What’s in a Name? [Podcast]




Do you get butterflies when you see your name on a simple work document? Jaye did, highlighting the importance and value of respecting people’s preferred names. On the flip side, Danny was told his preferred name would not be used at his graduation ceremony, diminishing his otherwise enjoyable high school experience.

In this episode, Phil and Alex listen to Jaye and Danny’s stories and discuss the importance of owning your name, how allies can demonstrate true support, and the need for corporations and other organizations to keep up as society evolves beyond the gender binary.


Transcript provided by YouTube:


hey this is phil aka corrine and i’m

alex berg and you’re listening to the

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now on to today’s episode

in today’s episode we’re asking the

question what’s in a name more

specifically we are hearing stories from

two folks who both talk about their

gender identity and why their names are

so important to them

alright so my name is jay i’m born in

boulder city nevada as a

six seven-year-old i don’t really know

the specific age i was living in the

trailer park and it was just me and my

dad and i was playing with the

neighborhood boys we were coming up on

our rollerblades

down the street sitting on right in

front of the

uh driveway of my house and with the

three of us we’re gonna be playing

animorphs and that is where

we morph into an animal to fight crime

whatever that is and

we were going around jason said i’m a

tiger and then pete said i’m a lion and

i was going to say what i was and jason

stopped and they both were like you’re a

girl in that moment i

cowered away and i just said i’m not

half girl

and picked an animal

and tried to play along and just pushed

it away fast forward 10 years later i

have found a man in the moment and

we were looking to get married and we

were talking about what that would look

like and how that would be in our future

and it was a really amazing time

but then came the discussion around our

names and what we would be doing in a

marriage so we were hyphenating our

names and it ended up hyphenating his

last name and then my last name with

that name change was

a new beginning in this marriage years

later i started to kind of experiment

with different things that were more on

the feminine side versus the masculine

side i remember one night specifically i

was going to a comedy club with some of

my friends and in the bathroom i had

eyeliner that i had purchased myself and

had been in there for a couple weeks and

i started to put it on and it was

fantastic i loved how i looked with it i

knew my friends would love how i looked

in it

but then i came downstairs and there was

a change in behavior that

my husband was seeing and you know any

change is going to say what’s going on

what’s happening so there was a little

bit of tension in that aspect so that in

combination with you know some other

things you know we ended up getting

divorced so

two days after announcing the divorce i

was at home and

alone on my couch watching bruce paul’s

drag race and i had earlier bought a

pack of acrylic nails from the local

store jewel and i sat there and i was

putting them on i was gluing them on

learning how to do all that and just

exploring what it was like so when i

finally finished putting on the nails

and i had filed them into the shape that

i wanted i just kind of sat there and

just like kept looking at my hands and i

started taking selfies like looking just

with nails on because it felt empowering

it felt

great and i really enjoyed

that moment of being able to say like

this is what i love and i’m okay with

that and that kind of acceptance piece

of seeing it for myself was fantastic so

over the next year and a half i really

kind of dabbled along with what my

femininity looked like what my

masculinity looked like who i was


probably two months ago i reached out to

one of my best friends and i asked you

know can someone be transgender without

transitioning and she said of course

baby of course um and then she sent me

this amazing article that she was

working on um

but fast forward now to where i go to

the spiritual center and i had

officially come out and said you know to

my current social circles my name is jay

so i’m going into this new spiritual

center we’re sitting in a circle doing

an introduction of who we are and i

introduce myself as jay totally fine i’m

good with the introduction but what was

really impactful was when after a

gentleman came up to me and said hey jay

can i borrow a pen

and hearing him

just call me jay without any question

without any assumption or thinking it’s

different that i wasn’t jake or jacob

but just being able to identify myself

me makeup and all as jay that first time

was so rewarding and i didn’t have to do

anything different i just handed him a

pen it was no different and it was

fantastic i didn’t have to

have a conversation about a transition i

just got to introduce myself and be who

i was

at work i’m also in that middle of the

transition so i’m sitting in my

manager’s office and um i actually say

to her you know i’m changing my name so

can you refer to me as jay now j-a-e

um and i kind of explain it’s just a

neutral term when it comes to my name so

that’s what i’d like to be you know

known as and she was totally on board

she said absolutely that’s what i’ll

call you and move forward so

i’m sitting at my desk and i’m checking

an email that my manager sends out to

the whole leadership team and i know

it’s with a document that we’ve both

been working on together so under my


when i look at the email she has that

actually spelled as j-a-e on there

and i’m overwhelmed i’m just like got

the butterflies i like see it i feel

validated i’m excited even though it was

a small document and a small moment that

may not matter to other people to me it


super empowering and super eventful and

i’m always going to remember that this i

love this story you see jay celebrating

being seen for who they are and i think

that’s what’s so important about names

that’s i think it’s about this is who i

see myself as and i need for you to see

me as i see myself

and i also think their story just so

clearly underscores

how affirming it can be just in such a

passing moment when someone and i think

for them it was especially this group of

people that they had more recently met

how affirming it is just when someone

gets it right


on the flip side of that is how awful it

is when someone gets it wrong as well

and just how

easy breezy it was for this new person

to get it right right wasn’t that hard

and so i thought that that they just

made that point just so nicely i also

really just loved hearing about jay’s

how they integrated femininity into

their self-expression as somebody who

loves a little nail polish and eyeliner

myself i i can really appreciate how

they were experimenting and having fun

with it and just seemed to have this

kind of joyful path to figuring out who

they were while you know also having the

tenuous experience of having to

deal with their partner who seemed a

little bit uncertain about it and then

also meeting new people and introducing

themselves you know i love that the part

of the story when jay talks about

speaking to a friend who

they ask this friend

you know can you be transgender without

transitioning and i was like yeah yes do

it you know just like do it it’s just

like you really

see them questioning this

and they and thankful you know

thankfully they had this great friend

who said absolutely you can do that you

can do whatever you want you know you

can take this as far as you want

this looks the way you want it to look

and it’s just i just think it’s so

important this is why we have you know

people look to chosen family because

they need this container of support

that well it’s it’s like it’s almost

like a little greenhouse in a way i want

to say it’s like it’s like having a

greenhouse with plants and just like the

perfect environment for someone to like

grow and flourish into who they are and

i’m just so grateful that

jay had this friend that really saw them

and was like it looks however you want

it to look and i

am here to support you in that yeah i

love that they even ask the question to

begin with because i think that as a

person in the media

when we

tell lgbtq stories oftentimes they have

a very specific linear narrative


for a long time the media was really i

think when it came to trans stories in

particular a lot of the examples people

would see they were very binary stories

and so

i think it’s really cool that jay had

that moment to be like wait a second

do i even have to be going from one

point to the other point to fall under

this umbrella or for it to feel like the

right identity for me so i just love

that level of inquisitiveness and also

like stopping to question

the conversation that’s out there you

know or the thing that’s been presented

to you i think that’s really cool yeah i

actually wish i could have been applying

the wall during that one evening while

they were watching rupaul’s drag race

and painting their nails and just seeing

the joy that came from like seeing these

beautifully painted nails it’s like can

you imagine that must have been such a

moment of like this is me like this

feels so right i think it’s just such a

beautiful thing those little moments

that you’re just like oh my god like i

am not having to live up to anyone

else’s expectation of who they think i

should be and i am literally just

allowing myself to be exactly what feels

right to me and i think it’s so


speaking more about names i would love

to talk about danny’s story my name is

danny from bronx new york in 2012

i decided to begin my physical

transition from female to male i was

very scared i was in a very

conservative school


that was already very difficult uh so to

take this next step


i was asked

can’t you just wait till you graduate i

was graduating in six months


personally i didn’t feel like i could

wait at that time i felt very ready my

school just never really

took the steps to inform other people or

even talk to me about it like hey do you

need support in talking to your

professor so when i

was going to class a lot of people

you know were just misgendering me i

walked into my investment analysis class


i remember i got dressed up i was

presenting as male i felt really really

good i was passing from people that

really didn’t know me when i entered the

class the professor

greeted me and called me by my birth

name and i just remembered feeling kind

of defeated i felt

that in that moment i didn’t get the

right support my transition was never

communicated forward which kind of

showed me that the school

just didn’t really take it seriously or

they didn’t want to deal with it because

it was too difficult one thing i wanted

to do was change my name so when i

graduated my new name would be set

across the stage and all my friends were

excited for that and

i was advised not to change my name


it would affect my financial aid and i

actually have friends that have changed

their names and it didn’t while they

were in school and even after changing

my name i realized i’m like well it

wouldn’t affect it at all once i learned

about the process i was just told not to

do it because

i don’t know if they didn’t want to deal

with that

my senior year i had all i had already a

position with the target corporation and

i was starting that july and as soon as

i graduated and i received my diploma

where my degree was confirmed i changed

my name legally

and i was starting target

sometime mid-july and i remember

emailing the hr business partner at the

time who was aware of my transition and

told me that target could accommodate my

transition without a problem

she i told her hey i legally changed my

name and they rushed

to get all of my paperwork done so

my i had to refill w2s

w4s i had a folder with updated

documents they change my email address

they change so much paperwork in a

matter of days just so i can be

comfortable when i get to work so one

thing when i was at target

i was supposed to be at one store but it

was my intern store and i wanted a fresh


and the

hr team was trying to give me some time

to see if i felt comfortable so i

actually floated across different stores

for a while

i was in one store

for a little bit and the manager



my name on the schedule he put danielle

by mistake and i think it was just it

was an error but i remember feeling

really upset about it one of my


pointed out the issue and he came up to

me the very next day just very

apologetic like we know we’re really

really sorry you know we don’t really


for making you uncomfortable and we are

totally you know he was just he was very

apologetic and just kind of like you

know we this does not happen here and we

are you know we apologize that we that i

made you feel uncomfortable it was you

know it was an honest mistake in the

moment it didn’t feel great but it

actually you know afterwards i i

appreciated his accountability and just

you know apologizing and

um us being able to move forward i felt

like my experience at school was a bit

insulting like i had given so much to

school not only monetarily but just my

own energy like i really feel

like i put my heart in it and then

the last six months is what i mostly

remember when when you look at danny’s

story what you see is

somebody who went from a an environment

who’s just like could not be bothered

to an environment that’s like we want

you here we want your experience to be

wonderful and we want to respect and

support that and it’s just like the

stark difference between those two

environments can you i mean just can’t

even imagine like the school even lying

to him and saying you can’t get your

financial aid if you change your name

it’s like really yeah

well also like i think the the lie the

word lie here is really

operating because

this huge corporation

was able to get it together

and the school couldn’t and that’s a

that’s a choice there that’s that’s a

real choice to either make it work or

not make it work and then not to

implement those policies for your

students as well and so you know i think

that the

standard that the company that he worked

for had that should just be across the

board 100 everybody should be able to go

walk into any kind of company or

organization in that way and just you

know the contrast between the school and

his job it is a very very stark contrast

of from day one feeling like

you’re understood feeling like there’s

this element of dignity with the work

that you’re doing where again you know

you are

able to bring another part of yourself

i’m not really convinced that anyone

brings their full self to work ever but

you’re at least able to bring a very

important part of yourself and really

i i hope one day we’re talking about how

minimal it is to

recognize someone as their gender in the

workplace and recognize them with their

accurate name i feel like that is the

bare minimum right is just getting those

things right and there are so many other

things that we also need to be getting

right you know but i i recognize that

also in many places

we’re not there yet right we’re

definitely not and i think that what

we’ll see as time goes on is that that

is going to become a lot more standard

across the board just because at the

rate and the amount of people that are

coming out and adopting an identity that

is not part of the binary is is

unprecedented right and so we i think

that is going to play a role in in how

the workforce you know shows up and

you know companies corporations places

of employment have to be ready for that

because that is the reality we’re moving

towards and that’s it should be uplifted

it should be supported we have to change

the way things are i mean like paperwork

you think about applications when you go

to applications it’s still very you know

there’s still this weird like male

female it’s like we have to change

because society as a general is like

shifting and everyone’s got to stay on

top of that but one of the other things

that i i thought was the right move with

where he was working was it’s

institutionalized in a way and i think

it’s so important

for workplaces to create actual strong

policies around these things so that

everyone is treated equitably in terms

of getting the correct email address and

having the accurate gender marker and

having all of that stuff that i think

it’s really important for this stuff to

be codified yes so that it’s not you

know for example in the circumstance

when he was at school so it’s not like

you’re going to your student loan

officer and it’s like so subjective of

whatever somebody’s decision is right oh

you absolutely that’s a good point it’s

it’s a little startling to me to hear

that his school

like handled this in in this way it’s

just hard to hear that i mean i guess we

were talking about a different time but

it’s just like wow like is that like

it’s hard to sometimes understand that

that still is a thing that happens or

happened yeah it’s still it’s just hard


to wrap my brain around that sometimes

yeah i wanted to ask a school how much

do you love the gender binary that

you’re not going to let this kid

be called by their name on their

graduation day

how how

there is some just such a nefarious

element of how

dug in are you

on some of these retrograde ways of

thinking and being that on somebody’s

graduation day you know such an

important day to celebrate their

achievement you

don’t want to call them by the accurate

name right that is your problem that is

not danny’s definitely not danny’s

problem and by the way you said loud and

clear i don’t see you that’s what you

said basically if you did that you’re

saying i don’t see you and i don’t

acknowledge you in the way that you want

to be seen and i think that’s just

that’s like a travesty it’s like insane

it’s like that’s if that’s what he wants

to be called if that’s who he is that is

exactly what you should be calling him

it’s just like he shouldn’t have to

fight this battle it’s like it’s

ridiculous yeah i i just i mean it just

it blows my blood it makes me a little

crazy yeah no i know i i completely hear

that because the other thing too is that

it’s so i mean it was so upsetting for

danny i mean if you think about it it’s


i don’t know it seemed like almost in

his story that it just gave him so much

doubt around

school and like do you even want to do

school and you know like the barriers

the social barriers that it creates for

someone like why do you want to even be

in an environment that is going to be so

so upsetting for you to not recognize

you in that way i i would have i

understand why people are like i’ve had

it right so right i totally understand

you know and one quote from um that

danny says is being in a supportive

environment i was able to be myself i

was able to gain confidence and learn so

much about myself and i think what

you’re saying is right it’s like that is

not what he got when he was at school

right and that is what he’s experiencing

at his job at target so it’s like if you

uh give someone if you can support and

foster them in that way

what kind of you know evolution are we

going to see what again then danny goes

out in the world and becomes

like you said a model for someone else

right so he he becomes something that

somebody else looks at and goes oh my

god that’s i identify with that you know

and it’s just a beautiful thing because

for his school they don’t realize the

far-reaching effects of what they were

doing is you know they don’t they don’t

realize and thankfully his job you know

showed up and

made it right it’s just interesting to

me that we’re so we we live in a culture

that is so obsessed with the binary we

gender everything yes yeah everything

yeah absolutely everything so many

things so many things it’s just you know

another another

one of those reminders of the way that

these things operate this might seem

like a

i don’t know a silly question

but what about names like for our


why are names so important i feel like

this is probably very obvious for so

many people but maybe less obvious for

other people because

i feel like a lot of people

just throw names around if they get

somebody’s name wrong whether or not

it’s even from a gendered perspective

they kind of will blow it off or

whatever but like why

is it name what is in a name right well

this is this is the crux of what we’re

talking about here you know coming from

being someone who

is using a name that’s not my birth name

it’s it’s interesting because i

i think for me a lot of my friends were

ready to call me phil before i was ready

to call myself phil and i was like all

right guess i’m doing that and but it

felt right you know it’s not it’s not

like i’m just going to go with the crowd

it felt right but it it’s interesting to

to hear a name that you no longer use

and it’s almost like a shedding of a

skin in some ways it’s just like okay i

don’t it’s not like i hate this name

it’s not there’s nothing wrong with it

but it’s just it’s not me and so i think

i think the thing about a name is that

you know the thing about words in

general like in names it’s just there’s

a lot of weight that goes with it right

there’s a lot of meaning behind it and i

think the the act of choosing a name

that isn’t your name is saying i’m

growing and and evolving into something

else and i need you to keep up

with what i’m becoming and i need you to

understand that this is what it’s called

you know this is the name i want to use

and i think it’s so important like if

you mess up the name then keep going you

know i have friends who are just

learning to call me phil and they are

just like you know there’s a tip jar you

know every single time every single time

karine comes up i’m like here’s your tip

jar like gotta owe me some drinks

no but it’s like and i understand it’s

totally fine i’m not

in hate i don’t hate my birth name it’s

just not really who i am yeah right now

you know and i was thinking that i

really wanted to make sure that all of

my emails and like right now i’m still

my emails are some of them are using one

name someone i just want to get it all

right across the board but i think names

are important it’s a declaration right

because that’s what it made me think

about as you were saying that it’s kind

of your declaration your way of putting

your foot

on the earth and saying this is who i am


with your name yeah and it’s and there’s

something so beautiful about it it’s

it’s interesting because i think

for me i had i had a transition period

where it was like easier to say my own

name and and more felt more natural to

say that and then they got to a point

where i was like like now now i’m in a

place where i’m like when i have to say

it i’m like who is that

i’m like i’m not sure what that is i’m

like that it’s it’s just it’s weird yeah

so it’s just like it doesn’t it doesn’t

it’s a weird thing it’s a weird thing

it’s to change a name is a strange thing

yeah it is it’s a weird

thing that you that makes you think

you’re constantly thinking about

what you were and what you are i think

it really brings it keeps bringing that

it keeps that

top of mind you know one of the things

because my name is alex yeah you have a

cool name well people would always be

like i remember in particular

encountering i think generationally

older people would be like well isn’t

that a man’s name and it’s so funny to

me because it’s like the gendering of

names is oh yeah how did that even

happen you know it’s so

it’s just interesting to me that we’re

so we we live in a culture that is so

obsessed with the binary but we gender

everything yes yeah everything yeah

absolutely everything so many things so

many things it’s just you know another


one of those reminders of the way that

these things operate

i think in name is part of an identity

and for me

having a name that fits who i actually

am is extremely important so as a child

and you know being jake or jacob with my

dad and the kids in school that was fine

getting married and then having a

hyphenated last name i also felt in that

moment kind of empowered to have a

hyphenated last time and i’m married and

i’m doing what society says

and then transitioning now again into

you know the divorce and then my first

name changing to really focusing on my

identity as a gender non-binary person

and that

name and importance

you know i’ve spent a lot of time

deciding what that transition would look

like because i want to have a name that

is neutral yet still reflects who i am

and that’s you know it’s extremely

important for my identity my experience

at target just made like was just life

changing for me it was it made me so

i was able to

just live i you know i was in early

stages in my transition but

no one made me feel

like i was an outcast i was just

one you know one of the managers one of

the guys like hey you want to order

lunch today yeah sure it’s no big deal

being in a supportive environment i was

just able to be myself and

i gained

confidence and

i was just able to learn so much about

myself in different aspects of my

personal life i feel like being around

people and transitioning just made me

feel comfortable and that was able to

just be life-changing for me i feel like

maybe there are two things that two big

takeaways for us here and two

similarities between the stories which

is that

one it is extremely important to

recognize people as who they are i feel

like lots of cis people and non-lgbtq

people get very agitated when they’re

called the wrong name

and so how about you reciprocate that

behavior you know if if you are agitated

and upset when someone calls you the

wrong name

imagine what that is like for

a trans person yeah you know and because

i feel like a lot of times you encounter

attitudes where people are like well

it’s just too hard or i don’t understand

or but it’s like actually

if you’re agitated because somebody got

it wrong

imagine right imagine and and so and

repeatedly so imagine

and then the other thing is just to

remember how painful it is when a

person’s not called by their right name

you know i i also want to say for the

people that are trying right like i i

still have friends who are just like

they they want to default to my own name

you can see them trying right and i just

want to say it’s better to be trying

than not to be putting any effort in at

all yeah like if you’re trying right on

keep trying but like if you’re not

putting the effort in that’s a problem

yeah right but if but but someone can

understand if you’re trying i mean if

you know me for years and you’ve been

calling me one thing and

one day i switch it up i get it you need

a minute but keep trying yeah keep

working on it yeah i feel like i

definitely i’ve had friends who change

their names or decide to go use

different pronouns and it can take a

minute to get used to it and i’ve had

moments where i’ve slipped up and then i

just try to be like i’m sorry

repeat the right one you know yes like

that’s the best that’s the least you can

do and you know but make the effort make

the effort and and show the person

because to me the effort says i care

enough about you to try

right it’s that that also says i see you

and i’m trying and i know that i messed

up but i’m i’m willing to keep working

at this so i think that’s like you can’t

understand how important that is


the i’m from driftwood podcast is hosted

by phil aka corrine and alex berg and is

produced by andy eagan thorpe it’s

recorded as a program of i’m from

driftwood the

lgbtqai plus story archive its mission

is to send a life-saving message to

queer and trans people everywhere you

are not alone

i’m from driftwood’s founder and

executive director is nathan manske its

program director is damian middelfeldt

our score is provided by elevateaudio

the stories you heard today are

available in their entirety plus

thousands more at i’m from driftwood.org

you can also follow us on instagram

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this program is supported in part by

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partnership with the city council

additional funding is provided by the

humanities new york sharp grant with

support from the national endowment for

the humanities and the federal american

rescue plan act thanks for listening




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The post What’s in a Name? [Podcast] appeared first on The Good Men Project.

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