New Life, Old Life SignsMarriage represents a major milestone for couples, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. For many people, it’s a new phase, characterized by the sharing of many things with a new spouse, including living spaces, financial assets and last names. LGBTQ+ couples who plan to marry and want to change legal last names need to understand what’s involved. Although queer marriages are legal in the United States, depending on where you live, the process to change your last name legally may require some additional hurdles. Here are things to consider.

What’s in a Name?

Many straight, cisgender couples tend to go along with the custom of the wife taking on the last name of the husband. This decision may not be as obvious or clear for queer couples for a variety of reasons. The idea of one spouse taking the other’s name is rooted in patriarchy and may not be an option for those living outside of the gender binary. There are other considerations for keeping a surname:

  • Professional: A last name may be a part of a person’s brand or associated with professional licensure, such as in medicine or engineering.
  • Ancestral: A family name often holds great importance or deep meaning to a person, who wishes to pass this on to children.
  • Other: Some people like their original surname and don’t want to change it for any reason.

When planning a life together with your spouse-to-be, don’t forget to discuss last names. Each person should be upfront and honest about their feelings on the issue.

No Name Change

Many LGBTQ+ couples opt to keep their last names. This is a simple, straightforward option that requires no effort outside of basic legal requirements for marriage. For some people, keeping their surnames establishes each partner as an equal member of the union. In this scenario, neither you nor your spouse will need to register a name change with employers, businesses and government agencies. Should you decide to have children, you will need to determine a family name.

Happy Hyphenation

Hyphenating surnames is a popular option for straight and queer couples. It allows the union to be defined by a new appellation that keeps both partners’ names. Hyphenation also provides an easy choice for naming children. It should be noted that hyphenated last names can be very long and you run the risk of dropping the last name to accommodate certain types of paperwork and electronic forms. For LGBTQ+ unions, the hyphenated last name requires a legal name change for both spouses, a process that varies among jurisdictions.

Choosing a Spouse’s Surname

The decision for one partner to take on the other’s last name after marriage is a common practice that many businesses and government agencies are prepared to accommodate. This is a good choice if one person’s surname is preferable to that of the other for any reason. Future children will have this appellation, and only one person has to legally change their name.

New Names for Everyone

LGBTQ+ partners may decide that it’s better to choose another new name entirely for their family. This is often symbolic of embracing a new life together as a union. For people of diverse genders, this can be a good option that is analogous to abandoning a deadname and an associated gender identity. If this sounds like great idea for you, consider a surname that has special significance to you as a couple, or one that is a portmanteau of each partner’s last name (e.g., Cooper + Smith = Coopersmith).

Last names may seem like a minor issue for couples considering a life together. There is power in a name when it comes to identity, individuality and family history. Your decision requires careful consideration, as this will not only impact your lives, but those of your children as well.

Category: Marriage

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