I’m a Guy and I Hyphenated My Last Name When I Got Married

[[opening: Deciding whether or not to change your last name after you get married is a deeply personal decision, and we believe every newlywed should do what’s best for him or her. Today, we’re featuring the story of one recent couple who decided they’d both change their names. Read on to see how they made their decision.]]

My name is David Wayne Katz-Hackman. It used to be David Wayne Hackman, but I changed it when I got married, which is apparently a big deal. I say “apparently” because everyone seems to be pretty surprised. Here’s why I chose to hyphenate my last name when I got married.

hyphenate last name, David Katz-Hackman

Photo courtesy of David Katz-Hackman

I discovered feminism and male privilege in college. I’d describe myself as feminist, and most of why I wanted to change my name stems from my education in this regard. (That said, this is not meant to be an academic approach to name changing, and it focuses strictly on my heterosexual relationship. I don’t judge those who have chosen or will choose to change, combine, create, hyphenate, or do nothing at all. I just wanted to describe why we went this route, and perhaps give couples who are thinking about taking this non-traditional route a little encouragement.)

So, here’s how it went:

From the start, we talked about both of us hyphenating.

Then we discussed each of us taking the other’s name but not hyphenating. Sort of like an additional middle name.

Then we discussed her taking my name.

Then we discussed me taking her name.

Then we discussed all of them again. Twice.

I’ll admit that part of me wanted to just take her name out of my tendency to be contrary and argumentative. Though I ultimately realized it’s not the best reason to do anything, the idea of giving a big middle finger to the system was appealing.

My wife knows this about me and pointed it out. She also mentioned that she wanted me to ask my father if he was all right with my taking her name. This surprised me. I wasn’t sure what he had to do with it, and as I thought about it, I realized that if my father was in the equation, shouldn’t her father be too? I was becoming a part of the Katz family and I love them. Why should my family name continue and her family name stop? But then, why should mine stop and her continue? That’s one of the first reasons we decided to hyphenate.

As we continued to discuss, the second reason became clear. We’re planning on having some kiddos, and I’m terrified of having a girl for a number of stupid reasons. I’m also terrified for some legitimate reasons, including the fact that my daughter will grow up in a society that doesn’t treat her the same way as it treats men. There are plenty of things we’ll do to give her the tools and the confidence to compete in such a world, but I wanted to start with this small act so she sees that this tradition of a woman taking a man’s name, though very common, isn’t a requirement.

And I’m terrified of having a boy for a number of stupid reasons. I’m also terrified for some legitimate reasons, including the fact that my son will grow up in a society that pressures him to be masculine in some of the worst ways. There are plenty of things we’ll do to help him along the way, but I wanted to start with this small act so he sees that this overwhelming tradition of a man giving a woman his name, though very common, isn’t a requirement.

Though I didn’t really realize until I started writing this, another reason I wanted to change my name is simply to challenge people. The status quo is for a woman to change her name and a man to keep his, and I want to question that. It’s by no means a massive step, nor is it going to have a huge impact, but it has started conversations and that’s important on its own.

If you’re considering making an unconventional choice like I did, here’s what I’d suggest:

– Talk. A lot. Figure out what matters to you both and start there.

– Planning on kids? If so, consider what the impact your decision will have on them. We have no clue what our kiddos will do with their names, but we’re OK with that. Not everyone will be.

– Familial concerns? As much as I think that your family shouldn’t be making this decision for you, it’s something that a lot of people care about, and is worth considering.

– Talk. Yes, again. It’s important that you’re both comfortable with your choice.

Throughout this process, I’ve always gone back to one conversation with a woman who told me that it seems like we “just compromised.” My wife still changed her name and I still kept mine. It is indeed a compromise, but it didn’t involve settling for something below our standards. Instead it was about coming to an understanding of what choice would keep all of our values represented.

— By David Wayne Katz-Hackman

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