What’s in a Name?
How my trans daughter taught me grace
So here we are, with two children, whom not that long ago I referred to as our “sons.” When our youngest, Waylon, finally communicated clearly to us what she was experiencing — that she was not in fact a boy but a girl, we were full of fear, but moved forward to support her in the best way we could. I had just come out to everyone in my life, revealing our story, and I was so blessed with the overwhelming warmth and response — even from those I did not expect.
I felt a little more unburdened, a little more settled, than I had before.
A few days later, I drove Waylon to school and she said as I pulled to a stop in the parking lot, “Mommy, I want a girl name.”
My heart dropped and the lump in my throat came back. “What?”
She repeated herself. I asked her why she didn’t like Waylon? I thought that it was gender neutral enough — I mean we had been using it for 4 years, and in the last year, in public, people just assumed “Waylon” was a girl — even when she was dressed in “boy’s” clothing.
She told me that she didn’t like Waylon and wanted a girl name. I asked her if there were any names that she liked. She shook her head no and looked at me as if I should know her name already.
I said, “Well, when mommy was pregnant with you, I wanted to name a daughter Willow. But I didn’t know you were a girl when you came out, so I named you Waylon.”
Her eyes got incredibly wide and bright, “I AM Willow,” she said in the most determined tone I had ever heard her muster. It was if that name had resonated within the depths of her soul. I could see it in her eyes. “Well, ok, honey,” I replied. “Let’s talk about it with daddy later.”
“I am Willow.” She repeated happily. As I got her out of the car I was hoping she didn’t see me shaking.
I was simply devastated. I completely understood now the “grief” I told parents about that they may experience when a child transitions. All I could think of was my little baby, Waylon. I called her that in my belly, once the doctors assigned her “male.” I named her Waylon Joseph — the Joseph after my father — his middle name. How could I possibly change that?