Two years ago this month I legally changed my name to Yenn. There were a few reasons for this, mostly it was because it is my name! It wasn’t always my name. I had another name for most of my life. It was a very gendered female name as it ended with ‘ette’ – in the English speaking world that strongly denotes the feminine. But I am not female. I am a different option for gender. I am non-binary and transgender – the white stripe on the trans pride flag. I came out as non-binary and trans in 2018 and one of the first things I thought needed some attention was my gendered feminine name.
Coming out was an amazing liberating thing to do. I was literally dancing for joy in my kitchen. I wanted to skip down the street and declare my gender identity from the rooftops. I loved finally being able to put language to my experience of gender. However my name was an ongoing issue. Initially I wanted to change my name and tried to force it. I didn’t come up with anything which suited and just got frustrated and desperate. I decided to leave coming up with my name to my subconscious which is quite good at working through things that my conscious mind struggles with.
Nothing happened on the name front for many months and then on a February morning when I was at work the word ‘Yen’ came to my mind. Ooh I thought. I wrote it down ‘Yenne’ but it didn’t work. I tried again with ‘Yenn’ and I had my name. Like many good decisions I have made over the years, I reached the conclusion to use Yenn as my new name in a split second. It was just right. I unpacked the significance of Yenn. The first thing I realised was that in poetry to yen is to yearn. I have made a career of self reflection (and let’s face it, oversharing) so that worked. It was also a nod to my dead name – and through that my personal history – as it contains some of the same letters and it is a gender neutral name in Australia. Yenn was perfect. I loved my name form the moment it came to me.
The day I changed my name I updated all my social media accounts with the change. My email address was under my previous name but I had created a different email for personal emails so I just made that my main address. It was a big job changing all my details and memberships with my new name but it was also quite liberating. I got a new passport with my new name and with gender as ‘X’- which isn’t ideal but it is better than having to pick male or female!
I had an amusing incident the day after I changed my name unofficially. I was hosting ‘Rosie’ books author Graeme Simsion’s book launch in Canberra. Graeme came up behind me and said ‘Yenn…’ and then laughed as I didn’t look around! Despite this I was quite good at not dead naming myself. Much better then when I came out initially and misgendered myself more often than not for at least three months! I probably only called myself by my dead name a few times. Yenn was a great fit!
People responded really well to my name. I must admit it is an excellent name! It is so ‘me.’ My dead name never suited me. I never liked it and it never felt like me. I view my dead name as being like a winter coat that doesn’t really fit well and is uncomfortable but it is the only coat I had so I needed to wear it. Now I have a new metaphorical coat and it fits perfectly, is warm and cosy and oh so very stylish!
Most people responded really well to my new name. My mum picks up the phone by saying ‘It’s Glen here’ and I say ‘It’s Yenn here’ which she finds amusing – as do I! I am very fortunate to have a supportive family as so many transgender people have major issues with their biological families. I have had some abuse and people saying they won’t use my name but mostly people in my world have been very respectful and decent.
When I first changed my name I had a big stress about people who follow my work and conference organisers and so forth not being able to contact me. This was not the case. Things dropped off for a couple of months but have since picked up. I already have 26 things on my presentation list for this year so I think it should be ok!
After two years I am firmly Yenn. I love my name and my strong trans identity and everything that comes with it. So I am very happy and proud to be Yenn. What’s in a name? For me having the opportunity to choose my name has been life changing. My dad recently said he had seen how much happier I have been since I came out. Very big yay to that!
At the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras in 2019