Right here and now, I’d like to make an announcement. I’m changing my name.
I can hear the protests now – “but why would you want to change such a beautiful name?” (All props go to my parents – I’ve always loved my name and the fact that I was named for a woman in a novel whose strength my mother admired.)
Alexandra Morgan. The name I was born with; the name I have always been proud to have. Alex – for short. I also happen to like the fact that my shortened name is widely considered to be gender neutral (disclaimer: any name that anyone chooses can be used for any gender – to cite a recent well-publicized example, Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds’s daughter, James – so I dislike these lists we create of “gender neutral” names, as if certain names are more appropriate than others to use for either gender). I’ve actually had people say to me, “isn’t that a boy’s name?” Or “why on earth would you want to be called Alex with a name like Alexandra Morgan? I shall call you only that!” Well, no, it isn’t a boy’s name, as I am not a boy, and it is mine. Secondly, if I introduce myself as Alex, that’s probably a safe bet that that’s what I choose to be called.
I remember instances in school, Sunday school, and even a birthday party where we all learned the meanings of our names. I remember how exciting it was, and especially how excited I was to learn that the meaning of my name was such a majestic and important sounding one. I wanted to live up to that name and to truly embody a “defender of mankind.” I am, by nature (and, I suppose, nurture as well), a defender. I’ve learned this more and more as I grow older. My Myers-Briggs personality type is INFJ, often known as the Advocate, and I happen to believe that the most effective way to defend is to empower, to inform, and to build up so that others can find the strength within themselves.
All this being said, you may wonder why I would decide to change my name that I clearly love. Well, I began to think back on all those definitions and meanings of the name Alexandra I have read in the past and realized something. The vast majority began with something along the lines of “feminine form of Alexander” and then went on to say something along the lines of “defender of man/mankind.” Hmm. A simple Google search confirmed my strong suspicion that none of the listed meanings for the name Alexander began with “masculine form of Alexandra.” And yes, I realize the historical context of this, but that doesn’t diminish my annoyance. I’d rather not be the “feminine form” of a male name, rather not be distinguished by my relationship to something pre-existing that’s default form is male. Speaking of “default male form,” how about the word “mankind”? It might seem nitpicky to some of you, but I recently was reading and thinking about how language is a reflection of the social constructs that we have. I am tired of living in a world where being white and male and privileged is the default. Being mindful of our language and the connotations it carries is just one small step we can take.
So, I’m changing my name, right here, right now. I’m changing the meaning of Alexandra. Defender of mankind? No. That just doesn’t suffice for me – it isn’t enough. I am a defender of womankind, I am a defender of humanity, and beyond even humanity, I am a defender of animals and all living things, of all Life.
From now on, henceforth, I hereby decide that my name is no longer Alexandra, defender of mankind. I choose to be Alexandra, defender of Life. Now that’s a name worth living up to.