Personally, I don’t have two different names. I have one name. Leo Grey is my preferred name, but I wasn’t born with it. I was born Karl Paul Andrew Shannon. I have, and have always wanted to change this name. Why? No reason necessarily, I just don’t really like the sound of it. Honestly, I think that I’d like to change it because names are incredibly personal and considering it’s my name, a name that I and I alone have to live with for the rest of my life (and possibly thereafter) I think I should be allowed to do that without the stigma that surrounds name changing.
From my experience there are many different genres of stigma that originate in different sources. For example, my family. My family were insulted and took it as a direct offence when I told them I wanted to change my name. I quickly added that it wasn’t to disregard my family, I just wanted to. But still, it was taken as offensive. I was young at the time, possibly around thirteen, so I was scolded for this behaviour.
All I knew was that I wanted to change my name. I didn’t know to what at the time, but I wanted to change my name. And me being me, I didn’t let my parents’ outlook sway me.
So I began experimenting with names at that age. I didn’t tell my friends because I didn’t know what to tell them, and I wasn’t sure how they would react. I never mentioned it to my family ever again.
I told my friends when I was about fifteen. I told the ones I trusted that I wanted to change my name, I pretended to those who I didn’t trust and that didn’t know me too well that I had a different name. (Obviously they knew my name was Karl, but I pretended my name was Karl-Max [Max being a name-phase I went through]). My close friends didn’t attack my stance, but instead questioned the idea of it themselves. They said it would be ‘weird’ if I were called something else, that other names probably wouldn’t suit me, but I took this as light-hearted, and truthfully, quite right.
So by the age I was sixteen, I had received a positive and a negative reaction. By the age I was sixteen I had discarded in my head the name ‘Karl Shannon’ and I was ready for the change to become legal. But there were problems. It’s a tricky situation, I didn’t understand what to do, I didn’t have the support of my parents, and I didn’t know my name yet. But the fact that I was ready meant enough for me. I was prepared to face the stigma and fight it tirelessly.
Leo Diarmuid Andrew Grey is my name. Leo (pronounced Lay-O) I chose due to it’s pronunciation and the fact that I just love it. Diarmuid I chose for it’s relation to Ireland. Andrew I chose to keep for personal reasons. And Grey being both my favourite colour and abstract thought. This is my name.
I have different friends now. They find it unsettling. Some say I’m attention seeking. I’m not. Some say it’s just a phase, and I’ll regret it someday. People use this as a backdrop for everything; tattoos, sexuality, hair dying, even fashion. But I did take their sight into consideration. I played with the name. I made it my e-mail address, I featured it on some of my lesser known networking sites, I say it to strangers. And you know what? I’m comfortable with it.
Professionally speaking it’s suspicious to have someone who changed their name, simply because it isn’t the ‘norm’. I don’t understand why this would hinder my ability to preform in whatever way, but I’m willing to explain; you guys watch too much TV. I’m not on the run from the law. Changing one’s name doesn’t make you invisible. Fake ID’s and identity theft isn’t as simple as that. If you ask me, I’ll tell you. I would have changed my name because I wanted to. Simple as.
My family still see it the way they saw it those years ago, which leaves me in a tricky place. I am still lawfully Karl Shannon, but in my mental state I’m not. I have refrained from the legal transition simply because I still don’t completely understand how it works in Ireland, and also because I don’t want the awkwardness in my family that would undoubtedly act as a silent gap.
To summarise, people will find it weird and suspicious when they hear of someone changing their name under these conditions. They are quick to judge, but I judge too. Why do you care? Does my name, old or new, inflict you in some way? Jealousy? Or just old-fashioned suspicion? The stigma surrounding name changing is unnecessary and though it isn’t a huge cause of depression or suicide, I think it is harmful in that it is oppressing self-expression and individuality, and it is outcasting people who don’t fit the norm standards over something so small as a name. It is also a means of guilt-tripping purposely proposed by family which is unfair. We should be who we want to be, without fearing our reputation in the eyes of those we love, or should love.