Some women are so excited to take on the name and identity of their husband. That is great! Some women want to combine their past with their future through hyphenation. My mother was progressive by dumping her middle name and making “Steinhorst” her middle name. Even though I am Alana Henkel, I am still Mrs. Laufman. I am defined by my husband whether or not I ask for it. Why can’t he be Mr. Henkel, the husband of Alana Henkel?
The issue of changing (or not) one’s last name upon marriage has been done to death, not just on the internet, but in a lot of people’s personal experiences as well. I have cousins who are siblings but their last names are different: the older brother has my aunt’s last name but the younger two siblings have my uncle’s. Women who do significant things (publish articles, perform in shows, whatever) when unmarried have an additional pressure to not change their names to remain associated with their previous work.
But the taking of the husband’s name is also simply our cultural norm – because people like being able to assume things about other people. They like to look at a pair of apparently opposite gender people, see a pair of rings, and think “I only have to learn one last name: his”. Even if he were Mr. Henkel, husband of Alana Henkel, people would still refer to her as Mrs. Laufman, wife of [his name] Laufman. Cultural norms and assumptions like that make us think we know a lot more about everyone around us than we actually do.
I bring this up in light of a post I reblogged on tumblr (all spelling and capitalization is [sic]):
nice when cis people have their preferred pronouns up on their page. this isnt sarcastic i really appreciate when cis people do this because it helps reject the normalization of the assumption of a persons gender based on their appearance. thank u if u do this and if you dont it would be nice if you would. its helpful.
Why do we just look at someone and assume we know what their gender is? As a woman on the internet I get misgendered a lot, and it’s jarring. One of my friends is trans* but has not yet started medically transitioning, merely binding his chest and dressing masculinely. He and I were walking through a vendor room at a convention, and a person we’d never met stepped back for us to “let you ladies through”. When someone looks completely androgynous, it’s not uncommon to hear confused people wondering “what is that, a boy or a girl?”
Could we have a conversation about this, First Draft? You’re not the typical group of people with whom I have this conversation, so I’m very interested in your opinions. Have you had any last name snafus? Ever had your pronoun usage corrected? How would you react if someone introduced themselves to you and added their preferred pronouns?