Why our child won't have my name.


So, we’re having a child. In less than a month. And it won’t have my name. There are many rational reasons why this is, but the main one, to get out of the way, is that the presumption a child should take the father’s name is nonsense on stilts. Tradition is never a good argument.

On top of that, there’s good feminist reasons for he/she/it (damn the lack of an acceptable gender neutral) to have my partner’s name – to balance out the long history of mankind where children didn’t have women’s names and women were excluded from society, seen just as vectors for men’s seed, treated as chattel and the property of their husbands.

Of course, there’s no reason it should have anything like my name, or even a standard human name. “Conventional names define a person’s past: ancestry, ethnicity, nationality, religion.” FM-2030 said “I am not who I was ten years ago and certainly not who I will be in twenty years.” I’d rather our child escaped the shackles of tradition, though she can opt in later, should she so wish.

Tradition is only local: surnames were mononymous in most areas of the world at one time, then became bynames, to distinguish people. In Prestatyn, where my grandma lived, the surnames were so similar that it was still normal to call people that way – she used to call them Jones the Butcher, Jones the Taxi, and Jones the Baker. Outside of there, I’m sure Jones of Prestatyn wouldn’t be unknown.

Though I was open to the child not having either of our names, we’re sadly not as enlightened as FM-2030. It’s probably going to have a first name that reflects something of its heritage, and it will take its mother’s surname. I was also open to the child being given just a first name, then choosing its own surname at the age of majority; we may just emphasise that it can change its own name whenever it wants.

Practically though, the child is in the medium and long run more likely to grow up with its mother, so it should have her name. There’s a higher chance of me dying and a higher chance of it staying with her if we split up (which we’re not planning to, but it’s wise to be rational). Even for day-to-day aspects, the child is initially dependent on her, so more likely to be travelling with her around the country and world.

There’s also the aesthetic qualities of our actual names. My surname is batshit hard to spell. I’ve gradually got tired of spelling it out and typing it out every day. My partner’s name is as interesting and not an absolute pisser to spell. And it’s much easier to make puns or references with her name – Dain – and the middle names which I’m trying so hard to slip in like Duné or Ironfoot.

The final quality for decision-making is core; respect. The woman carries the baby, and suffers huge pain and terrible damage. All the support I can give is nothing in comparison to what she has to go through so we can have a child.

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  1. Toaster

    Once I would have agreed with this. Then I met a lesbian couple whose surnames made a horrendous sounding combination when hyphenated. When they came to have a child they had to pick one name. Although the birth mother’s name was harder to spell, the other mother’s name is not great either so I was surprised to find that the child had Other Mother’s name. I asked Birth Mother why they had done this and she said something along the lines of “I always want [Other Mother] to have a connection with [Baby]. No matter what happens [Baby] will always have Other Mother’s name. I wanted to give [Other Mother] that.”

    And that’s when I realized why people name their children after fathers. It’s the way you get men to accept their children and make sure they take care of them and that are always linked to them. The children nearly always belong to the mother anyway.


  2. Alex Norris

    “Them” is totally the accepted gender-neutral pronoun! Also, congrats to you both!


    1. Grill

      It’s definitely that – but singular too? Also, thanks!


      1. Grill

        Ah, only for people who’ve accepted it for themselves. Fair enough.


  3. Margaret Lossl

    Love the article. Being a parent will change you, in a good way, I have found…just wait until you have grand children, that really is a mind boggling experience. However there are many things to be said for tradition, even if it is the choice not to follow it. Being a woman is a wonderful privilege, and you graciousness towards our gender is heart warming. Congratulations to you both…the child has chosen you.


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