Sunday, March 7, 2010

Androgynous Name vs Gender Implicit Names

I was asked, "Which is better an androgynous name or a feminine name? Which one would be less likely to be discriminated against?"

Androgynous names confuse people. People in the service industry, especially in Louisville, it seems, are trained to look at your name if available, and then use "Sir" or "Ma'am" as the gender presented on the document. Credit cards don't have a gender marker. State ID's and driver's licenses put a single M or F on different parts of the ID. Because Kentucky put the gender marker in the lower left corner, for left-to-right, top-to-bottom readers, the eye doesn't see it. The name in is usually near the upper left corner and is much easier to spot and recognize than a single character. People see your name and not your gender marker.

Unless, you have an androgynous name like "Pat." There's a famous skit on Saturday Night Live, where a contestant named "Pat" presents androgynously and answers all gender-probing questions in a non-determinate gender-free manner. The net effect is the audience and the probers are left confused.

While a humorous exaggeration, the "Pat" skit reflects the confusion people have. They find it easier to understand someone who identifies as strictly male or female. They are either clueless or in denial of the gender spectrum. In their determination of which gender honorific to use, they look for clues. They could look for the M of F or they way the person's dressed, whether they have a beard, etc. Most people don't like to be confused. It's frustrating. They can more easily understand Male to Female transition than they can understand Male to Androgynous.

If you're on the fence about what legal name to use, I would recommend one that reflects gender-wise how you wish people to treat you. If you want to be treated unambiguously as a woman, find an unambiguous woman's name. If you feel more androgynous, and intend to in between or in both genders, and want to be treated that way, then by all means go with something useful.

In the end however, your new name is your possession. Find a comfortable name that reflects who you are or who you want to be. Being able to possess your own identity is a rewardingly joyful feeling.

Hugs and God Bless,

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