name changes

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Can I Adopt an Alias?

Is it possible to legally take on a "public" name while still keeping my birth name -- without having to create a business of some kind, which is all I can find on the subject? I have been thinking about adopting a new name for many years, but I don't want to cut all ties to my current name. I keep seeing where people were "born as" or "A.K.A." and I wonder if it is an official process. - Me, But Not Me

I'm a Name Lady, not a Law Lady, but I can tell you this much: you only have one legal name. (If you meet somebody with passports in two names, back away slowly.) Yet thousands of people do use aliases every day, legitimately.

How can both statements be true? The key is what you do with that alias.

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Carrying Too Much Weight in the Middle (Name)

I'm a 14-year-old boy and I want to change my middle name. My parents gave me a Russian middle name and an American first name, because I was born in Russia (and then adopted). I want to change my middle name, but I don't know how to tell them the name I like. Any suggestions?

–All-American

I normally advise young would-be name-changers to be patient. You are still growing into the person that you are and will be, and sometimes wishing for a new name is a part of that—one that proves to be temporary.

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How Can I Avoid Name-Change Regret?

I'm 17 and I've hated my name for as long as I can remember, for a few different reasons. First, I have a speech impediment which makes it almost impossible for me to say my name and have people understand me. This has made my dislike for my name grow over the years, as introducing myself has become intolerably frustrating. On top of that, I just feel like my name doesn't fit me as a person at all. My dad is supportive of me changing my first name, but I haven't told my mom yet because she can be very harsh.

My main issue in committing to this is wondering how I know this name is "the one." I'm afraid officially changing my name will hurt my mom's feelings, or end up with me regretting it down the road.

–Scared of Regret

Typically, I advise young would-be name changers to proceed with caution, and try on a new name unofficially before pursuing a legal change. But in my opinion, a speech impediment is a rock-solid reason to make a change, and do it now. Your own name should never feel like an enemy or a source of stress.

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Would a Name Switch Fix This Sibling Sitch?

Our first daughter's name is Leena (she is 5 years old) and our second is Dina (14 months old). Leena is quite jealous of her sister and we think that their names being too close might be a factor. Could that be right? Is it worth going through the name-changing process? (Dina's middle name is Linda, so we're thinking of dropping the first name and keeping only the middle one.)

–Mom of Rivals

Kids with that age difference frequently do feel resentful of their younger siblings. Your older daughter enjoyed the solo-kid life for four years before her sister came along. It's a big adjustment for her. And at 14 months, your younger daughter is likely starting to walk and talk, which could make her feel like even more of a challenge to her big sister.

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Please Help My Friends Use My New Name!

Hi! I'm a transgender boy and have started going by the name Kellin. My friends have said they support me, but they keep on referring to me by my old name. I don't know how to correct them without seeming rude. How can I be more assertive with my name?

–Kellin, Please!

Sometimes, a change like this just takes a lot of gentle, but persistent reminders, as when a teenager or adult wants to shed a childhood nickname. It’s not rude to say "It's Kellin now, thanks!" when friends forget. Just keep your tone cheerful and polite.

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I’m Afraid to Ask for a New Name

I am 13 and want to ask my parents if they would change my name. I know the name isn't too personal, because it was from a TV or movie character. I am just scared of asking my mom. I know I am young, but I have thought about it for years and it would just feel right. I want to do it before I get a high school diploma or driver’s license. I have anxiety and don't speak to many people at school. Is there any possible way to bring this up to my parents without offending them? Is there a way to bring it up more casually? I just don't want them to get mad at me.

–Ready for a Change

I wish I could start by giving you a hug! I also wish I knew if you have a particular reason to believe your parents would get mad at this request. Are they prone to anger? Or is it possible that you are torturing yourself unnecessarily by imagining the worst? Could your anxiety be playing a role?

Many kids your age are hesitant to talk honestly with their parents. And yes, some parents fly off the handle easily, or are too controlling. But many would love to help if their kids would confide in them. They are well-meaning and want you to be happy.

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Is It Too Late for a New Name?

Naming my daughter was the hardest thing I've ever had to do! When she was born, we didn't have a name that we both agreed on. We decided to compromise by using my husband's first choice for her first name and mine for her middle. I wanted her to go by her middle name, which is Scout. But everyone said it was ugly, a boy's name, a dog's name, or a nickname.

So we ended up calling her by her first name—which I hate! It sounds horrible just saying it, but I don't like it. My daughter just turned one. Would it be okay to change her name now? We have a name we both like. I feel silly even considering it, but I'm so in love with this new name.

–Help!

Since your daughter is a year old, this is borderline territory for a name change. She is too old for you to just switch the name casually, but she is too young to be involved in the decision. However, since you have such a powerfully negative reaction to her current name, it might be healthier to go ahead and make the change.

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I Need a New, Neutral Name

I do not identify exclusively with either the male or female gender. Unfortunately, my birth name is an obvious marker of gender. How do I go about choosing a new name?

–Need a Non-Binary Name

While many names bear the "unisex" designation (or reputation), few remain that way for long. There are occasional traditional names, like Morgan or Quinn, that have sustained usage by both genders over a fairly long period. So you could look to one of those, or a nickname used by both genders: Alex, Sam, or Chris, for example.

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New Gender, New Name, Same Old Mom

I'm transgender (female to male), and I want to change my name to Alois, which means "famous warrior." My mother won't let me. She keeps calling me Maryanna, because my deceased father named me that. Any ideas on how I could convince her to call me Alois?

–Aspiring Alois

As you've probably guessed, there's likely more going on here than just a simple preference for one name over another. The underlying issue is whether your mom is rejecting just the name Alois, or your entire new gender identity.

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My Name Doesn't Match My Politics

My Republican parents named me Reagan in 1990 after their beloved president. Now I'm a solid Democrat, and I hate having to explain my namesake. I'm thinking about legally changing my name to Regan, but I want to keep the same pronunciation. Will I become "Ree-gun" without the "a"?

–Too Blue for Reagan

Names can send messages about everything from your age and sex to your religion and ethnic background. But your political party? Not usually. Most baby names transcend politics. Your name, though, is the exception.

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