I married my wife on May 29th, 2016, and as of that day, I have legally changed my name to match hers.
This decision was made over many months and many, many conversations. I share this story so that others can explore how I felt throughout the process on their own time, because I’m sure it will scare the shit out of many as it definitely has for me.
The brief explanation of why goes like this:
- She hadn’t considered changing her last name from Broberg
- I felt strongly about our family having a shared surname
That’s it. I proposed my name change to hers.
Life decisions can be simple, but it wasn’t in this case. The longer story centers around the ambitious goals of alignment between my beliefs and my behaviors.
I believe in the symbolism of a family unit — with common names and no ambiguity to them. The Smith’s. The Jones’. The Williams Family. There’s comfort in the simplicity here: an age-old convention that signifies a family unit. I like it.
I also believe in what Judaism has taught me about family. I was born to two Jewish parents and loosely raised as such. My bris, bar mitzvah, the occasional seder; an attempt to avoid the deliciousness that is pork. None of these traditions really hit home for me, but the bigger theme of it all did. Judaism is a shared history that cannot be undone by name changes.
I also believe in equality of the genders, best explained by feminist minds throughout the years. I learned it early on and it stuck with me (my mom was a bra-burning NYC hippie) and my belief grew as I studied. I was forever changed by a college course that explored how gender influences everyday concepts. I fell in love with the empathy Simone de Beauvoir taught me. I recognize a world that reinforces the male gaze. I see a history that revolves around a man’s worldview. For all these reasons and more, I want to be part of a gender-equalizing future.
But that’s all background to a more immediate need. My now-wife and I got engaged and we talked about the name thing. I proposed options.
Honestly, if our last names didn’t sound like shit hyphenated (Brender-Broberg is a mouthful), we would have done that. It’s just not in the cards for us. So what then — become “The Brenders” as is customary? She felt, more so than I, that a name was part of identity. I respect that. I felt strongly about considering unconventional approaches. Changing to a neutral last name? Wasn’t our thing. So I proposed another choice: why not change my last name? What a cool idea. There are some immediate wins by doing so:
- It aligns with my beliefs (creates a family unit, defies gender norms)
- It puts an idea (her and I are equals) into action (equal consideration for who’s last name we take)
- I like that it sounds more Jewish (bonus)
Let’s go with that. We agreed.
More on next page…