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What’s in a Name?

I am transgender and have been on the search to find a name that affirms my gender.

I am transgender and have been on the search to find a name that affirms my gender.

Many transgender people change their names to assist in affirming their gender. It is not required and those who don’t are not any less trans. Should a person change their name to affirm their gender, using their previous name would be dead naming them.



The definition of a dead name.
The definition of a dead name.

I took a trip to my family tree to help me find a name. My mother’s maiden name is Salanoa and her mother’s maiden name is Su’esu’e. My great uncle Su’esu’e Su’esu’e (He/Him) passed away a few years ago. I’ve honestly been thinking of changing my name to Su’esu’e to honor him because he was/is a really bright light in my life. His family continues to do amazing work and it makes me long a deeper connection to them.


A capture of Anamalia Su’esu’e’s (She/Her) amazing work in Mental Health of Indigenous Peoples.

My maternal grandfather’s first name is Pasesa but my siblings and I have a quiet understanding that his name is reserved for my brother’s children. I named my son Robert after my paternal grandfather. My son’s middle name is Tavita after his father and to pay homage to my brother, whose middle name is Kawika. So many amazing names but none that really felt quite for me. I decided to take a look at my birth certificate for more names and was pleasantly reminded of the strength in my middle name.

A small capture of K’s birth certificate.
A small capture of K’s birth certificate.

My mother used to tell us that our names are the names of chiefs. It’s funny that the more I try to seek home, the more I realize I’ve been home my whole life, I’ve just never been able to do shit in my house. On this stretch of my journey I’ll be going as K Matāotama Strohl. Even writing that out felt powerful. Another step closer home.

A screen capture of Taj M. Smith (He/Him) congratulating K on their journey home.

A screen capture of Taj M. Smith (He/Him) congratulating K on their journey home.


Thank you for reading through! I try to write here weekly but I write on my Ko-Fi page daily. For more stories like this and insightful conversations, join one of the membership tiers. Learn more about me and my work at the link below.


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