Feminist Last Naming Practices

Nontraditional Last Name Stories

Fasilidas Teshome Gebru

Fasilidas Teshome Gebru has an Ethiopian ethnic background; he is married with one child and lives in Las Vegas. His mother was a political activist who broke from Ethiopian tradition by giving him the first name Fasilidas, after the historic king of Ethipoia, rather than his father’s first name. “She hated the fact that the man’s name was the only thing that was involved in the last name of the child, so she decided that her name, which is Teshome, would also be my middle name. His last name is his father’s first name (traditionally the child’s last name is Gerbru, like his own, creating a family name.)

“There are no family names in the Ethiopian tradition,” Fasilidas explained, “so it’s kind of hard to find out who your family is, you know? It’s almost scary because when I went to Ethiopia, I was petrified of committing like, involuntary incest, because I didn’t know who was my family. So, um, there it is, I didn’t like it at all.”

Fasilidas’s mother’s break from patronymics appeared to also offer Fasilidas an opportunity to create a patrilineal family name in line with U.S. norms, which he readily took.

His wife had asked, him “how I would feel about her keeping her last name and hyphenating it and putting my name in. And I’m like ‘absolutely not’, you know? Cus, it’s like; you feel like you’re giving your name to somebody, you know? And… I don’t know — I took pride in it. I felt that, you know, if you’re marrying me then you should want my name. You know what I mean?”

His wife accepted this, “except for Facebook,” he said, laughing. “Because, you know, all of her old friends still know her by Duncan, so there it reads Naomi Duncan-Gebru.

 

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