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­­­Why I Changed My Name to Z

photo: Eyþór Björnsson on flickr

photo: Eyþór Björnsson on flickr

How do you feel about your name?

Do you absolutely love it? Do you jump out of bed every morning because if someone asks you what your name is, you get to say, “My name is [insert awesome name here]?”

No? It’s not like that?

Perhaps you’re ho hum about your name. You could take it or leave it.

Or maybe you actively dislike your name. Maybe you taunt it behind its back or throw spitballs at it when it’s not looking.

Personally, I’ve been through all of these phases – from absolute adoration to secret loathing.

And it all started with a cow.

photo: Bala Sivakumar on flickr

photo: Bala Sivakumar on flickr

My birth name was Elizabeth. It means devoted to God.

I was an atheist as a child, so whenever I heard the definition of my name, I would chuckle.

Now I know that the Universe was chuckling as well.

In spite of my holy name, no one ever called me Elizabeth. Instead, I went by the nickname Betsy.

Here I am in all my Betsy glory:

photo: david egloff

photo: david egloff

Actually, there was one person who refused to call me Betsy. My paternal grandmother, Margaret Bruce Egloff, insisted on calling me Elizabeth. Or Miss Elizabeth.

When Margaret Bruce was a little girl in Boston, a local dairy company had a contest to name the cow on the company’s logo.

The name that won?

Betsy.

No way was she going to have a granddaughter named after a cow.

So she stuck with Elizabeth.

To everyone else, however, I was Betsy.

Or Betsy Wetsy. Or Beatser. Or Bets. Or Mudbutt (don’t ask).

As a kid, I didn’t think about my name much. It was just my name.

It was a fact of life, like my big feet and my left-handedness.

thank you

But everything changed when I was in my early twenties.

For the first time in my life, I had the opportunity to live alone. I was in my own space, all the time. No one else’s needs to worry about. No one else’s needs to adapt myself to.

For the first time ever, I was fully aware of my own energy. My own preferences. My own beliefs.

And then one day, out of the blue, I had a revelation. If I had to put it into words, it would go something like this:

I am in between. I have a female body, but I am both male and female. Energetically, I am both.

It was the first time I had fully acknowledged this. It was the first time I could, because I was finally aware of it.

Did I immediately run out and declare this to the world? Did I adjust my external appearance to match my internal revelation?

Yes and no.

I was working on a farm at the time. Looking back on it now, one of the reasons I was drawn to this work was because it meant I didn’t have to dress in the female drag of the corporate world.

Here I am, tending to the crops:

photo: david egloff

photo: david egloff

As the years went on, I inched further and further out of the transgender closet.

(A little lesson in terminology, for those who aren’t already in the loop. Transsexualism describes those whose identified gender does not match their biological gender. Someone who is transsexual will often choose to take hormones or have gender reassignment surgery so their gender identification can match their biological gender.

Transgenderism, on the other hand, is an umbrella term used to describe anyone whose gender identity and gender expression strays from conventional expressions of gender. Transsexuals are in this group, as well as those who identify as genderqueer, third gender, or a host of other identifications.)

My willingness to embrace my transgender identity came to a head one day when I went to the Center for Spiritual Living Santa Rosa.

It was “Name Tag Day” at the Center. Everyone who entered the sanctuary was invited to fill out a name tag and slap it on their chest.

(Okay, maybe not slap it on. More like: Gently facilitate the name tag’s journey from the table to the physical body. Like that.)

I did as I was told, picking up my pen and writing “Betsy” on my name tag, then placing it on my chest. I even got so far as walking to my seat and sitting down with my friends.

But it didn’t feel right. My name no longer fit.

My friend, Deb, listening to me sort out my conflicted feelings, got up from her seat and came back with another name tag for me.

One that said “Z.”

my name is

I had been pondering a name change for months. Z was my nickname in college (Bet-z), but I’d let it go. Now I was beginning to realize that “Z” was the perfect name for me.

It’s not male. It’s not female.

It’s both. It’s neither.

It’s weird. It’s awesome.

It’s my name.

And in that moment, after Deb got me my new name tag, I finally accepted and embraced this truth.

I’ve been Z ever since.

I even legally changed my name so I would be fully and completely Z.

(But not Zee. That’s a paper product company. I like paper. But not that much.)

photo: Munir Hamdan on flickr

photo: Munir Hamdan on flickr

When I was going through the name change process, I kept Elizabeth as my middle name, in honor of my parents. And my grandmother. And that whole devoted to God thing.

And that’s how it happened. That’s how I went from Elizabeth to Betsy to Z.

I know many of you have had similar journeys – whether with gender identity or name identity or both. I’d love to hear them.

How do you feel about your name? Does it match who you are? Why or why not? Share your comments below!

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38 Responses to ­­­Why I Changed My Name to Z

  1. Antonia Albany August 6, 2013 at 6:21 am #

    “Toni” was the son my father never had. “Antonia” is me.
    So glad I made the change 25+ years ago.

    • Z Egloff August 7, 2013 at 10:59 am #

      Hi Antonia,

      I’ve always thought that your name is extraordinary beautiful – and it suits you. I’m glad you made the change too! :)

      XOZ

  2. Becca August 6, 2013 at 7:43 am #

    I went from Peggy Suzanne Edwards (maiden), to Peggy Suzanne Foxx (married) to Rebecca Suzanne Quinn. I too kept my middle name in honor of my parents. At the last change, when the judge asked, “why?”, I said, “To continue establishing my own identity, apart from soon-to-be ex-husband, and family of origin.” He had a smile on his face as he lowered the gavel.
    ~Becca

    • Z Egloff August 7, 2013 at 11:00 am #

      Hi Becca,

      I love this! Especially the part about the smiling judge. That’s a real coup! :)

      XOZ

  3. Jo Lauer August 6, 2013 at 10:54 am #

    Born Jolynn Jean Bidwell in the midwest, my transformation through time and space has allowed me my adult identity as Jo. Call me Jolynn and watch me regress to seven years old before your eyes. Cousins, and maybe best friends, can get away with calling me Jolynn (just another habit of speech), or affectionately Jody, but after years of correcting mispronunciations–Jaw-lin, Jo-leen–or misspellings–Jo Lynne, etc. I’ve condensed my name and my identity to a not-open-to-misinterpretation, just plain Jo. Now I only have one question to answer: “Is that short for Josephine?” and one spelling to correct. No, there’s no “e” on the end…that’s a boys name. And so it is.

    • Z Egloff August 7, 2013 at 11:02 am #

      Hi Jo,

      I like that you took charge of your own identity, and that the morphing of your name was part of that. I also like that what remains, Jo, still holds the core of where you came from, and yet it is something new, something that’s yours. Well done! :)

      XOZ

  4. Nora August 6, 2013 at 11:04 am #

    My birth name is Nora Lee Brick, and then was married and had the name Nora Lee Cousens for 33 years. Then One parent had just died and the Other was about to die, so I decided to put their two last names together for my last name to honor them-who-I-adored, so, Steinbrick was my legal name for 2 years. Stein is “rock”, Brick is well, brick and it was a lot of name to be dragging around. Since I was living in Maui at the time and Everyone had beautiful flower and polynesian names I decided to pick a beautiful last name that I would not need to ever change again. PEARL, the irritant sand in the sea shell that creates a lustrous stone jewel, life the stuff of life. Nora Lee Pearl, it still makes me smile.

    • Z Egloff August 7, 2013 at 11:03 am #

      Hi Nora,

      What a wonderful story of transformation. The end result is luminous, like that lustrous stone jewel. I love it! Thank you for sharing this. :)

      XOZ

  5. michael frank August 6, 2013 at 11:05 am #

    I was adopted at age 2 1/2 and took the last name of Frank…..thus Michael Edward Frank. My actual birth certificate says the same and they had ways of “fixing” things in those days. When I was 50, I went to the Hall of Records in S.F. and saw my name written in the birth journal. Father John Bobu and mother Betty Swanson. Now that I am “remembering who I am”, I sometimes sign my name Michael Edward Bobu-Frank…….just for the fun of it and I could care less if it is legal or not! I do it to reflect and give spirit to my natural parents as well which is all a part of who I am :))

    • Z Egloff August 7, 2013 at 11:49 am #

      Hi Michael,

      I love reading all these comments. I am struck by how powerful our names are, and how we can honor ourselves and where we came from with what we call ourselves. I love Bobu-Frank: It has a ring to it! :)

      XOZ

  6. Karen August 6, 2013 at 12:03 pm #

    Lovely and interesting comments! And it’s so fun to know how your name, Z, came about!

    I was Karen Money growing up and then married and became Karen Smith. I soon discovered there were many Karen Smiths in the world, and not all of them paid their library fines! I remarried and became Karen Williams. I soon discovered, again, there are many Karen Williamses in the world, and not all of them pay their LabCorp bill. (One delinquent Karen Williams in another state even has my exact date and year of birth!)

    Along came Facebook, and I began to call myself Karen Money Williams so people from my growing-up days could find me if they had a mind to. Then I realized that adding my “maiden” name, Money, took me out of that immense pool of regular, run-of-the-mill Karen Williamses. Bingo!

    So now I have a much more distinctive name by adding the Money in the middle. People sometimes think that the “Money” is an affirmation instead of a real name, and they thumb their noses. Who cares. I love my name and I love who I am, especially these past few years, since Facebook. :)

    • Z Egloff August 7, 2013 at 11:54 am #

      Hi Karen,

      I love knowing about your name as well. I love that the Money was giving to you at birth! Nice pre-birth manifesting!! :)

      And Karen Money Williams is WAY more interesting than regular old Karen Williams – and more law-abiding as well, apparently! Congratulations on loving who you are, and putting yourself out there in the world!

      XOZ

  7. Darlene Amidon-Brent August 6, 2013 at 12:34 pm #

    I love the story of your name, Z! I can’t imagine a more perfect name for you. I was born Darlene Jae Amidon (’cause my parents wanted to call me D.J.). When I was about 9, I changed D.J. to D.Jae, and I’ve been D.Jae ever since. Except of course when I’m Darlene (usually to folks in places of employ or public learning). Once a producer by the name of Lou Adler (one of his credits includes the film Rocky Horror Picture Show) was directing a college show in the San Fernando Valley and I went to audition for the chorus. I put “Darlene Jae Amidon” on the application, and he asked me who came up with my stage name. (Aside: I got accepted into the chorus, but I chickened out and never went back.) When I got married, I took my husband’s last name and became Darlene Jae Brent, but 2 years later, I realized that I was really missing my maiden name, so I went back and legally changed my last name to the hyphenated “Amidon-Brent.” It’s a mouthful, but it makes me happy, so I’m okay with that. :-)

    • Sandi Lee Brent-Green August 6, 2013 at 6:24 pm #

      Just love the idea, I’ll have to think of who I am, or want to be but would also like to know if D.Jae is related in anyway?

      • Darlene Amidon-Brent August 6, 2013 at 9:43 pm #

        Hi Sandi,
        I’m only a Brent by marriage, but perhaps you are related to my husband! His grandmother recently transitioned (at age 98!) and we inherited boxes and boxes of geneaology research (she had collected info on the Brent line back to the 1600s, I think). Of course, we haven’t looked through it all yet, and I have no idea where to start, but feel free to send me a message at amidonbrent@gmail.com so that when we do start to go through it, we can share info with you and see if my husband’s and your family lines connect!
        D.Jae/Darlene

        • Sandra Brent/Green August 17, 2013 at 11:25 am #

          I just got a chance to read emails and found your info. I will email you my email and you can let me know if there is any connection you find.
          Thanks for responding and I’ll try to keep up with my emails better.

          Sandi

      • Z Egloff August 7, 2013 at 12:05 pm #

        Hi Sandi!

        Thanks for stopping by. Keep us posted if you and D.Jae are related! :)

        XOZ

    • Z Egloff August 7, 2013 at 11:56 am #

      Hey D Jae!

      Always great to hear from you. For the record, I think your name still sounds like a stage name. Very fancy! And I love the D Jae – it totally suits you.

      We’ll be in SJ soooooon – hope to see you then!

      XOZ

      • Darlene Amidon-Brent August 7, 2013 at 12:01 pm #

        Are you kidding? I’m counting the days, Z!! After all, I’m singing with you that day! :-)

        • Z Egloff August 7, 2013 at 12:03 pm #

          YAY!!!!!! I didn’t know for sure, as David didn’t tell us who the BVs were. YAY!!!!!!!! 😀

  8. Norma Miller August 6, 2013 at 3:42 pm #

    I so much loved your story about the name Z, and so perfect. I have never been comfortable with the name Norma. I was to be a boy and my fathers name was Norman Weale Vickery, so when I popped out being a girl, I received Norma Weale Vickery. Never felt like a Norma. Then got married and became a Miller. When I got my divorce I was going back to VIckery but then my children would be a different name and to have them feel a part I kept the Miller. I have thought of changing the last name back to Vickery but now I feel a name doesn’t matter it isn’t me it is just a name. Your blog really made me think and I loved it. Thanks Z. Hugs to you.

    • Z Egloff August 7, 2013 at 11:58 am #

      Hi Norma,

      It’s true that, ultimately, names don’t really matter at all. After all, we’re so much more than a name. The main thing is doing what works for you! :)

      As always, thanks for visiting and commenting. :)

      XOZ

  9. Barbara August 6, 2013 at 6:08 pm #

    Loved this story. Loved the pictures of you as little Betsy. Deepened my knowledge of gender identity. My experience of you has always been “Z”; the first time I heard your name it surprised me and put a smile on my face as I thought to myself she knows who she is! You have always put a smile on my face, esp. since I discovered that you were the love child of Lily T and Ram Dass! In the early days of Religious Science we used Ram Dass’ book “Journey of Awakening” in practitioner classes! Z is so much better than mudbutt; I really do want to ask but won’t!!! Good friends like Deb are a real blessing. Growing up my last name was Gillette and I really wanted to change it until a cop pulled me over @ the age of l6 and asked me if I were Lee Gillette’s kid!! Oh yes I was. Didn’t get that ticket! xoxo Thanks for “enlightgening” up my day. xo

    • Z Egloff August 7, 2013 at 12:00 pm #

      Hi Barbara,

      I love it – if a name can get you out of a traffic ticket, by all means, use it! :)

      I loved the book Journey of Awakening – we used it in my Spiritual Practices class. It’s a classic. :)

      XOZ

  10. Sara Nichols August 6, 2013 at 8:03 pm #

    love the story, Z, almost as much as I love Z the person. My mother, who grew up a debutante in Charleston, South Carolina and was a beauty, was born Mary Ann and called “May-ree” (that’s southren for Mary). She hated it from her earliest memory. At age 12, 1945, she took up smoking and she announced that her name was now Lee, which in the south, was a boy’s name. Not “Leigh”? she was asked.
    “No, Lee,” she answered. Her family to this day, calls her “May-ree” but everyone else in the world has always always called her Lee. She is not the slightest trans anything, except, perhaps, the conventions of her day. She also married a man from the “Nawth”–i.e., California.

    • Darlene Amidon-Brent August 6, 2013 at 9:46 pm #

      Sara, I love that story. Would be just perfect in a novel or memoir! :-)

      • Z Egloff August 7, 2013 at 12:02 pm #

        Sara is a great storyteller, too. I could totally see it. :)

  11. Pam August 6, 2013 at 11:43 pm #

    Well I had a mom who was suffocated growing up under the strict old country rules of Italy. Of course being the good Italian girl she was she gave it the best shot she could to come up with a name for me that would make everyone happy but in the end it wasn’t to be. She thought ok start with the 2 moms (grandmoms) and picked Catherine after her mother but then realized her mother-in-law Angela wouldn’t be too happy. Next she went to what about a sister that passed so she thought ok Louise is it for her sister but then thought ok if I do this then Angela will be offended if I don’t pick his sister Loretta who passed at age 5. Then she thought a great-aunt would be the trick but well you get the picture. Daniella missed the call and others as well. Then she got pissed and said damn it this isn’t working trying to please everyone else but me her mother! This is my daughter and she is going to be named what I want! (Hence where I get my feistiness from – my mom :)). Hence she remembered a beautiful little girl she met on the beach in FL on a trip she took with her girlfriends right before getting married. She talked and played in the sand building sandcastles with this little girl who was precocious with full head of blonde curls. My mom was smitten and when she asked and heard “My name is Pamela” that was all it took! Later on in my life when I told this story to one friend she went into fits of laughter and finally said OMG do you realize if they named you Loretta you would’ve been Loretta Tammetta a rhyming name and what a horror waiting to happen with kids tormenting you! So thank you Mom for your feistiness and standing up for your beliefs because while I don’t like Pamela I can live with Pam.

    In addition to how I got named I do not like Pamela because it conjurs up bad memories of nuns and being in trouble. Finally when I left Catholic school I declared my independence from Pamela and saw to it that everyone called me Pam – no ifs ands or buts! It worked out well for me because Pam fits me and my personality so it has stayed my name and will go with me when I finally transition.

    I also have met many Pams over the years and all of us agreed if you go by Pamela it generally fits that you are a more serious type of woman that prefers the formal and that the Pams are more light hearted group of women and more casual. Of course none of this is scientifically proven :).

    So in the end I keep Pam in honor of my parents, it fits me and probably because I’m too lazy to go thru the ropes and paperwork to change it if I could ever come up with something else.

    The name thing that did bother me was I never had a middle name and that after taking on husbands names with 2 marriages I lost my Italian identity by name. To remedy this and bring back my heritage into my name I took on my maiden name as my middle name which is now on all legal documents by default using it. I also gave this name to my daughter as her middle name as well.

    Wow, I didn’t think I had so much to say about my name but there you have it I certainly did!

    Thanks Z for your story. I always wondered how your first name came about. It fits you to a T and is as awesome as you are!

    I love everyone’s stories here about their names and what a fun time reading it all.

    XO Pam

    • Z Egloff August 7, 2013 at 12:09 pm #

      Hi Pam,

      These stories are all awesome, aren’t they? On the one had, it’s just a name, but on the other hand, there’s so much history and personality behind each one.

      Yes, I agree that Pam fits you way better than Pamela. Pamela does have a whole different feel to it. I’m glad that you claimed a name that works better for you.

      And the story about your mom is awesome. I like that you had a feisty mom who stood up for her beliefs – what a great role model!

      XOZ

  12. Tracy Stewart August 7, 2013 at 12:27 pm #

    Hey Z. It’s Lynn Brown.
    I never related to my first name and asked to be called by my middle name, Tracy, in the fifth grade. Tracy is my Father’s middle name and my Grandfather’s first name and I had never heard of any girl with that name.

    But I knew that Lynn was NOT my name. Right after I changed it to Tracy a movie came out called High Society with Grace Kelly playing the lead character, named Tracy. After that there were quite a number of girls named Tracy.

    My last name was changed by more typical means. I married, divorced three years later and kept my x-husband’s name. I never was attached to Brown either.

    I like that I’ve managed to name myself something entirely different from the name I was born with. It reminds me that I get to co-create my life.
    XO
    Tracy

    • Z Egloff August 8, 2013 at 11:42 am #

      Hi Tracy,

      I can’t see you as a Lynn at all. That’s awesome that you changed your name when you were in 5th grade. Great self knowing at a young age! :)

      I too like that you now have an entirely different name than the one you started out with. It’s interesting to note all these stories in the comments that are similar examples of co-creation. I love it!

      XOZ

  13. Jane Beach August 7, 2013 at 4:09 pm #

    My Dearest Z,

    I don’t think I’ve ever been so moved by anyone’s writings in my life. You are a real life person, with real life stuff, and you find a way to express it in terms that anyone can understand.

    You are among God’s greatest gifts to the world.

    Loving you lots,
    Jane

    • Z Egloff August 8, 2013 at 11:44 am #

      Hi Jane,

      Gosh, thank you. It is truly a pleasure to write this blog, and knowing that it touches you and speaks to you makes me very proud indeed.

      Love love love,

      Z

  14. Squirrel August 13, 2013 at 12:09 pm #

    Z!

    You know how I feel about my name. I’ve contemplated legally changing it for a number of years (not to Squirrel!) and I’ve not yet found a name that feels like me. Still searching for that one. I’m glad you’re Z. The name suits you well. I was grateful to read this post. Thank you for being you.

    Love you,
    xos

    • Z Egloff August 15, 2013 at 1:10 pm #

      Hi Squirrel!!

      I thought of you after I posted this. Just cuz. 😉

      It took me almost 50 years to figure out the Z thing. I trust that you are right where you need to be and that your search will bring amazing results. Just sayin.

      XOZ

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