Feminist Last Naming Practices

Nontraditional Last Name Stories

Christopher Xavier Brooks

Christopher Xavier Brooks (pictured here with wife Tansy Willow Brooks) took his wife’s natal surname upon marrying. Christopher had changed his natal surname (Bartlett) from his father’s to that of his mother’s (Hylands) at age 25, mostly to honor his maternal grandfather, but somewhat owing to distance from his father after his parents’ divorce. He first married at 29, and his wife took the name Hylands. When he married again in 2003 at 40, his second wife had the same first name as is first, so there would have been two Catherine/Katherine Hylands had Katherine Tansy Brooks taken his name. Instead, he took hers, and she legally changed her name to Tansy Willow Brooks.

Christopher shared a story with us about something that happened three years later, in 2006, when he saw a news item about a man in

San Diego who tried to take his wife’s name at marriage and was rejected.  “At that time,” he told us, “the letters to the editor were rather upsetting and I knew that if I wrote a short, positive letter that it would be printed.  My letter stated that I was proud that my recently adopted county had welcomed my name change.  The letter was printed and probably made a least a few people grin.  Interestingly, the ACLU took the case and the quote was something like ‘we take this case with glee.’  Presumably, they won.  If it had happened to me, I would have sued to stop all marriages in the state on the basis of gender discrimination.  This would have been time consuming and somewhat negative, so fortunately I did not have to do it.”

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