When Jake first transitioned, we didn’t agree on a name. There’s quite a debate among parents of trans kids, whether a child should be allowed to choose their own name, or whether parents have the final word. People don’t choose their names at birth, so the argument goes, and parents should at least have a say. I admit that I felt that way too.
My son’s first and only choice was Jake and we didn’t all agree. It wouldn’t have been my choice for him at birth, my husband didn’t like it at all, and Jake refused to consider anything else. We also didn’t have time to discuss it, since he had school the next day and his new name would be announced. We opted to compromise, to choose a temporary, gender neutral family name that succeeded in making everyone in the house a little bit unhappy and everyone outside the house extremely confused when we changed it again, a few months later.
Why did we finally let him choose his name? Because after everything settled down and life returned to normal, it became obvious that the name didn’t fit and we were all unhappy about it. I asked his therapist what she thought, and she said that kids like Jake have so little control over their lives, over the choices they get to make. From this day forward, his mere existence would be a challenge to so many people, what was the harm in giving him this one thing?
I filled out the paperwork for a legal name change over the summer, figuring I’d do it at the start of the school year, but that came and went, and still I waited. I thought, what was the rush? We were homeschooling and it’s not like we had to worry about enrollment, I could get to it in the fall.
Except the fall came and went, and still I held on. I told myself I’d wait until November, when things slowed down.
I sat under my Christmas tree, the day after Thanksgiving, pulling out ornaments he’d made years before. Some had pictures where he had long hair or pink clothes. Clothes I’d likely chosen for him and forced him to wear. All of them had his birth name written on the back.
Each one I held up for his inspection and each one I put away. The preschool wreaths, the Santa handprints, the baby’s first Christmas frames, all of them. I wrapped them back up in their tissue and put them back in the ornament box.
I know I never had a daughter. There isn’t any part of me that wishes things were any different than exactly what they are. I love my son, wholeheartedly and unreservedly and unconditionally, exactly as he is.
But I held on until the last week of November. Until snow covered the ground and the decorations were up and the tree bore no ornaments that held a picture or a handprint or the birth name of my son before the age of 6. And I knew those would be years that I held in my memory and in my heart, years that we would re-write in re-tellings or never mention again. Years that would stay locked up in a box, high up on a shelf, where only I knew what was kept inside.
Years that I have to let go.
It’s funny now, to think we ever disagreed about a name. About his name. It suits him better than either name ever did before. And yes, there was confusion, a few eye rolls, and I’m sure some very ugly, behind-our-back comments about how fickle we were being. But even that has long since passed.
Tomorrow, we have our court date to change his name legally. No more waiting, no more stalling. No more holding on.
Tomorrow, we start the journey that will bring him closer to the person he was born to be.
Don't miss my video on Listen to Your Mother where I share my story of Jake's transition.
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