The Invisibility of Trans Men – After A Name Change


My personal experiences have taught me that being a trans man means being invisible.

Last year, I legally changed my name. Despite having a masculine name, people still see me as a female. It doesn’t matter how masculine I dress, or behave, experience has taught me that larger society will always see me as one of the following: tomboy, butch, or woman kicking it to patriarchal idea of femininity. Never do people think, “There is a man,” or “There is a trans man.” Unless I am willing to verbally state my gender identity, I am invisible, despite the way I dress or behave.

This is a problem, one which is now causing nightmare.

Let me tell you a story. The following story something that occurs on a very regular basis.

Last week, I went to fill an prescription at a Walmart pharmacy. Walmart is not my regular pharmacy. I only go there after a trip to the ER and my regular pharmacy is closed. But, we had to some shopping and it was convenient.

I went to check on the status of my prescription. The pharmacy lady asked for my last name. I gave it to her (that was not changed). She then called me by the wrong first name.

I said, “That’s not my name. My name is Jules.” She just looked at me and, again, called me by the wrong name. I repeated that it was the wrong name, and she needed to update my records.

I was visibly frustrated. At which point she started to laugh at my frustration and in a condescending tone said, “I can see this has you frustrated, even though it’s just a name. But, I will make those in line wait and change your records now since it has you so irritated.”

That is when I got angry and nearly started to cry in pubic. I shouldn’t have to be visibly frustrated and angry to have my medical records updated. It should be as simple as saying, “That is not the correct name. My records needs to be updated.” Unfortunately, it has only been that simple once.

Then, when I went to pick up the prescription, she said, “You’re Jules, right? Not [dead name].” And then, each time she said my name, she would stress Jules and laugh.

Once I got home, I noticed the label on the medication was the wrong name. After all of that.

Let me stress, this isn’t a once in awhile thing. This has become so prevalent that I have nightmares about it. The most recent nightmare goes something like this:

Person asks my name. I say, “My name is Jules.” Person says, “Oh. So, is your name Julie or Julia?” I yell, “IT’S JULES!”

That is when I wake up in a cold sweat with my heart pounding.

Ninety-nine percent of the time, when I tell people my name is Jules, they “correct” it to Julie or Julia. Or, they spell it Jewels, instead of asking, “And how do you spell that?”

Over a year later, despite multiple requests, some agencies with whom I work still refuse to update my records. They update my mailing address without issue, but they don’t update my name to my actual real and legal name because it is their assumption that it’s not a big deal.

Now, had I been assigned male at birth and was wearing a dress and makeup, I’m not sure I’d have gotten the same sort of treatment at the pharmacy, or anywhere else that this occurs.

I’m not saying all discrimination would end. There is a good chance that they would give me that look, at best, if I were a visibly trans woman. However, I think they would understand why it is important for my medical records to be updated, without the need to become visibly angry and frustrated.

Just like pronouns, names are very important. For many trans men, changing their name is the only tangible thing they can do in order to present as male, because changing the way we dress is simply not enough, and there are many barriers in the way for surgical treatments.

Under no circumstances, should we have to divulge to a complete stranger, “Hey! I’m a trans man! I’ve legally changed my name as part of my transition! Update my records!”

All any of us should have to say is, “You have the wrong name on file. My records need to be updated.” The response should always be, “Sure. What should our records state?” And then, it should be done. Simple.

Also, this isn’t only a trans* issue. There are many other reasons why people go through the process of legally changing their first and middle name(s). For reasons of privacy and safety, it should never be a problem or require explanation when updating records.

I will be writing a letter to Walmart, cc’ing the head office.

If you are trans*, what situations have made you feel invisible?

9 Responses to The Invisibility of Trans Men – After A Name Change

  1. I have a hyphenated last name and I don’t think a pharmacy has ever gotten it right. I am sure it is going to be be even more frustrating when I change my first name.

  2. Being a capitol-Q-Queer man, married to a female, I am often dismissed by both the “straight” and “queer” communities, because I don’t fit clearly inside or outside of either.

  3. Have you ever considered saying something like, “It’s Jules, like Jules Verne!”? I know the issue shouldn’t be on you to resolve, but that might be something that would help people understand that it’s a male name, not a female one shortened or whatever people think.

    • I’ve done the “as in Jules Verne” thing a couple of times, but then I get that horrible look like, “What is wrong with your family? Why were you given a boy’s name” look, accompanied by that uncomfortable smile and body language.

      • I can definitely understand that. I had comments along the lines of “Why don’t you use the feminized version of your name?” I was born Albert; Alberta is one of the ugliest names, in my opinion, and I could not imagine giving myself that name.

  4. Mine is more basic and probably not as common but people assume my name is Jillian. It’s not. It’s just Jill. I had to give up a long time ago and accept the “Jack and Jill” references. But really if your name is legally changed its not their place to judge why or make fun. A person changes their last name “oh you got married let me fix that” . No I got divorced, shut up.

    Also Jules was one of the names my mother considered for me if Id been born with boy bits.

Join our discussion