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Am I Too Young to Change My Name?

I'm a boy, and my dad thought Karmen was a boy's name when I was born. Now I'm called Karmen in all my official statements, school records etc. I really hate it and I get bullied for it. I'm 16. Can I change my name? How? - Karmen

In the US, you can't petition the court for a name change until you're 18. For now, the legal request would have to come from your parents. I understand that it may be hard to ask for their help on this, since they gave you the name in the first place.

Part of me is tempted to refer you to the tag-line of the anti-bullying campaign: it gets better. Readers write to me of "growing into" names, or learning to love unusual names they despised as a teenagers. This is one reason I usually discourage minors from making legal name changes.

Your case, though, is a little different. You've run into an ugly truth about names in America: gender matters, a lot. And there's a double standard. Parents love to give girls traditionally masculine names, and there's even some research suggesting they give girls a competitive advantage. But it's tough to be a boy with a girl's name, and you're right, Karmen is used overwhelmingly for girls. (It's a form of Carmel, a biblical place name. The Italian name Carmine is one masculine version.)

If you'd like to change your name now, have a conversation with your parents. Be gentle; they chose this name for you and understandably have different feelings about it than you do. Build your case with facts. You can show them baby name data from the Social Security Administration to show them that girls named Karmen (and Carmen) swamp the boys by a rate of more than 25 to 1 in the United States. A Google image search of Karmen works too -- but be sure to select "safe search" or you'll be in for a whole different kind of parental discussion.

You can also give your parents a practical argument. If you know you'll change the name yourself on your 18th birthday, the change will be simpler now before you're issued a driver's license and start applying to jobs or colleges.

If your parents won't go for it, though, take comfort that the decision will soon be in your own hands.


Please do not add links to your comments. Thank you.

January 3, 2011 6:27 PM
By Cecily's Mom (not verified)

I feel for you and agree with the advice already given.
I would suggest making a list of your new name choices, if you haven't already decided, then asking your parents opinion on the names that you've chosen. It might help sooth their feelings to give them the option to weigh in on the decision.
Even if they do agree to request the change for you don't be to offended if it takes a while for them and other family members to adjust to your new name.
I have a cousin who went through the same thing about 15 years ago. It took time but everyone adjusted, even Grandma, though she occasionally slipped every now and then.

I wish you the best of luck.

January 4, 2011 9:39 AM
By ClaireP (not verified)

I thought this was one of the reasons why parents give middle names - in case the first name doesn't "work" for some reason.

Can you be K. Middlename Lastname instead?

January 4, 2011 3:59 PM
By Laura617 (not verified)

You don't have to legally change your name to go by a nickname. Most schools will respect a student's choice of nicknames even if their parents aren't happy with the choice.

I went to school with a kid named 'Greg' who's name was really some unpronouncable foreign name and he just decided one day to go by Greg because it was easier. His parents didn't like it but he was just Greg even at graduation. His parents might have liked his long ethnic name but as a teen, it was far more important to fit in.

January 4, 2011 4:15 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I had this very same problem when I was in high school. I talked to my parents about it--my mom, actually--and she found out what had to be done. In our state (PA), we had to apply to the Vital Records Dept. for a new birth certificate and fill out some paperwork that required my parents to sign for it.

We were only changing my first name, as in this case. I don't think it's necessary in all places/instances to go to court for a simple first-name change.

January 4, 2011 4:37 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Carmine (with a long "i") was a male character on "Laverne & Shirley." While a different name, it's close enough that you might get away with being called that, if you like it...because it's definitely a boy's name. Maybe just add an "i" to your make it like Carmine. Then you're still honoring your parents' choice while just changing the vowel sound in your name.

January 5, 2011 12:03 AM
By P. Gardiner (not verified)

I never liked my birth name either. A nickname was suggested by a friend when I was about 14, and low and behold it stuck! I asked my parents to change it legally a few years later, but they said no, I could just wait until I was 18. Which is exactly what I did. I'm 40 now, and don't regret it at all. My name is unusual, but I really love it and would never go back. I hope you find something that works for you & go with it immediately, don't wait. The friends you make in the next few years will know your new name & Karmen can become something that is 'written down somewhere, but no one ever calls me that' in just a few years.
Teenage name changers- IT GETS BETTER :-)

January 5, 2011 9:43 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

p.s. I was thirteen at the time, and never regretted the change. Good luck, whatever you decide to do!

January 5, 2011 1:31 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I know a couple of guys name Carmen/Karmen/Carmine/Carmain, it seems to be a pretty Italian name choice, so I guess in an Italian community it's more acceptable and understandable. I think it's actually a really nice boys name and I used to have a crush on a guy named Carmen - but I can understand how it would be difficult - I hope you are peaceful with whatever ends up happening and your parents are understanding even if they do end up saying no - if they say no, it doesn't mean they don't understand. Overall though I think, being someone who has had name problems growing up, as the Name Lady said, I've really come to love my name and appreciate the lessons it has taught me, I am who I am because of my name and to change it would be to change a part of who I am - this may seem silly but I see it like plastic surgery. I have no qualms against other people doing it but personally I wouldn't.

January 5, 2011 11:27 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I always thought of Carman/Carmen/Karmen as a either gender name. One of my son's and my favorite singers a few years back was Carman - very definitely male, and in my opinion, very nice looking!
I have an unusual name and had problems with being teased in school, especially in elementary because they would not let me go by a nn. I use a nn now and like it alot better. I like Claire's suggestion of usin your mn if you have one.

January 6, 2011 9:56 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I waited to change my name until I was in my mid-twenties, and I've never regretted it. It gave me time to be certain that the name I chose was definitely the name I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. My 16-year-old self wasn't in a position to make that choice yet.

January 6, 2011 9:03 PM
By Shawn (not verified)

Being a female named Shawn I can comisserate. Carmine is an uncommon but not rare Italian male name(used to be more popular). Carmine Ragusa from Laverne & Shirley is a prime example. There is also an actor on CSI:NY named Carmine Giovinazzo. The New York Italians mispronounce it "Kar-mY-n". If you go to Italy it's "Kar-mEE-neh", means song(see Carmina Burana), in Aramaic it means crimson. I went to college with a male Shannon, Kelly, and Tracy. I know a male Karey. I had a male doctor name Leslie, I've worked with a male Coutrney. I've known of a male Ashley and Evelyn. None of whom has changed their name, not to say you shouldn't, just to show you that you can survive with it.

January 7, 2011 5:23 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

You could change it to Kamren, which is more masculine and using the same letters.

January 8, 2011 6:06 PM
By elleireland (not verified)

Go by Karr.

But only if you like it.

January 11, 2011 1:45 PM
By with an E (not verified)

No no no Kamren/Camryn is even more feminine in the southern US!!!! Cameron is masculine, but it needs all three syllables!

January 11, 2011 1:47 PM
By with an E (not verified)

Carr with a C is good. K at the beginning (Kris, Karol, Kourtney) to me just screams feminized boy name.

January 11, 2011 3:28 PM
By dmj (not verified)

I like the Kamren idea but if you do change you're name go for a name that you really like. Practice it. Ask people to call you that name to see if you like it. I don't think you should try to hard to please your parents with a new name because no matter what they're going to be at least a little bit hurt. You should choose a name that fits can talk to them about names you are considering like someone else said, but really if you are changing your name, it should be your decision.

E: Camryn and Cameron are pronounced the same further north, both with two syllables, but I agree Kamren and Camryn do look more feminine than Cameron.

January 17, 2011 10:42 AM
By smismar (not verified)

I agree with the middle name suggestion. I have a rather masculine first name and a feminine middle name. In cases where I want no doubt as to my gender, I'll use my middle name (I'm female). I'll often give my middle name to hosts in restaurants or if I meet someone randomly to avoid having to explain or spell my first name.

And also, you don't have to legally change your name just to go by something else. If you're called on for roll in class as Karmen, just say, "I'm here, but I go by _____." Teachers are used to that.

January 18, 2011 1:38 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Change the spelling to Carmine. That's my brother's name and we're Italian. I always associate that spelling to masculine as it's a common male name in my family.

January 19, 2011 4:47 PM
By Lisa (not verified)

Kamen is pronounced Car-min (or sometimes Cay-min apparently) and is definately a Bulgarian masculine name meaning "stone". So your parents added a letter. How often does that happen, and on purpose LOL

There is a show called Kamen Rider Dragon Knight, maybe the name Kamen will get popular for boys named after that, rather like the Rayden's named after Mortal Kombat LOL

February 4, 2011 11:01 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I'm kinda against the idea of letting bullies determine your name. I'd rather defy them than cave in, thinking they'd leave you alone. And even if you do change it, unless you move those bullies will remember your original name, and they'll keep up the bullying.

If you don't like the name on its own, then yes change. But don't do it just because other people are mean. Don't let the bullies control you.

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