Feminist Last Naming Practices

Nontraditional Last Name Stories

Tomi-Ann Roberts

Tomi-Ann kept her natal name, Roberts, for professional and legacy reasons through both marriage and divorce. At the time of this interview, she was considering the legal issues of her and her partner, to whom she is not married, having different last names.

The reasons for keeping her natal name were twofold. Tomi-Ann explains: “I have a very strange first name that’s hyphenated, Tomi-Ann, so when I got married, shortly after, well I was still in grad school, I was like, okay I can’t hyphenate my last name too, cause that had been my thought going in to it. I also, my friends and I in grad school had said, if we publish something before we marry, that’s going to be a game changer in terms of changing our last name because when you’re in academia you want your published work to be easily searchable and findable, and it was like – oh my gosh, if you published under one name and all of a sudden you changed your last name and take your husband’s last name, now you’re going to have a totally different last name and how are people going to find you in like the search engines looking for your article? So A. That, B. I remember being very little, and my father’s father, my American grandfather, took me on his knee, and he literally said to me, “the Roberts name ends with you.” And I remember being like, “wow!” because there were only daughters. Were you the youngest? I was the oldest grandchild of all granddaughters. And then it was like, there’s not going to be any other grandchildren, and he literally said, “The Roberts name ends with you.” And I remember being like totally appalled, and not asking my parents to explain what that meant, and all this stuff. So that story always stuck with me,”

Now that she is in a serious relationship, Tomi-Ann must consider the possibility of marriage and name change again. When asked, If you and your boyfriend are to marry, would you consider any change of last name – either for him, or, no hyphen at this point? She said, “No, not at all. And in fact, even the very institution of marriage is something that I’m just I’m questioning its value a little bit more. I’m also starting to see, like, right now I’m exploring whether or not I can add, like that my boyfriend and I can be domestic partners. Because, Colorado College, I want to add him to my insurance… If we were to get married, never mind the name change, but if were to get married, I think like, instantaneously he’d be added, um, we’d have a family plan, I think I might pay forty bucks more a month in premiums. But for us to get like certified as domestic partners, which is what has to happen for all gay couples in this community, it’s over $100 more in premiums per month for me to add him. It’s like it’s so, you know, and my reasons for not wanting to get married are totally distinct and unique and feminist, and they’re not about like not being able to get married.”

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