As a queer person of color feminist, I cast aside my last name, and that’s okay with me

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As a queer person of color feminist, I cast aside my last name completely, and that's okay with me -- as seen on @offbeatbride
Future Mrs Cake Topper by Letters To You

Despite living in New York City all my life, racism is explicitly prevalent even in the most liberal of cities, and, at times, I still feel like an Other. While I always expected I would end up marrying a Taiwanese-American person like myself, I somehow fell in love with a man who happens to be white. I never thought I'd end up dating white guys, nor did I think I'd marry one.

My husband's last name is German, and is mildly rare. My ex-surname is not as common as other Taiwanese last names. In fact, I would gather there are fewer than ten of us total living in the United States. Like my husband's name, we are few and far between. As unique as I thought my name was, I felt bittersweet about it.

My parents divorced when I was still in the womb, but for reasons unbeknownst to me, my mother gave me my father's name on my birth certificate. I questioned her decision for years, and still don't know why she didn't want me to have her family name. During my childhood, I felt like this moniker was my self-identification tag — how people would only see me as. It was a label for an outsider (a.k.a. an Other that would never be white).

Weeks before my wedding, I toyed with the idea of changing my name. I could have a fresh start in life — new name, new license, new everything. Maybe I can finally have my mother's family name too, one I coveted since I was young. But then the feminist part of me strongly opposed taking my husband's name. How can I completely eradicate my single life and the accomplishments I achieved under my maiden name? What kind of feminist am I?

For those who have yet to legally change their name, be it from marriage or out of whim, you will find how laborious this procedure is — emotionally and time-wise (it took almost three months for me to legally change my name).

When I got married, I cast aside my last name completely. There was no hyphen or anything that linked back to my life pre-marriage; I was a completely new person. It's not that I hated having a Taiwanese mark — it was more of not wanting to have any association with my absentee father.

I love being a “Mrs.”, and I enjoy practicing my new signature. And this name feels right when it comes out of my hand. My previous name never conjured in me so many positive emotions.

I love being a “Mrs.”, and I enjoy practicing my new signature. And this name feels right when it comes out of my hand. My previous name never conjured in me so many positive emotions. I always felt ashamed of my last name, humiliated to be the daughter of a man who could have a string of sordid affairs when his wife, whom he had been married to for almost eight years, was pregnant with his first child. It was so liberating for me when I chose to legally change my name.

I am grateful to be living in a country that is slowly becoming more progressive. For marginalized peoples, it is almost a miracle that society is slowly waking up to the injustices of the world. As a person of color writer, when I decide to focus on race and being female, I wonder whether it would be easier if I still had my old surname, just so I can be taken more seriously. If people didn't know I am fully Taiwanese, would they even want to listen to me? Is my voice even relevant?

Maybe the only one who really cares about this is me; those who have yet to meet me would never think I'm Asian with my new last name. Just because I changed my name doesn't make me any less proud to call myself an immigrant's daughter, nor does it lessen the fact that I am proud to be Asian-American. I don't consider myself as one who comes from a broken family, and changing my last name has not made me any less a feminist, it's only helped me make peace with my past. I encourage everyone to do what feels right for them, not what they feel should be expected of them.

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Comments on As a queer person of color feminist, I cast aside my last name, and that’s okay with me

  1. OMG, this. This was so my experience with changing my name. I mean, not the racial part (my husband and I both happen to be white), but the family part. My parents divorced when I was three, and my mom remarried when I was six. My mom and my step-dad (who I adore) had my sister when I was seven. My mom’s family was always “my” family. My dad’s family couldn’t be more different, but I was stuck with his last name and always felt like an outsider in my own family. I couldn’t wait to take my husband’s last name and feel like I belonged. I so appreciate you writing this post!

  2. Funny enough, my future-husband is in a similar boat. He’s parents divorced when he was very young and while he has his biological father’s name, his mother and brother both have his Step-father’s name. He has always felt like an outsider in that way, since he’s not close to his bio-father or that side of the family at all. So, our plan is to ‘reclaim’ his last name and build a new legacy around it with our new family-unit.

  3. This is the conclusion many I’ve read about and heard from seem to reach when deciding they’re comfortable with changing their last name. I still struggle however, because I love my dad. I love my last name. I always imagined sticking to my guns and remaining my birth name until death. But now I’m toying with the idea of changing it to my FH’s last name and the effects have been wildly unexpected. It almost feels like ‘too much’ conformity and acceptance of tradition to be my path, but I’m still feeling it out.

    Congrats on the marriage and clarity you have found!

  4. THANK YOU, I am actually going through this right now. My parents were never married, so they decided to hyphenate me with both of their last names. My mother married the man who raised me when I was ten so I always felt like my name never matched the other 3 people in the house. I am not attached to either of my last names but my last name is “different” I wanted to keep it for the “oh wow what a different set of last names” feel. My future wife has the common Hispanic last name of Diaz, I have been fighting and telling her SHE needs to hyphenate because my last name is waaaay cooler and “its 2016 nobody has to take the more masculine persons name” . I am starting to realize that none of this really matters and where my kids are placed in the yearbook shouldn’t matter so much to me either. I love my future wife and she is very close to her family and her heritage. I am about 60% willing to change it.

  5. Bravo! I love hearing about other name changing struggles. This was a part of marriage that I thought would be really easy for me. I was getting married and I would change my name. But when it came down to it I just didn’t feel right about it. I spent a few weeks toiling with the decision and finally came to the conclusion that changing my name was just not for me so I didn’t do it.
    I love the point about doing what feels right and not what’s expected. Everyone, myself included, expected me to change my name. But it didn’t feel right to me so I didn’t do it. As recently as last week I was asked “Did you not take his name professionally, or at all?” When I answered that I hadn’t changed it at all I was met with “How did he feel about that?” and truthfully answered that since I didn’t ask him to take my name then he couldn’t fairly ask me to take his. It works for us and that’s what’s most important.

  6. As a fellow queer person of color feminist, I truly thank you for making this post. I want to change my last name because it gets misspelled somewhat often despite it being seemingly simple. However, I read so many posts and comments around the web about feminists adamantly choosing to keep their last names and it makes me feel awful, like I’m not a “real” feminist. So again, THANK YOU for being a feminist who chose to cast aside their last name because I will do the same thing when I get married.

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