I’m Changing My Name to Rowen

Finding identity in this world is a strange thing

Rowen Veratome
3 min readFeb 13, 2021
Photo by Ashleigh Joy Photography on Unsplash

“Rowen,” is what my parents would have named me if I’d been born male-bodied. Instead, I was swaddled in pink, and named, “Kayleigh.”

I have no issue with the name, “Kayleigh,” in itself. I like that it reaches back to women in my family; my mom is named “Leigh” and I have a great aunt, Kay. But I’m non-binary.

It’s hard enough to convey myself to others without overt femininity in what they call me. That names have no inherent gender (and that I wish names weren’t categorized into those boxes “male” and “female”) doesn’t change the fact that my name is one of those small signifiers with which people judge who I am.

Gender is a culturally important category of personhood. That’s why we base our pronouns on it. It’s why we organize our names through it. It’s the first thing we wish to know about someone. Are they a man? Or a woman? When we learn this information it can even define the matrix by which we judge them. Are they a good man? A good woman?

I digress. I don’t want to be judged by the matrix of “man” or “woman.” I want to be judged as a person, not first and foremost, but only.

When people say to me, “I am a woman because I feel like a woman,” or, “I feel like a man,” I can’t imagine what it is they might feel. I don’t feel an in-between, either. Just void. I can’t imagine otherwise.

I do sometimes masquerade in a suit or dress; I have to wear something, and most items of clothing have gender signification. Even mixed, my clothes signify something, instead of void. They’re a costume. My name, on the other hand, has the potential to be as far away from a false costume as I can manage.

And so, I’m changing my name to Rowen.

This year, I’ve gone by “Rox Applesmith.” You might know me by this pseudonym. Or, maybe, you know me by my birth-name, “Kayleigh.”

I’m grateful to the name, “Rox Applesmith.” This new name made it easier to express how I really felt; I was freed from the expectations of those who knew me before, whether real or made up in my mind.

But I’ve slowly learned that I am too poor an actor to go by two names. Throughout the year, either “Rox” or “Kayleigh” was left, neglected. I am not the kind of person who can be a persona. I want to say what I mean when I mean it, and I’d rather be as integrated as is possible than live in separate spheres.

Part of this up-frontness regards gender. I’ve noticed that when I portray my gender honestly, it is easier to be honest about everything else.

To walk into a room on the pretense that, “no one would understand, anyway,” closes me off from connection. To come with the intention of authenticity, on the other hand, breeds friendship.

And so, I’m changing my name to Rowen. “Rox” is just too casual to go on a birth certificate.



Rowen Veratome

They/them. Perpetual student. Recovering from PTSD. Writes philosophically, formally, poetically, playfully, politically, personally, with love, ad infinitum.