Family Name – Decisions, Decisions

This post really reflects my original bias towards highly entwined group relationships. The original was also heavily heteronormative. I think I’ve managed to remove all the heteronormativity, but the focus on entwined group relationships is kind of built into the topic. Also the usual grammar and readability fixes. Revised Jan 17, 2017.

As seems to be frequently the case, writing the last post – about picking names for a new baby – reminded me of other stuff. For instance, the discussions I have been in, and had with others, about everyone in a polyamorous family wanting to share the same last name.

It’s kind of ironic. Women are increasingly enforcing their equality and independence by keeping their maiden names, making families with two last names common. At the same time, some polyam families sometimes put great importance on sharing the same last name.

Perhaps it isn’t surprising that some polyam families want very much to have the same last name. A shared last name is still the most recognized indication of family relationship. And having our relationships recognized and acknowledged is a pretty big deal for a lot of polyam folk.

Next week, I’ll tackle the legal stuff involved with name changes and what not. (Recently I learned something that has me seriously envying UK polyam folks on this one!) For now, I’ll toss out some thoughts for polyamorous families that want to share a last name.

Picking a Family Name

Everyone taking one person’s name would be the culturally traditional choice, in as much as monogamous culture works applied to polyamory. And in this case, it often doesn’t. A hinged triad might all take the last name of the hinge partner. A leather family or D/s family where there is one person in charge, everyone taking that person’s name might be generally acceptable. But in many polyam families, whose name would people take? There isn’t often a clear answer.

Picking a new name is an option. Possibilities range from smashing together the first syllables of everyone’s last name to baby-name type brainstorming. Toss out ideas, talk about them, and see what sticks.

And once you’ve decided on a name, what then do you do with it?

New Naming Conventions?

Everyone changes their name: this would be the obvious answer. It has some social advantages, and all the professional disadvantages of a woman changing her maiden name (all you documentation, diplomas, etc will be in the old names). Taking a new name might upset extended family and involves much legal hassle.

-Name: I loved this idea in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress – everyone who married into the line family added the family name as a hyphenated name. This has a very nice bonus of allowing everyone to keep their old family name, which can be very important to some people. It may be possible to hyphenate the name informally and keep your family-of-origin name as your legal last name, saving on legal fees and hassle.

This one comes from the wonderful Poly Mom, and I would love to have heard of it years ago. Polly is in a triad with two men, when she legally married one, she took his name, and she is getting her name hyphenated with her other husband’s name. Apparently, there was talk of the men hyphenating their names as well, but even if they don’t, this is a neat idea. I could see this working for a quad as well as a triad, though any bigger than that and there may be problems. Neat tip: in some states, when a woman gets married, she can change her name to anything, not just her husband’s name, and it is automatically her legal name. So you can get legally married to spouse1, and make your name Spouse1-Spouse2 and avoid all the hassle of the usual insane process for getting a name change.

 

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