How I Chose My Name

14017961_10210289551335371_61172393_nIn the beginning of transitioning, my doctor gave me some of the best wisdom. She said that some things about my transition would be easier than I thought, and some would be harder. I didn’t think choosing my own name would be difficult, but once I sat down to it, I found it to be a struggle, and I discovered something about my personal philosophy in those moments.

I believe, deep down, that names are something we are given, and not something we chose for ourselves. We can create a name for ourselves, but that’ s not the same thing. I enjoy having nick names, even if they are seemingly silly and insulting, such as Small Fry or Short Stuff. It matters that I belong to a group, and that they have given me a name–honored me with one. Unfortunately, when it came down to it, I had to choose Ben Brock myself, but I was born Bethany Ann Lilley*, and that name still means something to me.

History is written by the victors, and I supposed I felt as if I were a disgruntled loser when I heard my mother telling one of our longtime friends over dinner how I chose my name, with her apparently helping me in her version of the tale. That inspired a bit of rebellion on my end, and for the official record, I’d like to reveal to you the process of how I actually chose my name.

All I knew when I started was that I wanted to keep my initials. It would make things simpler (every career I’ve had has involved copious initial signing), and having parameters such as this made it seem as if I wasn’t picking my name all willy nilly, which was important to me on a philosophical level. My brother is Brian, so that was out. I toyed with ideas such as Blake and Benedict, but one friend said Blake was a forty-year old tennis player’s name, which was fine, but ultimately the name wasn’t sticking, and Benedict make me think of eggs or Cumberbatch. So I reached out to my family.

The only time my mom and I really talk is when we run, and on one of our runs I asked her what boy’s name she was going to give me if I’d been identified at birth as male. I seemed to recall her telling me when I was sixteen or so, but I could barely remember the conversation.

She ignored me. She changed the subject. She was still struggling with my transition, and I think her brain was simply on overload.

I could understand that, so I wracked my own memory, and the name I believed she was going to give me was Benjamin. It was a weak memory, and I hated the name Benjamin (if you ask me why, I’ll sing you a song). Despite that, some part of me held onto the name Ben.

When you take T your dick gets bigger–that’s just a fact–and considering no one in my life before I’d taken T had ever been able to find my “button of pleasure”, I was very much pleased with the results. But my growth in that area was also the impetus for many dick jokes in the Brock household.

Me: Why does my dick get hard whenever I take a shower?

Husbear: Oh. Mine did that too… when I was twelve! *laughs hysterically*

Me: *rude gesture*

And so on.

One fateful night of messing around, the husbear smiled at me, stroked my leg, and asked how I was feeling.

The first words out of my mouth were, “Big Ben’s feeling fiiiiiiine.”

His hand stopped. “Big Ben?”

I was a bit taken aback too, but I shrugged it off. “Sure. And I’m Little Ben.”

“Okay. You do realize that Big Ben is actually the bell, right, and not the clock tower?”

I pointed to my crotch. “And this is my bellend.”

His hand continued up my leg. “Big Ben it is.”

And Ben it was. I ultimately chose Bennett because it was less offensive to me than Benjamin, but I’m not one of those people who needs a perfect name. Truth is, the letter B is my least favorite letter in the alphabet. I hate writing it and saying it. Blech!

Later my mother confirmed–to our friends–that she was going to name me Benjamin if I had been identified at birth as a boy, but she also insisted, her face shining with drunken maternal pride, that she had helped me pick my name.

I’m sure my parents at times feel bad about the way they raised me, and her fudging a bit on details for storytelling purposes is fine, but the way she completely erased my struggle and made herself look good bothered me. Admittedly, a small part of me wanted to hold onto her version of events, because in her shining eyes I saw a piece of my ideal world, a piece of the mother she could have been to me. But that’s not what actually happened, and now you have the real story.

My dick chose my name.

Photo: My signature now is almost identical to my signature after I got married. Note the angry B’s! *wink*

*Sometimes I like to use my old names when I blog, as a tool of storytelling, but please don’t take that as permission to deadname me.

Featured in Queerdeer Media:


  1. Thank you so much for sharing this. ((hug))

    My kid is in transition, and it’s so hard for me not to throw suggestions at her. (it’s mostly a case of me being more ready than she is at this point)
    Of course, she mostly just glares at me and goes “Mo…om.”
    I know I need to be patient, I know it’ll happen… but… maybe it’s the writer in me, I can’t stop my brain from coming up with names for her to choose from.
    I’m going to love whatever name she’ll choose in the end 🙂


    1. I’ve had other trans friends too. It’s so easy to get excited for them! Don’t worry, she moans now, but when she remembers those moments, they will be fond ones, I promise.


  2. Well, she did … contribute … to finding your name. But she did it in the past, before you asked, which is what allowed you to remember it when you needed it. When you asked, she refused. What she remembers is the contribution; what you remember is the refusal; and that’s what makes it irritating.

    I’m sorry it didn’t go better for you.


    1. Elizabeth, thank you for commenting. I don’t agree with your position, but I’m not going to argue with you, and I’m leaving your comment here so that others can see another point of view, because having an open discussion is important to me too. I chose to respond in this manner because I wanted people to know that although I allowed your comment, I don’t agree with it. Again, thank you for commenting.


  3. I’d say to congratulate you, but you confessed you hate the letter B, so I’m not sure about the victory in this. I will gladly send you hugs for having gotten through the hard part. Is it wrong of me to have pity that you didn’t find it within you to break out of the mold of your initials so you could find the name or letter you love? If it is I apologize, hard roads are just that… hard. having traveled them is the lesson and reward sometimes in place of the destination? T H Elliot I am not.

    But its also funny that I should read about your name discovery when I had just found the answer to my missing middle name, not thirty minutes ago. I’ll be sure to share with you next time we talk. FYI: I like the name Bennett. Dirk Bennet… now he was hot and starred in a popular scifi tv show back in the days (okay, way back)

    “Beaming hugs to you now. “Energize!”


  4. I’m sorry to hear things didn’t go the way you hoped they might with your mother.

    I was interested to see your position on names: “I believe, deep down, that names are something we are given, and not something we chose for ourselves”

    I’m… uneasy with the idea that allowing others to identify and label us is somehow the way things should be – am I reading you right, there? I’ve always had trouble with identifying with my birth name, but felt constrained by it/unable to think of a socially acceptable reason to change – not sure why, as I have several friends who’ve changed their names to some degree in adulthood (not for gender related reasons). Which I suppose is me saying I agree to some extent with what you said, but wish I didn’t! 😉

    For me, one of the great things about becoming an author was finally feeling able to choose a name for myself.


    1. If you don’t like your given name, that’s fine. Go by a nick name, or a different name. I guess what I’m connecting to is the sense of history. I haven’t changed my birth certificate, because that would erase my father’s name, and the connection I have to my twin. There’s a lot that goes into a name that has nothing to do with us.
      I didn’t go by Bethany, when that was my name, but I kept it for as long as I could.
      As for nick names–yeah, sometimes they were unflattering, but I wore them as a badge of honor.


  5. Thanks for sharing. When I chose my name it also was a long process and a great deal of thought went into it. Initially, I wasn’t going to change my name because mine was a gender neutral name, in fact, I actually have known more males than females with it. In the end, though, for me, it was something I needed to do. I needed to make a distinction in my mind and I think it also helped some others come to terms with the “new” me as well.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *