A Girl Has Two Names

Most trans people, when they socially transition, change their first name. I didn’t. I had a first name that no one ever used and a nickname, Gus, from my middle name, August, that I loved. So many things about my male-presenting past gave me dysphoria, but not my name.

Yet using it now does cause friction. I can perhaps best illustrate this with a short documentary called, Those Times I Tried To Order Some Food:

Employee: And your name?

Me: Gus.

Employee: Jess?

Me: Gus.

Employee: …Jess?

It’s the hesitation on phone calls when my voice doesn’t match my name. Or the moment of scrutiny when I introduce myself in-person with Gus.

So I started to use a new name for new and transactional relationships.


I liked it. And not just because it took away the friction.

I like Corinna because the first well-written character I ever wrote was named Carrin (kærˈrin). She was a gender-deviant woman boxer. Her name stuck with me. I used it for other purposes. Based on one of those uses, Heather suggested I use it myself. But I couldn’t use it directly. It reminded me too much of the character.

Then I thought of the magical way we found Mercena’s name, in a book of family genealogy from 1915. Adding the æ to the end gave it the same rhythm, the stressed syllable falling in the middle: kɔrˈrinæ. (Think of the “rin” in “Corinna” like the “in” in “begin.”) It flowed perfectly into the middle name I wanted to keep.

And so hey, my name is Corinna August Schulenburg, and you can still call me Gus. I intend to use Corinna formally and professionally, particularly in new relationships, and use Gus informally and with those who’ve known me a long time.

“But can’t you just pick one?” I suppose that would be easier, but it wouldn’t be as true. A girl has two names, at least for now. That could change, and when it does, I’ll let you know. But for now, use either, use both. There are no wrongs, only two rights.

Published by CorinnaSchulenburg

Artist and Activist

One thought on “A Girl Has Two Names

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