(Social) Name Change Checklist?
May 22, 2020 7:32 PM   Subscribe

I'm 35 and it's time to give myself a new name, first and last. I'm not in a hurry to change it legally. My current plan is to change it on Facebook/my email account, and introduce myself that way. What else?

I already use a slight variant of my legal name for daily use, but they're close enough that there's no confusion, but now I'm heading into a realm where my legal name and my common name will be drastically different. If it matters, i'm changing it from something clearly feminine to something androgynous.

If you've done this, were there any particular places it became important to use one name over the other (that might not have been intuitive)

At what point do I fill out "have you gone by any other names" on paperwork?

I haven't decided about changing my name at work yet. Much of my job is done over email with people who only know me through routine written communication.
posted by itesser to Grab Bag (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Anything that involved your social security (bank, payroll etc) needs to match to your legal name.
The hard part I think is that your driver's license also needs to be in your legal name which may make it problem to show id (cashing checks, renting a car, flying on an airplane)
posted by metahawk at 7:40 PM on May 22

I legally changed my middle and last names two years ago.

I’d reconsider changing it legally. A legal name change doesn’t automagically make it your name—think of it more like a permission slip. You can honestly decide to do with that piece of paper whatever you want. If you get the legal name change and then stick it in a drawer and never do anything with it, then nothing will change.

Work, banks, etc. will not change your name without legal documentation, in most cases.
posted by Automocar at 7:53 PM on May 22 [7 favorites]

Think about how public knowledge you want your old name to be.

You can't always control what's public, but sometimes you can, and people might even ask what you want — especially if your name change seems possibly-gender-related and your friends are aware of the norm that someone's pretransition name is a deep secret. I could imagine some social circles where you'd have to say "Please don't reveal my old name" if you wanted that, and others where you'd have to say "It's okay, you're allowed to tell people my old name" if you wanted that.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:58 PM on May 22

Facebook will likely ask you to submit ID when you change your name. They did when I got married.
posted by Jacqueline at 9:27 PM on May 22

In terms of how you present names to others at businesses, think of Old Last Name as Maiden Name. There is a clearly defined process for changing Last Names. Fib if you like, I got divorced and am repairing my name. No, I really don't want to discuss it.. You can tell strangers My legal name is Pat, but everyone calls me Leslie. Fib in a story if you must, I was named after my grandfather, but after he was deported, no one wanted to be reminded of him or just say you've changed your name, full stop.

It's difficult to get used to new names, so be as kind as possible with people who are trying.
posted by theora55 at 4:49 AM on May 23

I did this on Facebook, and someone did report me, so I sent in my ID (with a bunch of fields taped over) but still said it corresponded to the name I wanted, and they... accepted it. I didn't even have to trot out my dandy "the state I live in has common-law name changes" argument. Five years later, it's still set as the new name, no further hassles. *shrug* I guess. And, I mean, it's Facebook. Not the government. Not even a government. I wouldn't have exactly felt bad about nudging a couple of pixels around before I sent in documentation. Literally all they can ever do is ban you.

On another front, a lot of online sellers seem to take their cues on how to address someone from the "billing address," which is totally perplexing to me since presumably the addresses are allowed to differ specifically so someone other than the customer can pay. From my experience, however, you can go ahead and submit it with your correct (preferred) name in that field and the credit card companies don't seem to actually decline over it (on preview, I see that that's not always the case -- sorry to hear others have had to deal with that). And I prefer to risk having to talk with them about it some day to having an inbox full of happy "Hi WrongName! Your order has shipped!"s. (This gripe includes so many companies you'd think would know better. I assume they're all just using an off-the-shelf shopping cart systems and may not even be able to change the default, but it's particularly disconcerting to get notices about, like, binders that should be solidly affiliated with my correct name but instead use the legal one.)

Another thing I've found to be important: if you interact with kids, especially young ones, don't give an inch on which name is your "real" name. They tend to be endlessly curious in a clinical way that can quickly slip into (entirely innocent; nevertheless painful) cruelty, and can get fixated on "technically correct" stuff that's actually wrong. They also sometimes try ideas they've encountered on out-loud, and some of those ideas may hurt. Just avoid the whole issue if you can. Recruit their adults to help you if possible. "I don't want to talk about that," or "That's private information" are entirely valid responses and kids accept them (on average) much better than adults do.
posted by teremala at 5:53 AM on May 23

With regards to my line of work (I produce legal documents as part of it), I would second whoever said "just start changing your name legally already." There's a lot of complications and legal drama that can come up when names do not match on every damn document. Especially if you want to change ALL of it, first and last, instead of just going by a different first name/nickname. I think you'll run into complications pretty much any time you have to show ID for anything anywhere, and I shudder at the amount of drama you'll be causing yourself by saying, "I'm going by Lee Pace" but your ID says "Judi Dench."

Unless you're doing it as a pen name and keeping your identities separate from each other--I met someone the other day who uses a pen name for her artistic endeavors because otherwise she'd get shamed in her math career-- I just envision so many issues making "Lee Pace" as your daily identity and then crap comes up at say, work, or when you pay to get something shipped to you, or just anything. My job involves the nightmare of international mailing so I am constantly trying to talk my clientele into mailing things to a friend instead of losing them in international mail. However, they frequently just give me some address and don't tell me that it isn't theirs, it's their friend's. But the post office refuses to deliver the documents if Lee Pace's document is going to Judi Dench's house and Judi Dench's name isn't on it.

I think having a different last name too would be even MORE of an issue with confusion--if you kept the last name the same there would at least be some justifiable continuity or people can get that it's an alternate name or nickname or whatever. As I was telling someone the other day at work, if you really want a new name, commit to it and make it legal.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:40 AM on May 23

If you have birthday parties, throw a party for your new name.
Name on cake etc.

If lots of your friends or social group are all in one place, it will help them reinforce your new name with each other, and they'll know all the other people there should be using your new name too.
posted by Elysum at 10:20 PM on May 23

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