Something many adoptive parents struggle with is whether or not to keep their child’s name. Like most other issues surrounding adoption, this answer is complicated and varies from situation to situation. Many transnational adoptees, myself included, have an American first name and a non-Western middle name. This solution seems to satisfy the desire to keep cultural ties and still “fit in” with other white American peers. I have said before that I am grateful for my simple, American name. On paper, I could be anyone – not necessarily a person of color. In a world where xenophobia does exist, I think at times having a typically American name has benefited me.“As worried as I was about jobs/resume presentation, I was also worried about him getting man-handled by the TSA. Names impact people and presumptions in all sorts of ways, not just jobs. But I do think region of the country makes a difference. For example, NYC is its own very multiethnic world. With lots of multiethnic names. And it makes a difference if it’s a corporate job or going for the arts.” ~ Michelle Hughes
At times, though, I have also wanted to go by my Chinese name. At Chinese school or with other Chinese people, I will often introduce myself by that name. I am proud to be a Chinese person, as well as an American, and I feel that I should be proud to carry that name too.“We never considered doing anything other than keeping our kids’ given Thai names. Their birth families named them and that is a source of pride for my boys, now 4 and 6. If they decide they’d like more Western sounding names in the future, they may use the middle names we gave them, but I hope they don’t. Their names are beautiful and part of their identity.” ~ Robin Stephens
When my name is called from a sheet of paper, and I raise my hand or stand up, it is obvious that sometimes the person on the other end is startled. Probably expecting a brunette of mixed European ancestry, I sometimes feel compelled to explain that I am adopted. This, however, gets tiresome, and sometimes I wonder how much of my story is just mine. If I used my Chinese name, I could be a Chinese American living in the U.S., not necessarily an Asian American adoptee.“We felt strongly about keeping our son’s Ethiopian name. It is difficult for people to pronounce, but we don’t really use a nickname. We love his name and the meaning. It means a lot to us that we can tell him who named him and the story behind it, and I know as he gets older it will mean a lot to him as well. It did not feel right to us to change his name.” ~ Luaren Palizzolo Jordan
But then I think of the original reason I like having a general name that allows me to be any American on paper. And as long as my parents are a different race from me, I would still be explaining my adoption to people anyways. Perhaps if my parents had made my Chinese name my first name, I wouldn’t appreciate it as much as I do now.“My parents gave us American middle names, which we use as our preferred names.” ~ Tiffany Napela
Another factor I believe is important in deciding whether or not to change a child’s name is age. Since I was three years old when I was adopted, I knew my name. My parents called me just my Chinese name for a while and slowly integrated my American name, so I got used to being called both. If I had been asked to simply respond to a different name right away, I’m sure that would have been confusing to me. Names are a part of people’s identifications. Especially for older adoptees who remember more culture, language, food and have a longer, stronger attachment to their name, I think I would lean more towards keeping their name.“I never considered changing my children’s names, since they were already preschoolers with their own identities. The decision to take on a more “American” sounding name should be left up to the child as he or she matures. Adopted children already give up so much; this is an area they should be given more control.”
It makes me very happy to hear adoptive families thoughts about renaming or keeping the names of their children – not because they’re put in a tough situation, but because it is clear that they are taking it so seriously. I don’t think one choice is better than the other. Although adoptive parents need to choose what they think would be in their child’s best interest, I think the final judgement should be up to the adoptee. And I think it is adoptive parents’ responsibility to be supportive and accepting of their child’s decision, even if it means their name doesn’t quite fit in with all of the other family names.“I changed my daughter’s Ethiopian name to make it easier for her (or so I thought) since our last name is quite a mouthful for most folks. About a year ago, I started regretting my decision to change her name. Never mentioned this feeling to my daughter but about six months ago she announced that she was changing it back to her Ethiopian name. It’s perfect!” ~ Alison Aucoin
As for me, I feel content with my ethnically mixed name. I like to go by both my American name and Chinese name. I strongly identify as a Chinese American, and I feel that as a daughter of two countries, two cultures, and two families, both names represent me.