What’s in a name?
Personal identity, family history, a sense of belonging, a feeling of pride. Names can hold all these and more.
Last names in particular tend to hold a lot of emotional and cultural resonance for people. So choosing a last name for your child can feel momentous.
And as queer parents, we have so many options! We’re not bound by the traditional story of “woman and children takes man’s name.”
But all that choice can seem daunting too. When it came to deciding the last name for our daughter, my wife and I discussed and debated it for months.
Here are the ways I’ve seen for queer parents to choose their child’s surname.
- Last name of the bio parent (if there is a bio parent)
Sometimes the biological parent is the one to pass on the family name. Danica Montijo says this is how she and her partner decided on a last name for their son.
“I birthed him so he has [my name], plus there were no other boys in my immediate family to carry on my last name. So now he will,” she says.
- Last name of the parent who’s the last of their line
Choosing to pass on a family name that would otherwise disappear, like Danica did, is a fairly common choice too.
Rebecca Lederman became Rebecca Garber when she married her wife, Ali Garber, because Ali was the last Garber, she told Chicago Business. She said any children they have also will be named Garber. “My dad started crying,” says Ali when he found out.
- Last name of the non-bio parent
In some cases, the last name of the non-bio parent is given as a deliberate and visible way to strengthen the connection between the parent and child. It works well when there’s one bio parent and one non-bio parent, not so well when both are non-bio parents.
- Both parents’ last names, hyphenated
This is the choice we made for our daughter and I like the dynamic it illustrates. There’s me, there’s my wife, and there’s our daughter—who is a combination of the two of us. It’s clear to everyone that we are both her parents, and she is quite proud—even at three—to have each of her mom’s names.
As for which name came first in the hyphenation, it was a logical choice for us based on how it sounds. Some pairings just flow better in a certain order. If that’s not the case for you, you might consider other factors. Or flip a coin. 😉
- Both parents’ last names, one as a middle name, one as the last name
If your last names are long and unwieldy when hyphenated, this is a strong second option. But then you still need to decide who gets last name status. See choices above.
- Last name of one parent given as the child’s first name
In some cases, this option can work out really well. For example, last names like Carter and Allyson easily become first names. In fact, this is how my wife got her first name—it was her mother’s maiden name. And it feels special to her because of that family meaning.
And like the hyphenated last name, it can be a neat way to show that your children are a combination of the two of you.
- Both partners—and the kids—take a new name
Says Eric, “My last name used to be Ross and Mat’s used to be Wood. When we got married, we thought about one of us taking the other’s last name, but we wanted to do our own thing. We thought about hyphenating our last names or doing an anagram of them to create a brand new one, but in the end we just combined them. We lucked out because our names flowed well together.” Now their son Connor also shares the family name.
Did I miss any options? How did you choose your child’s last name and why? Leave a comment and let me know. I’ve love to hear your story.