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  • Writer's pictureRiver Champeimont

I’m changing my name

Updated: Jun 1

I’m changing my name from Raphaël to River. Why?



This article is going to be quite simple. It’s basically just an announcement that you might see the name “River” show up in different places.


As a lot of you probably already know, I recently wrote an article about my discovery that I was non-binary. It’s now been a while since I made this discovery (even though I told the story in my blog only recently) but so far I have kept my birth name.


Why and how do trans people change their names?

In general, it’s very common for people who discover they are trans to want to change their name. People who are trans binary, that is people who are transitioning to the gender away from their birth sex, almost always change names. For example, imagine your name is Lily or Robert but now you identify as the other gender. If you keep your birth name, you are going to be misgendered all the time, because people will automatically assume Lily is a woman and Robert is a man, so you would have to constantly remind people that it defies their expectations. Also, you can feel this expectation within yourself, which means it makes you uncomfortable every time you hear your name which “feels” like the wrong gender.


Binary trans folx then typically make a choice between these options, ordered by increasing amount of change:

  1. Keep their birth name, in case it’s already gender neutral, for example Harper.

  2. Shorten it to make it gender-neutral: Alexandra or Alexander becomes Alex.

  3. Take the other gender “equivalent” of their name. For example, your birth name is Samantha, and you change to Samuel.

  4. Ask their parents what they would have named them if they were born as the other gender.

  5. Decide on a completely different name.


How about non-binary people?

Non-binary people are a different case. Some of us want a name that does not carry gender assumptions at all. So, in the above options, the shortening trick (option 2) might be a good option. However, some non-binary people choose to go with a gendered name of the other gender than their birth sex, to nudge people in the other direction than their appearance for instance. In this case they could go with option 3 for instance.


Also, it often happens that once you know you’re trans, it’s hard to know if you are non-binary or fully the other gender. It’s often easier to know that you’re trans than to know which “kind” of trans person you are. Some people transition to the other gender, then realize they don’t fully identify with it and are in fact non-binary (and this can be because they did not know first about the notion of being non-binary). In that case they might have a name of the other gender (for instance Robert changes to Lily and then discovers they are non-binary). The reverse also happens, transitioning to non-binary then entirely to the other gender.


How about me?

My case is a bit special because I converse in both French and English. In French, “Raphaël” is pronounced the same as “Raphaëlle”, so it does not carry a gendered assumption orally. “Raph” in French can be short for either. However, in English the assumption is that “Raph” is the masculine “Raphael” only, not the feminine “Raphaela”, so it is not gender neutral.


So to summarize, “Raph” doesn’t work for me because I live in an English-speaking part of the world now. That’s why I’m going with a completely new gender-neutral name: River.


Why did I choose “River”?

For some reason, I felt it was better that it starts by the same sound as my original name. I don’t know why I wanted that, but I then discovered a lot of other trans people feel the same way, for no apparent rational reason. There is one rational reason though, it lets me keep the same initials (RC) and whenever it’s written “R Champeimont” it still works (like in scientific articles).


But more importantly, I like this name because it reminds me of great memories walking and playing around rivers. I also like the idea of “you never know what’s around the riverbend” which represents my life very well (I never thought I would be the co-founder of a startup, that I would emigrate to Canada, that I would discover I’m trans, etc.). And finally, I like the sound and feeling of it (I just like it and I don’t know why entirely).


Conclusion

Please use my new name! (please pardon the lack of inspiration)


River Champeimont

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