I’ve always had a complicated relationship with my name.
My legal name is Georgina Brooke Simon. My mom chose my first name to honor her late father, George. She said she additionally liked it because it sounded like a song, very musical and flowy. The middle name has a few different origin stories, ranging from my mother wanting a “b” name because I was supposed to be a boy to being chosen after Brooke Shields (who was all the rage in 1993.) I took my dad’s last name, Simon. GBS.
By the time I was in elementary school, I grew to dislike my first name. It seemed longer than the names of my friends, with three whole syllables. I thought it was too old-fashioned, though I only based this opinion on the fact that one of Charlie Bucket’s grandmas in Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is named Georgina. It wasn’t trendy like Ashley or Britney or Alexa.
Middle school gave me further reason to resent it. A naive substitute teacher incorrectly pronounced my name as “Georgyna Seamen” and it stuck amongst my peers. I was finally able to laugh about it by the time I got to high school, but I was pretty mortified until then to say the least.
It was around that time that I started going by Georgie, particularly in the Westchester theatre community. My dad and other family members had been calling me Georgie (or Georgie-girl) for a while before then, and I realized that I greatly preferred that name. It was spunky and fun, and I thought it matched my theatrical flare. I could just picture “Georgie Simon” in lights on a billboard.
While I was (and still am) officially Georgina on paper, almost everyone began to know and call me by Georgie. Most of my college professors and friends didn’t know my full name; I was solely Georgie to them. It felt like a good fit.
But then I graduated college and started job hunting in the arts administration field in Manhattan. As I drafted my resume, something about Georgie felt unprofessional. It suddenly sounded childlike (i.e. the little kids from It and Mary Poppins Returns) and that directly opposed my longing to feel like an adult. I put Georgina back on the resume and only told close ones to call me Georgie.
After about a year of being Georgina again, I began to despise it. Hearing my full name regularly made me cringe. I had different reasons this time than when I was child though: I was exploring my gender identity for the first time and Georgina didn’t fit the bill. After finally acknowledging that I didn’t feel completely female, but rather genderqueer or non-binary, Georgina was far too feminine. That’s when I decided to give George a spin.
George was another nickname from my friends and family that I felt comfortable with, and I liked how George Simon sounded. I consulted a few of my close friends about the name and received mixed opinions. Many of them felt George was too masculine, that I would have to deal with judgements when I introduced myself.
They weren’t wrong, but I didn’t (and don’t) mind being George. It’s still honoring my late grandfather, after-all, and not all misgendering has been a bad thing for me in actuality. I’ve gotten more interviews by submitting a resume as George Simon than I did as Georgina (that’s how messed up our society is in terms of gender politics), and it was fun to surprise interviewers when someone who wasn’t a cis-male showed up at their office. George felt completely right for around three years.
More recently, I’ve been using Georgie again (though many of my friends call me George and that’s still a nickname.) I moved from New York to North Carolina, and while my new town has a nice mix of liberals and conservatives, I’ve been more hesitant to introduce myself as George down here. I made the decision to audition as Georgie Simon in the musical I got cast in and will be listed in the program as such.
There’s not a huge difference between the names in terms of length, just one extra “i” tagged on towards the end, but it’s enough of a difference in terms of meaning. Most people assume Georgie is a nickname but respect that I want to be called it. George tends to inspire more questions for whatever reason like “Is this coffee for your husband?” or “Your name is George?” I don’t often want to be vulnerable about my identity with strangers and I don’t have to be as Georgie.
I think I’ve primarily returned to Georgie though because of my general mood. I’m a lot happier now than I was when I was strictly George, anxious George living in a cramped studio apartment in Manhattan. Georgie reflects that change in me while still being more gender-neutral than Georgina. It may still sound a bit childlike but it’s also a joyful, bouncy, and energetic name. It matches my renewed sense of self-love and hope that I’ve gained in the last year since my break-up.
There’s a tiny part of me that feels self conscious about my name exploration. Going from Georgina to Georgie to Georgina to George to Georgie makes it difficult for my friends and family to keep up. The people-pleaser in me doesn’t like the idea of confusing anyone.
When I feel a bit embarrassed about my name journey, I remind myself that identity is fluid. We are not the same exact person as we were one, three, or ten years ago. Life happens and changes our personalities, interests, and values. Our names are directly tied to our identity, so there’s nothing wrong with them transforming as we grow and change. Changing your name may feel like an inconvenience to those around you, but anyone who truly respects you and your identity will make the adjustment in time.
I also like to remind myself that everyone has varying names and titles to different people, so my name fluidity isn’t actually that out of the ordinary. Sometimes our job titles, like doctor or professor, become our names to some, while other times our familial relationships, like mom or grandpa, dictate what we are to be called. Toddlers make up abbreviations when they can’t pronounce them (I’ve been called Gigi by many little ones) and the most random nicknames are born out of inside jokes or stories. We all have numerous names at different times of our lives.
If you’re unhappy with your primary name, I absolutely suggest playing around with it. Talk to your inner circle or a therapist about it for feedback, or try it out in online forums and spaces. Write it down and experiment with your handwritten signature. Know that you don’t have to change anything legally immediately (I still haven’t crossed that path) but that the option is there.
If a different name than the one you were born with better suits who you are now, then you deserve to go by that name. The most important thing in life is to be your most authentic self without compromise.