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What’s in a name?

Yesterday someone asked (amongst many other questions) why I had decided to call myself Kim. It’s a pretty simple and boring reason, but I figured I’d note it down for prosperity.

The name goes back a little way, as I started presenting as female online long before I decided to transition in real life. I had at this time accepted my status as an (at least) genderfluid individual, and it had become frustrating to be called by my “male” name (and the associated male pronouns) on days when I was feeling or presenting as female. It was for this reason that I opted to pick up a second name, to make it easier for those around me to identify which pronouns to use.

I’ve held quite a few nicknames and aliases throughout my life—some bespoke to particular communities and contexts, others almost entirely universal in their usage. Irregardless, they have always followed a few criteria:

  1. I need to be comfortable associating with it.
    The name needs to be me. It needs to be something I can find myself answering to immediately and with very little prompting.
  2. It has to be gender neutral.
    I know this is a really quite weird to have considered, given the fact that I totally intend to change gender right now, but it’s kind of a legacy idea that I like to keep going. A traditional almost.
  3. It has to have meaning.
    I’m a big fan of etymology and the meanings behind words. I like my names to have significance to me, or at least have an interesting and personally relevant story of its own.

With this in mind I started exploring the name-o-sphere. I flicked through some baby name websites, and looked for inspiration in historical and scientific figures; people who I could respect, but not feel like I was appropriating them by adopting their name.

I considered the grandiose, the intriguing, the uncommon. Although I came across many names fulfilling criteria three and some others criteria two, none of them seemed to really fit criteria one.

For the longest time I considered the name Alex—or more specifically Alexandria. I felt reasonably comfortable associating with it, its diminutive form was gender neutral, and it had a long and deep history from association with Alexander the Great (Alexandria was a city he founded in 331 BC). The name felt a little unwieldly long, but I could work around that.

As you may have noticed, I’m not Alexandria. Had I not found something better, I would in all likeliness be Alexandria, but I’m not. From possibly the most unlikely of sources, whilst I had buried my head in the history books, my ultimate inspiration came from the all too modern source of YouTube and the wonderfully funny Kim Richards.

Ms Richards, a resident Bristolian (like myself) of half-Malaysian descent (like myself) and a magnificently skilled personality (not so much like myself), has been one the most persistently entertaining YouTubers I have ever had the pleasure of viewing. It was upon seeing her name during the course of my search that I felt it immediately click: Yes. I could be Kim.

I was comfortable with it, it’s gender neutral (even if the male usage is rare, with possibly the most well known man using it being Kim Dotcom), and it has a story behind it. It was perfect. As I recall, I put the name into use the very same evening and I’ve never looked back.

Now all I need is a surname, but that’s a blog post for another time.