This is a little hard for me to talk about mainly because I’m going to be talking about my journey to pick my name. In doing so, I will be talking about my birth name which I don’t speak about much because I focus on looking forward. I have been extremely tight lipped about my dead name for that reason.
When our parents were pregnant with us, they started to think about and look for names for us. Depending on the culture you’re born into this process could be as easy as tradition or it could be a long, arduous process of going through baby name books trying to find that perfect name. They will look for names that both reflect our heritage and are popular in the year we are born. In my case, that’s exactly what my parents did. I was born in 1963 and my parents named me Robert Emil Schauer. According to the Baby Center, Robert was the 5th most popular name behind Michael #1, John #2, David #3, and James #4. Emil was a family name. I was given my middle name Emil after my paternal grandfather. My parent’s shortened my name to Bobby when I was young.
According to the Baby Center, Robert was the 5th most popular name behind:
Emil was a family name. I was given my middle name Emil after my paternal grandfather. My parent’s shortened my name to Bobby when I was young.
I was still pretty young when my parents divorced, and eventually, my mother remarried. After my mom and step, father married my stepfather adopted my brother, sister and myself. Growing up this is the only father I remember. When the adoption was being finalized, I was given the opportunity to change my middle name which I did. So my name was then changed to Robert George Segebarth. I picked George because it was my now fathers middle name and I wanted the same initials as him. But I was still being called Bobby by my family until I was somewhere around ten years old when I made the decision to go by Bob.
Robert Emil, George, Bobby or Bob all names were given to me, but none of them were what I identified with. This is a strange feeling especially for a young person and lasting into adulthood. Yes everyone knew me as Bob for 50 years, and I answered to it but never did I feel like a Robert or Bob. It’s a fascinating and strange paradigm really when you feel like nothing in your life fits you.
I’m transgender and have known for as long as I can remember that I wasn’t like the other boys around me. I was always interested in girl’s names as I grew up. When I would put on my mother’s clothes, I would call myself different girl’s names but still none of these fit me either. So when I started on my journey to self-discovery and my unmasking I knew the task of picking out a name was going to be hard for me.
Here it was, at last, a chance to choose a name I actually identified with. I knew this was going to be a strenuous and exhausting process for me. For others, it was as simple as asking their parents what they would have named them if born the opposite gender or somewhere along the line someone gave them a name that they identified with when they were dressed in their true gender. For me, it wasn’t that easy. At the time I wasn’t talking with my family so I couldn’t talk to my mom and dad about it.
Narrowing down my list of names.
As I started thinking about it, there were so many names that I liked, and I narrowed down my list to 15 names which were still too many to focus on. I was looking for a name that first and foremost was very feminine and didn’t have a hint of being confused with a man being called it. So right off the bat, Bobbi was out of the question.
I took me about two months to finally narrow my list down to my final four names. The list included naturally Melissa, but also Victoria, Britney, and Aubrey. I liked them all and was having a hard time deciding between them. But I was leaning towards Aubrey Rose. So I looked up the characteristics of people with these names. I made four columns listing out the characteristics for each name but didn’t put the names above the columns, and I asked my friends to tell me which set of characteristics fit me best. Every single one of them picked the list for Melissa, but I still wasn’t convinced. So I looked up the meaning and origins for Melissa. It’s Greek in origins and means honey bee. Hmmm, I thought! But how did the name come about? In Greek mythology, it is said that while lost in a desert Zeus was fed the milk of the Melissa plant by a nymph and as a reward, she was transformed into a honey bee to collect honey for the Gods which was considered a great honor. When I read this story, I knew it was the name for me!!! Reading that there was a transformation in the story, it just fit, and I could so identify with the name Melissa now. Yes, that’s me, Melissa!!! I never thought a name could grow on me so fast. I just sat there after reading that story saying Melissa over and over again. After a few months of going through all those names and all the thinking about it, I had finally picked the name, Melissa.
Next came picking my middle name. My first choice was May for my middle name. I liked the way the name flowed. Melissa May Segebarth! I liked it, so I told a few friends of mine my choice, but I wasn’t prepared for the response I got. I started hearing stuff like hey who’s going to rob the bank? Melissa May! Who’s going to do this or that? Melissa May!! Some of them got very raunchy and dirty, so May was out the door. I didn’t want to listen to comments like that the rest of my life. So back to my list of names trying to pick something that sounded good to me. I finally came up with Ann. Melissa Ann Segebarth… I like it! It flows well, and I identified so much better with Melissa Ann then Melissa May, so I am jubilant with the . So on June 19th, 2015 I went to court and had my name legally changed to Melissa Ann Segebarth.
Finally, I had a name that I can identify with but also one the fully identified who I am. A name that matches my personality. A feminine name that matched my femininity! And a name that I proudly told everyone who would ask me. When I went to court and the judge said: “Welcome to the world Ms. Melissa Ann Segebarth”! All I could do was smile and cry at the same time.
What does the name mean to me?
My dysphoria has been hard to me, and I’ve talked about this before. I felt like I was in a bubble all the time. I could move around in reality, but I felt like I couldn’t touch it. There was always like a plastic film around my body that didn’t allow me to feel anything truly. Going to court and getting my name change was the last step to removing that film that surrounded me. I no longer feel different than the other women around me. I feel complete and in tune with the world now. I can identify my identity which after 50 years feels pretty darn good.
A little earlier this year my mom and I reconnected, and she was having a real hard time with my name. I wasn’t sure why until I learned while not talking with anyone from my family for so long I was out of touch with what was going on with my siblings. My younger brother had gotten married and his wife is named Melissa Anne, and my mom was used to calling her Melissa. Now all of a sudden there are two Melissa Ann’s in the family. For a few years now mom identifies Melissa with my sister-in-law. This is a problem for my mom. She protested a bit telling me she didn’t like the name, Melissa. She asked me why I chose the name and I explained everything I went through picking it. We would talk on a regular basis every couple days, or so and slowly she started to see exactly what my name meant to me and begun to accept not only me but also my name.
In the beginning, mom had a hard time not using my old name, but she wanted to try to use my name. She was talking to me but the name Melissa reminded her of my sister-in-law, and this was a bit confusing for mom. One night we were talking this past October, and she called me “Lissa”! I said who? Lissa, mom, said once again. She went on to say she didn’t want to call me Mel because it a man’s name but Lissa just rolled off her tongue. I told her I liked it and from that point on she calls me Lissa and she feels that she named me. It was a huge step for her towards accepting me which she has fully.
Mom and I were talking, and she asked me why I didn’t change my middle name to Marie? I told her I didn’t even think of it why? I asked. All women in our family have the middle name Marie unless it’s their first name. I never realized that and never even thought of it at all. As I sit her writing this article, I am pondering going back to court to add Marie in my name also. Melissa Ann Marie Segebarth… What’s in a name? Family and acceptance in my case.Tweet #TransHopeUnited