver's license and passport. I will often sign my name as "Amy G. Bowersox," using just my middle initial, as was my custom with my former name. "Ruth" is still my "unofficial" second middle name, however.

I'm happy with the name "Amy"; it's not only authentic-sounding but chronistic, meaning it doesn't sound out of place for a girl born in 1968.  (According to sources, "Amy" hit its peak popularity in 1975, but was decidedly rising in popularity in 1968, being the 13th most popular girl name that year.)  And while there are a number of other people in the U.S. named "Amy Bowersox," it looks like I'm the only "Amy Gale Bowersox."

That's me. Amy Gale Ruth Bowersox. Accept no substitutes. :)