Feminist Last Naming Practices

Nontraditional Last Name Stories

Amanda Grace Rennecker

Amanda “Gracie” Rennecker was adopted at birth and would’ve been given her birth mother’s surname, Valdez, had that not occurred.

What’s in a name? Names are how we identify each other, but how much is identity truly tied to one’s name? When asked, Ms. Rennecker leaned in a more Shakespearean direction, saying, “I don’t think that identity is solely in a name, or in a last name or a first name. I think it plays an integral part, but I don’t think that it’s the whole story there… It’s interesting because I’ve been watching lots of home videos over the past couple of weeks, actually, conveniently. And, it’s interesting because I’ve been watching them with my mom and this was back when I was called Mandy. It was in, like, 1996 when I was about four? And, I would say something really funny and my mom would pause it and say, “Oh my gosh, did you hear what she said, I mean, did you hear what you said?” And so, it’s really interesting because she made that mistake more than once. And she’s like, “I don’t know why I keep calling you she, because I know it’s you.” And I think that, growing up, your identity does change and I think that… You know, I don’t know if names necessarily reflect that, because, I don’t think a lot of people go through the name changes like I have… So, yeah, I don’t think that names make identity, per se, but I think that, you know, in my specific case as I’ve grown up, I refer to myself like, “Back in my Mandy days… Back when I was Amanda…” and my dad always says, “Back when you were Amanda… Back when you were Mandy…” A lot of identity comes from what you give a name.

However, Ms. Rennecker also mentioned that she still identifies with the name Valdez as a way to authenticate her Mexican heritage, saying, “When I tell people I’m Mexican, they’re like, ‘No you’re not.’ In that case, when I’m trying to validate that I am Mexican and I that is my heritage even though I am adopted, it’s still in my genes; it’s still in my blood. So then, that’s the time where I say, ‘Well, if I wasn’t adopted, my last name would be Valdez…’ So, yeah, it’s important for my personal ethnic identity and affirmation.

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