What’s in a name?
For trans people courageously acknowledging their gender identity and claiming their destiny once and for all, a name contains a whole lot.
A recent post on the “Am I the A**hole (AITA)” subReddit illustrated that fact directly.
The Original Poster (OP), known as throwaway667311 on the site, used the post’s title to highlight the loaded nature of a name—and the decision to have an opinion about it.
“AITA for wanting my son to keep his original name?”
OP began with some background to set the record straight.
“My son (19) came out as trans a few years back and for his entire transition my husband and I (44) have been entirely supportive, so has his brother (14).”
“We’ve lent him thousands to pay for his transition, his new wardrobe, and changing legal documents to match his gender identity.”
“We’ve also cut off and alienated a lot of friends and acquaintances due to their transphobia and other similar matters.”
“So, suffice it to say, the idea that we’re possible transphobic is ludicrous looking at the extent we’ve gone to to support our son.”
But the experience hasn’t been entirely smooth.
“But that hasn’t stopped him from accusing us of being transphobic when we told him that we’d prefer that he keep the name we gave him.”
“The reason behind us wanting him to keep the name we gave him was because we named him after a very close friend of ours who died when she was 20, she was someone who was very close to both of us – she was practically responsible for us getting together in the first place.”
“So when he was born we wanted to honour her by giving our daughter her name.”
OP ironed out specifics.
“While his original name is feminine when you use it fully, when you shorten it it becomes a unisex name.”
“For privacy reasons I won’t say the name but its exactly the same as the name Samantha with Sam for short, which is a name that can be used for both boys and girls.”
“All we’ve asked our son to do is to keep Sam as the name we call him but change the full name to Samuel since he doesn’t want to keep his original name.”
OP’s son felt differently about it all.
“But apparantly he thinks that us asking him to do that is deadnaming him and shows that we are transphobic.”
“I can see where he is coming from in that we won’t be changing how we are referring to him name-wise and that it is an attachment to his former female identity.”
“But, still, we’d prefer him to stick with the name that honours a dear friend of ours.”
OP closed with a caveat.
“Obviously if he decides not to keep the name we’re not going to disown him or anything, we’d just be disappointed.”
Anonymous strangers weighed in by declaring:
- NTA – Not The A**hole
- YTA – You’re The A**hole
- ESH – Everyone Sucks Here
- NAH – No A**holes Here
Once the commentary began to flow in, OP felt the need to clear a few things up with a pair of edits.
“So it seems that I’ve left out some crucial stuff here that people keep bringing up, so I’ll address it. The money that was used to pay for everything has only been lent because he wanted it to be a loan.”
“He is determined to pay us back even though we don’t really want him to. We plan on eventually rejecting the money if he tries to pay us back.”
“Also, we didn’t ask him to keep the name. He came to us with a selection of names to choose from and we said that we preferred/expected him to take on a masculine version of the name.”
“Using the Samantha example our suggestion was for him to call himself Samuel or Sam for short, not just Sam.”
“Also, regarding the compromise of a middle name. We’ve already asked him to have it as a middle name and he’s refused. He’s adament that he doesn’t want a middle name.”
Most Redditors did qualify OP as the a**hole in this situation, but extended patience as they did so.
“Im gunna say a light YTA. Changing names is a HUGE part of transitioning for transpeople.”
“Leaving behind parts of them that were not at all who they are.”
“I think asking him wasn’t a problem but once he said no you drop it and leave it there. Let him change it.” — lil_puddles
“YTA, I understand why you want him to keep the name because there’s an emotional attachment. However, the emotional attachment is yours, not his.”
“He has every right to change his own name to whatever he wants it to be.” — Cat-Soap-Bar
“YTA. That name for him associates his former female identity.”
“I imagine it causes him a lot of dysphoria. I understand the name means a lot to you but it probably causes emotional turmoil for your son” — ja4ren
“YTA. I understand you’re not trying to be transphobic but you are deadnaming him and asking a boy to have a girl’s name.”
“It’s beautiful you want to honour your late friend but you did that for 19 years and if he needs to change his name to be himself then you need to be okay with that.”
“A name is just a word and its meaning can change.”
“Now the name is associated with pain for your son. Plant a tree or rose bush in honour of your friend and support your son changing his name.”
“I understand that transitioning is hard on the family too so I don’t actually think you are an a**hole, my judgement is based on you not accepting your son’s need for a different name but growing and learning in life never makes you an a**hole.” — anotherplantmother98
OP took the commentary to heart, as a final edit to the original post showed.
“First I want to thank everyone who’s commented (and I’m sure more will comment in the next few hours). I’ve tried to read through all of them and I did try to reply with all of them as well, but 507 comments is a lot of comments to respond to so I gave up in the end.”
“Thanks for all of your perspectives, advice, experiences, and opinions – no matter how insulting, vile, and incredibly wrong some of them have been.”
“I’ve taken them all to heart and I can see how this entire affair is a middle ground sort of thing where the position that my husband and I have taken can be seen as transphobic due to the connotations that it brings.”
The comments even lead to some pragmatic action on OP’s part.
“We’ve since spoken to our son after reading this, we’ve made it clear to him that while we’d love for him to keep a masculine version of his name that we’ll support him in whatever name he chooses.”
“Like many of you have suggested we asked him to explain how his original name made him feel and once he did my husband and I understand entirely why he doesn’t want to be known by it anymore.”
OP shared how things ultimately ended up.
“So we’ve apologised and taken another look at his list and pointed out the ones we like and think suit him. He’s accepted our apology and he has also said that he understands our side in the whole affair.”
“He’s also said that he’s happy because we seem to prefer the name that he most prefers out of the list.”
“He’s also told us that he’s happy that we’re not pressuring him to choose the name Ronaldo like his younger brother has been doing. But, again, thank you all for your comments.”
Just when you thought the internet couldn’t be a helpful place for family bonding and conflict resolution…