My wife, Karyne, and I began testing out different versions of our potential last name before we even got engaged. We tried them out on our dogs for starters. Olive Miano-Levy? Henry Levy-Miano? They sounded great, right? But dogs aside, we weren’t fully in agreement on hyphenating. I was strongly for it—I wanted our name to reflect our partnership equally, and I also wanted to keep my maiden name. Karyne, though, was not super into it. While she also wanted our name to reflect our equal relationship, Karyne had a few professional reasons for keeping her last name intact. So, what to do?
We left the topic alone for a while, still jokingly calling our dogs by various name combinations when they were in trouble. And even after we actually got engaged, it wasn’t really discussed. It wasn’t until our wedding was quickly approaching and we still hadn’t decided on anything, did the tension begin to rise. Being in a same-sex couple does afford you a little more of a dialogue about name changing than many heterosexual couples have. Without the societal norm of automatically taking the husband’s name pressing down on us, we had the freedom to actually talk about the name or names we wanted to use, and what that meant to us.
The decision I had to make about changing my last name was compounded by an additional fact: this wasn’t my first time at the name-change rodeo. When I was twenty-three I got married to a guy. My parents went through a nasty divorce before the wedding, and at the time things between me and my dad weren’t great. I shed my maiden name as a way to move forward and fall into a new family. After five years of marriage, I admitted to myself, my then husband, and our families the truth about my sexuality, and ended the marriage.
By the time I met Karyne, I was in a better place with both my parents and happily had my maiden name back. I told myself that I wouldn’t change it again. I wanted to keep it. I felt that being in a same-sex relationship would for sure make that happen. But… shit is complicated. Karyne was steadfast in her choice to keep her name, and I respected that, but couldn’t help but feeling somewhat disappointed. I had gone through so much to get to a place of security in myself and find the love and partnership I had longed for, and yet still ended up feeling torn between choosing between myself or my relationship. I’d made the mistake before of not being true to myself and what I really wanted from life. Hadn’t I learned from this and grown?
Ultimately, the decision to change my name came down to politics: since we are a same-sex couple, we didn’t know what our futures would hold post-election. For us it just felt especially important to take every possible precaution to make us formally, on paper, a family unit. We live in California, so we still feel a sense of “safety” in terms of our marriage, but we still don’t know what having children will look like for us. If it meant a few less questions, or form complications, or even one less time explaining the relationship, then it was worth it for us to share a name.
So for the second time in my life, I took someone else’s name. It was bittersweet, but the choice worked for me, and it works for my family. I kept my maiden name as a second middle name, which feels good and important for me. Life isn’t perfect, and the politics of being gay in this country are still really, really far from perfect. So we didn’t come up with a solution that was a hundred percent thrilling. But that being said, I’m proud in my choice. I’m proud that I got to marry my wife and take her name legally, even if it still stings a little to let a part of myself go.
Now that I’ve dished, I want to hear from you. Did you change your name when you got married? why or not why not? what did you consider in the process, and what advice would you give other couples making the same decision?