More and more people are changing their first name to PEI
No disrespect to their parents – how would they know? — but Anastasia Preston never liked the name they gave her at birth.
Even before she started her gender reassignment five years ago, she said introducing herself by what she calls her “dead name” never felt right. Now she won’t even say it out loud.
“It was a very manly name and it just didn’t suit me because I’m a very unmanly person.”
But Anastasia? That had a nice sound. It was the name she envisioned one day giving one of her own children. Instead, at 29, she gave it to herself.
“My mother, she wasn’t offended in any way,” said Preston, now 34. “Most of them actually liked it. They were very happy because they saw how much joy my name brings me.”
According to Vital Statistics, the number of people changing their first name to PEI has increased in recent years and is now outstripping the number of people changing their last name.
In 2020, 30 people from PEI legally changed their first name, compared to 25 who changed only their last name and 21 who changed both.
In 2021, 56 people changed their first name, 37 their last name, and 35 both.
In 2022, the trend continued to increase with 64 first name changes, 37 last name changes, and 30 both name changes.
Many other people have unofficially changed their names, often for the sake of convenience.
Paul Yin said when he moved to PEI from China in 2010, many people he met had trouble pronouncing his first name, Fuge. It’s pronounced FU-ga, but people always called him FU-ji.
When he bought Paul’s Flower Shop in Charlottetown in 2012, he decided to change his own name to Paul.
His friend Erqi Yang changed his name to Archie, which has a similar pronunciation, but he doesn’t have to constantly spell it for people.
Have fun finding a name
Yang said many people who move to PEI from China have fun choosing their new name. Some choose a name that shows off their sense of humor, while others opt for an alliterative name that goes well with their Chinese surname, or a more traditional name that’s short and easy to pronounce.
“It’s easy to communicate with local people, so just like Tom or Jack or Robert, like that,” he said.
“Most people get their English names from a novel, or a Bible, or an English story, or an English film – like Joseph comes from the Bible.”
Yin said most Chinese newcomers do not legally change their names to avoid potential problems when returning to their home country.
“If we take the passport to China, maybe it’s hard for Chinese people to recognize, who are you?”
The process of legally changing a name can be exhausting and expensive, Preston said. You will need to fill out forms and provide documents such as a birth certificate. Then the person must have the new name added to their bank card, health card and more.
If someone looks like me and yells “Bob,” that will pretty much out you to people, and it can be dangerous depending on who’s in the room. – Anastasia Preston
According to Vital Statistics, a legal name change costs $185. Preston said the cost might deter someone struggling with their first name from changing it.
“For example, I used my name socially as Anastasia before I had it legally, but my work had to process everything under my dead name. Doctor appointments — they called my name, which was assigned to me at birth,” she said.
“If someone looks like me and yells ‘Bob,’ that will really come out to people, and that can be dangerous depending on who’s in the room.”
Preston’s advice to people thinking about changing their name: do it if it makes you happy.
And for parents: “It’s not personal. They just don’t like the name and that’s ok.”
Preston chose Sarah, her grandmother’s name, as one of her new middle names. That’s what her parents wanted to call her if she had been born cisgender.
“The whole naming process is really interesting because it’s that other person who, even though they love you and you’re their child, decides what people are going to call you for the rest of your life.”