My name

Hello. My name is Andrea Vos.

But arriving at that name was quite a journey, so I figured I might write the story down.

Legal name

Trans people use the word “deadname” for what they used to be called before they transitioned socially. It's a basic sign of respect not to call them that anymore and not to mention it to anyone. Using someone's deadname might cause gender dysphoria, and in some cases it might even lead to dangerous situations when a trans person is outed.

But personally I'm not bothered much with someone knowing my deadname or by having to use it in official situations. So I usually refer to it as my “legal name”, at least until I'll legally change it. But that's just me.

First name

So my parents named me “Andrzej”. It comes from Ancient Greek ἀνδρός, which ironically means “a man”, “manly”. That I am not.

It's pronounced /ˈãnḍʒɛj/ – which is obvious for people who speak Polish, but turned out to be quite problematic as soon as I moved to Berlin. Foreigners have no idea how to write /ʒ/ in Polish or how to pronounce the “rz”.

So I decided to simplify it into “Andre”. It's nice, short and unambiguous. Cool!

But when I discovered that I'm nonbinary, it started bothering me, how gendered it is. Even ethymology aside, it's a very masculine name.

I speak some Italian and I've always really liked how my name sounds in this language: Andrea. It has an added enby bonus as well: in Italy it's considered masculine, but basically everywhere else it's a feminine name. Just check out this Wikipedia list full of people of all genders with that name or my analysis of most “unisex” names in Poland's database. That's the level of genderfuck I really enjoy.

Andrea it is.

Middle name

I had one, but literally never really used it. I don't see a point in me having a middle name anymore.

Last name

This one I really, really hated. First of all, it's a family name and I'm… well, not on the best terms with other people who use it. There's tons of childhood trauma coming up whenever I need to use that name.

And second of all, it's terribly gendered. It's one of those that are technically adjectives in Polish grammar and they need to end with -ski for men, -ska for women, -scy for plural…

I want to have the same surname as my husband. He's my family so having a common family name would be… appropriate.

When we got married in Germany either one of us could take another's name or we could use both names with a hyphen. The problem is, though, that Poland does not recognise that marriage. Poland claims we're both still bachelors and it wouldn't just officially change our names because of some foreign marriage. We're not German citizens, so Germany wouldn't issue us new documents either. A friend of ours was in a similar situation and decided to take his husband's name – and now he needs to carry around both his Polish ID and his German marriage certificate just to prove his surname.

So we kept our names and started thinking of a brand new one we could use.

We made a list of hundreds of last names we liked, turned it into a shortlist of a few dozen. Discussed them all, disagreed and vetoed a lot of the proposals, voted on them in a few different ways – not because we had such vastly different tastes, but cause so many names were too cool to just dismiss.

Eventually we landed on one: Vos.

It's a common Dutch name, so we can honour the country we've decided to build our live in, but it's not too in–your–face Dutch (no „van der” or „Gogh” etc.). It means “fox”, which has some nice connotations in culture (cleverness, good luck, charm, curiosity, mischief). It's short, simple, has a very obvious pronunciation. I'm so glad with that choice.

Legal change?

I'd very much love to have all my documents reflect my chosen name. But it's a bureaucratic hassle. We could do it after we get a Dutch citizenship, but it's quite a costly and long procedure, and our justification for a change might not be enough. We could do it before, using the Polish system which actually allows changing one's name to “the acutally used name” – and I have more than enough evidence of having used it for a while. But it would still depend on a good will of a random official – and we'd have to get new IDs, passports and driver's licences just to exchange them for Dutch ones next year (if all goes well with the naturalisation).

A bit anxious about this step and unsure which way to go. But I'll figure it out 😉

A photo of me

About the author

Hi! I'm Andrea (they/them). I tell computers what to do, both for a living and for fun, I'm also into blogging, writing and photography. I'm trying to make the world just a little bit better: more inclusive, more rational and more just.

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Having lived in three different countries and interacted with people from all around the world made me realise that Polish names have some pretty unique quirks – to which, as a native speaker, I didn't give too much thought, while foreigners find them quite strange.

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