Butch Name Change: How to Avoid Invitation Panic

Hello, my name is….

Invitation lists are the source of many tangled feelings and hidden land mines.  They will have you searching your moral code to try to find a way to determine just who to invite and where to draw the line.  It was here that I stumbled upon a dilemma that I think many butches and trans guys in particular will be able to relate to:  the name change.

Most people know me by my chosen name which I  legally changed many years ago.  However, as we were addressing the envelopes on our wedding invitations it occurred to me that some family members, the ones we wanted to include but that I do not have regular contact with, only know me by my birth name.  I do not answer to that name and haven’t for a dozen years. Not that it’s a bad name, it’s just not me.  Not many people even know the name that I keep securely locked up inside myself and hidden in odd places like college diplomas and old drivers licenses.  My stomach literally tightened as I wondered if  they would call me that at the wedding.  In front of other people?  I imagined how exposed I would feel to have something so private revealed to a large number of people.

To complicate matters, at work I go by my middle name and outside of work I go by my first name, so those two camps are going to have some challenges already.  But that was easy enough to address on our wedsite.  This idea of family calling me by my birth name completely raised the stakes.  A few of my friends said “If you’re not in contact with them that much then don’t invite them, period.”  Well, some are my aunts and uncles and my mother is in contact with them.  Should I have her do my dirty work and tell them to call me Drake?  Could I trust her to emphasize it the way I would, with terror and panic? Doubtful.

So, here’s how Helen and I handled it.  We wrote a note and included it in the invitations to those who know me by my birth name.  We could have used something generic like “Dear Family and Friends…” but since there were only a few people involved, we chose to personalize the notes:  Dear Aunt ____, You may not recognize my name (or even my picture – I’m the one with the short hair!).  I changed my name well over ten years ago and haven’t gone by (insert old name here) since then.  To complicate things, outside of work I go by Drake and at work I go by my middle name, Cameron, so you will hear both at the wedding.  Please feel free to use either of those.  Helen and I are so excited to be getting married, especially now that it is legal in California.  We would love for you to join us and sincerely hope you can make it.  Love, Drake”

I hope this template helps those of you who may run across this issue.  I would love to hear if any of you have this kind of angst over your name.  In the end, we can’t control what name our guests will use and of course despite their best efforts they may “slip” or get confused. But at least we were honest with ourselves and made an effort to put it out there in a diplomatic way.

Whatever name your guests end up calling you, remain calm, cool and collected, grounded in your knowing of who you are and in the fact that you have chosen a bride who sees you and loves you.

Enjoy your Queer Wedding!

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