Some people have asked me to write a little bit about changing my name from Mike Kenyon to Michael Abon.
As part of our wedding three weeks ago, my wife and I decided to create a new family name out of each of our previous names. Abellard + Kenyon = Abon. We opted to keep her alphabetical superiority.
There’s a lot in a name and also, very little. It’s who you are and your reputation. And at the same time, everyone has read a fantasy book involving name magic, where no one reveals their true name.
So, let me preface by saying that your name is your own, your decision about your name is your own, and I’m not judging you for any of that.
For us, we both wanted to have the same last name as our children. Any birth children that we have will be biracial. Who knows for any adoptive children? Either way, having a shared last name might give them some more social structure, especially given that we’re far away from any family. And, sadly, people’s biases being what they are, it’ll almost certainly make border crossings and school pickups easier.
So, why create a new last name? Taking the other person’s last name or hyphenating exist as options. Those options weren’t right for us. But I’ve been shaped by two generations of women in my family. My grandmother was known as my grandfather’s wife. Literally, when Phyllis Stott married Les Allison, they became Mr. and Mrs. Les Allison. And she was written about in the small town newspaper as Mrs. Les Allison.1 She ceased to be her own person in what’s now called civil erasure. And my mother was the first person that she knew who kept her own name and who went by Ms. instead of Mrs. as was the tradition in rural Manitoba. Those notions shaped my thoughts even as a small child. When I saw a friend, years ago, create a new family name with his wife, I was very much taken with the idea. This marriage is the two of us creating a new life together. Let’s demonstrate that to its fullest.
How do you actually choose the name itself? First, figure out what elements you want. Are you incorporating your mothers’ names? Are you using the letters and creating an anagram? Are you portmanteauing? Solicit your friends who are good at puns and wordplay. Keep a list of all the ideas that you vaguely like. Then, if you’ve named a company, the rest are familiar. How is it pronounced? What about your initials? Are there companies with your new name? Profanity in other languages? Can you get the .com? Will your kids get teased at school?
And you prioritize which of those is important.
For us, the French present in Abon speaks to both of our families.
Alibaba owns Abon.com but I have michaelabon.com.
Children will (likely) sit in the front of the class.
But the pronunciation isn’t fully intuitive
(hint: our best wedding hashtag options were
Once you’ve chosen your name, you have paperwork to do. British Columbia only recognizes a few versions of name transfer. Portmanteau? Not one of them. We’re required to do a full, legal name change. As we had already booked our honeymoon travel, we got married under our birth names, leaving us to legally change them afterward. Since Daneeka is an American, in Canada as a permanent resident, we reckon it’s easiest for us to use the patriarchal system. I’m going to legally change my name to Michael Abon, then Daneeka is going to use that paperwork with both Canadian and American governments to say “I want to go by my husband’s name.” Pragmatic, if disheartening. My name on my birth certificate and our marriage certificate will change. I will get to apply for a brand new passport, using my new birth certificate. And I get to take my name change certificate to all of my financial institutions. On the Internet, I get to transfer over usernames, everywhere. Serves me right for using my real name on the internet. The domain name and email address will be hardest, I think. I would appreciate help there, if you’ve done it before.
I need to recognize how trans and women folx have made it easier for me to change my name. Any good people system has a Preferred Name section, that splits out your legal name from what you “do business as”. It’s how BambooHR can let me request to be known as Michael Abon before I’ve got my paperwork changed. Some systems refer to it as my “maiden name”, which makes me giggle, as I haven’t ever thought of myself as a maiden. Even your autocorrect will be upset at the more correct masculine né, preferring the feminine née. Those might catch up, eventually, once more and more developers read patio11’s Misconceptions Programmers Have About Names. But, there have been a lot of people who have fought very hard for me to be able to do this, and I appreciate it.
I might take some time for you to remember to call me Michael2 Abon and that’s okay. I’ll gently mention it and we can move on.
I hope that you found the history, the thought process, or the mechanics interesting. I’m happy to talk more about it, of course. I’m also happy to demonstrate publicly that there’s (yet) another way for two people to combine their lives and be new people together.
1. My grandfather tried to slight me once by addressing a letter to Mr. and Mrs. <My girlfriend’s name> ↩
2. I’m also taking this opportunity to revert back to Michael and undo that lost rock-paper-scissors game from Grade 7. ↩