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A New Name

Picture of the name Ray on a white background, with each letter made out of popsicle sticks and hanging on a string. The "R" is red, the "A" is yellow, and the "Y" is blue.

Last updated Sept 17, 2022

Hello everyone,

It’s been years since we posted. I think it’s because we’ve been doing our best to listen more and we’re really grateful for these opportunities.

Today we are posting because we have something to share that we thought may be valuable for others. It’s about our eldest child, formerly known as Claire, whose new name is Ray.

Ray would like us to share with all of you their new name and their gender identity and pronouns. They are really excited to spread the word. They know it will take time for our language to shift and they are looking forward to making this transition together.

Why the name change?
Ray does not have negative feelings about the name Claire. They see it as their old name that doesn’t feel right for them. Being non-binary, they feel connected to the name Ray because it doesn’t feel like a “girl” name or a “boy” name and is more aligned with their gender identity. This is different from their gender expression, which can be masculine, feminine, or neutral (for example, you may still see them wearing a dress).

It feels right in every way and it has been a really special process to go around the house and do some “Claire cleaning” of all the places where they could find Claire written, including their bedroom door. One of the first tasks was making a new sign (pic attached of their new creation)!

What is Ray’s gender identity?
Ray identifies as non-binary

Here’s a 2-page visual explanation about gender diversity.

What are Ray’s pronouns? (which is different than gender identity and requires a language shift)
Ray uses “they/them/their” pronouns, and “iel” in French. More about pronouns here.

If we can make a diligent effort to change the pronouns we use with Ray, it is SO, SO appreciated. We know it takes time. And, if you think about it, we use gender-neutral language all the time and just don’t realize it. For example:

“Someone left their sunglasses on the table”.

Read about the history of pronouns in this 2-page news article.

What would Ray like us to know about gender?
The concept of gender diversity is culturally relatively new for most adults, including Ray’s parents (us!). We definitely grew up assuming there were only two genders. However, this binary thinking has evolved only in the last several hundred years. The concept of gender diversity has been around for millennia in local Indigenous cultures and around the world, even dating back to the Roman Empire.

Culturally, most of us tend to make assumptions about people’s gender identity and pronouns. One suggestion for how we can practice making a shift: consider trying to use “they/them” pronouns whenever we’re talking about someone we don’t know.

For example, instead of “Did you see that woman running? She was going so fast!”, try “Did you see that person running? They were running so fast!”

We truly cannot tell someone’s gender by looking at them and wouldn’t it be amazing if we didn’t try to? This learning and unlearning is taking a long time for us, especially after decades of being immersed in binary experiences. We still make lots of mistakes and are grateful to recognize it’s a lifelong journey that will evolve. Mistakes are an important part of it. The more we learn about different identities, the easier it becomes to use more inclusive language and to feel as though this diversity is “normal.”

How else can we support Ray and other gender expansive people?
In addition to the name and pronoun change, it would also be amazing if Ray could be referred to as a “kid”, “child” or “person” instead of as a “girl”. They are not a girl. A couple of examples of pronouns and gender:

“I can’t find Ray, has anyone seen them?”
“James, the kids have really grown since I last saw them.”

Our family is very privileged to have a supportive community. And, a bonus of using more gender-inclusive language in general, not just with Ray, is that we may be providing support to someone who is really struggling. The research shows that gender diverse people experience high rates of poor health, including depression and even suicide. HOWEVER, the good news is that even one supportive interaction can have a meaningful and profound positive impact on that person. If people feel supported in being who they are, they can live a very happy life. So, let’s get curious about how we can be more inclusive in the way we speak and the actions we take. This is an opportunity that will help Ray, and hopefully others.

Read more about the value of using supportive language (1-page news article)

We also want to recognize that we are all shaped by our unique identities and lived experience. Ray’s journey may look very different from others and may involve a very different process. There’s no single right way to be. We would be doing a disservice if we didn’t also mention intersectionality, meaning we need to recognize that when we hold multiple identities, it can have a drastic impact on peoples’ experiences. If that’s a new concept, consider watching this 18-min video from Kimberlé Crenshaw.

More Resources:

We’d LOVE to hear what has resonated with you. We know there are lots of fantastic learning opportunities out there. Here are a few:

  1. 2-min animated video about gender identity (Amaze)
  2. 6-min read-aloud of the picture book “It Feels Good to be Yourself: A book about Gender Identity”
  3. Body science books to purchase or borrow by Cory Silverberg (available at many local bookstores)
  4. Beyond the Gender Binary by Alok Vaid-Menon (1 hour audiobook or short pocketbook read)
  5. Gender basics (Trans Care BC)
  6. More gender expansive research, books, videos, and websites for families (Trans Care BC)

Different kinds of resources will resonate with different people and again, we welcome hearing what is helpful for you. We LOVE books and are happy to chat anytime about books we’ve come across with gender-expansive themes and characters.

What if I don’t like this change?
We are confident and have trust in Ray and in their journey. Our priority is to follow their lead. We’ve done a lot of learning and listening and still have a lot more to learn. We also know identity can change over time, and that’s OK with us too. It’s OK to dislike this change, to be uncomfortable, and to grieve the way things used to be. That’s all perfectly natural.

What we ask is that you don’t question whether this is “real” or try to convince James and I or Ray that we should consider thinking differently about this, think of this as “just a phase”, or ask us to change our process. We welcome honesty 100% as long as it’s not about trying to change anyone’s mind about anything. We’re in this together.

What if I have information to share and questions to ask?
We gratefully welcome questions and resources or stories you may have. We know we’re not the only ones with experience with this topic.

Lastly, we want to share how profound this shift has been for Ray. There has been an enormous positive change in their mood, confidence, sense of self, and general happiness with every step Ray has taken towards shifting to their true identity. Supporting Ray in their journey to figure out who they are in the society we live in has been a true honour. Again, we know it can evolve, and we’re so grateful that they know themselves better than we probably did as a young adult. What a joy.

Thank you for being such an incredible community and alongside us on this journey.

With much love and gratitude,
Nicole (she/they) and James (he/him) in collaboration with Ray (they/them) and Maëlle (she/her)

Note: Nicole is a white settler of Czech, Irish, Scottish, and English ancestry and James is a white settler of French Canadian, Scottish, and métis ancestry. This post was written on the unsurrendered shared homelands of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, səlilwətaɬ Nations, who have stewarded these sacred lands for millennia. We recognize that gender and race are social constructs and that settler colonization has disproportionately harmed two-spirit and gender diverse peoples. We value interconnectedness and are dedicated to listening and amplifying voices with humility to support Indigenous sovereignty and decolonization.

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