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TLDR: I have a new preferred name and preferred pronouns. As of January 1, 2015, I’m asking people to call me “Kit,” and to refer to me using the pronouns they/their (and other gender-neutral terms).
Once upon a time, a little over 30 years ago, a beautiful woman gave birth to a healthy baby. The doctors looked at the baby’s genitals and assigned the baby to the category “female.” The beautiful woman and her handsome husband, now proud parents, decided to give their infant a pretty, female-category-type name: Kristen Nicole.
As a child, Kristen worked hard in school, and she also worked hard to live the way her parents wanted her to. She was raised as a member of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, and she tried to be a good Christian girl. She wasn’t perfect, and she knew it, but she tried very hard.
As Kristen grew older, she read voraciously. She also loved doing anything that involved logical thinking, like science experiments and math problems. She watched a lot of public television and listened to public radio with her parents in the car. When Kristen was a junior in high school, she took a class called “Theory of Knowledge.” As part of the class, she did a lot of reading and thinking and talking about philosophy and about what it meant to “know” something. One evening, after finishing her philosophy reading, Kristen had a sudden realization:
She couldn’t be Christian anymore.
All of the consequences of her logical thinking and philosophical reading hit her at once. Her faith just didn’t work anymore…and she realized that she didn’t want it back. She didn’t want all of the guilt and shame that followed every mistake that she made. She didn’t want to believe that it would be wrong if she fell in love with another woman someday.
The feminine name “Kristen” is derived from the word “Christian.” When she left her faith, Kristen started to notice that whenever someone called her “Kristen,” it sounded odd to her. She knew people were referring to her, but she felt a sense of disconnection. “Kristen” was just a label people used to talk about her, but it wasn’t really her.
For many years, Kristen felt somewhat uncomfortable about her name, but she wasn’t sure what to do about it. As she learned more about gender, about sexuality, and about herself, eventually her name began to feel dysphoric. She started to meet people who had chosen new names and pronouns, and Kristen wanted a new name more than ever.
That was the state of things for quite a while: I knew I wanted a new name, but I just couldn’t find anything that felt like it fit me. And then, this past fall, I tried to think about it as a constraint-satisfaction problem: I wanted a name that was both gender-neutral and started with “K” (so I could keep my initials).
With those constraints in mind, the first name I thought of was “Kit.” Immediately, I liked the association with foxes (and, better yet, young foxes that are still learning and growing). The more research I did into the name, and the more I thought about it, the more I liked it:
- As a masculine name, Kit derives from Christopher (bearer of Christ) — in that sense, it feels connected to my birth name.
- As a feminine name, Kit derives from Katherine. The etymology of Katherine is debated, but it could be derived from the Greek goddess Hecate, associated “with witchcraft, crossroads, tombs, demons and the underworld.” That’s just plain awesome.
- Foxes are members of the family Canidae, the same family as domestic dogs. “Kit” plus my middle initial “N” gives you approximately “kitten,” so the name connects to Felidae, too.
“Are you a dog person or a cat person?” “Both.”
- The letters of “Kit” are a strict subset of the letters of “Kristen.” That feels very satisfying for some reason.
In some ways, deciding to change my pronoun was much more difficult. I’ve known for several years that I just don’t play well with traditional gender roles. I haven’t felt like a “woman” in quite a while, but I haven’t felt like a “man,” either. Finally, I decided that, yes, I deserve to be called by pronouns that I am comfortable with, even if it’s annoying for other people. (I feel like I had to overcome a lot of my Midwestern upbringing to get to that point.) So as I’m asking people to call me by a new name, I’m also coming out as genderqueer and asking people to use gender-neutral pronouns and terms for me, too.
For right now, I don’t have any plans to change the name on my driver’s license — I’ve spent a long time building up a career as “Kristen Stubbs,” and I don’t want to lose that. I figure that I’ll write my name as “Kristen ‘Kit’ Stubbs, Ph.D.,” introduce myself as “Kit,” explain my preferred pronouns, and go from there.
I’d been hesitating to make this change for several weeks, and then I realized that New Year’s Day would be a great time to roll out my new name.
Thank you for taking the time to read this story of how my name came to be. Thanks also to my husband and to you, all of my friends who are supporting me in this change! I hope that your New Year is at least as happy as mine has been so far. :)