Finally in Place
“Hi everyone, my name is Lupita, sometimes people call me Lupi. I’m a senior from Brooklyn, NY. I major in American Studies with a concentration in Education. Fun fact about me is I’m getting my fifth tattoo on Thursday,” and Repeat. “Hi everyone…”
It is the beginning of a new semester, which means introducing yourself in classes, GIMs, and just about everywhere. For me, every intoduction feels significant, because the way I name myself has changed a lot over the years. I wasn’t born Lupita, I became Lupita. On October 25, 2016, I posted on Instagram asking everyone in my life to stop calling me by my legal name, and instead call me by my family name. Although I wasn’t named Lupita when I was born, my parents have only ever called me this, since it derives from my middle name, Guadalupe. I was really only called by my legal name at school and by my siblings. However, they understood that when family members said “Lupita,” they were referring to me.
Before starting school at Tufts, I began wondering if it would be a good idea to just start introducing myself as Lupita to everyone. Yet a small part of me hesitated. I thought, “my parents named me what they named me for a reason, right? I should honor that.” So, I spent all of freshman year continuing to go by my legal first name. But that summer I couldn’t shake the feeling that I wanted to do something more. I didn’t feel connected to my first name; Lupita felt like I was home even when I was far from it. Lupita was, and is, my past, present, and future.
I thought about what it might mean for other people to have to change what they called me. I worried it would be too difficult, and wouldn’t be worth the trouble. Plus, I thought, my first name was so much easier for people to pronounce; I’d probably have to consistently correct the pronunciation of Lupita. Was it worth my energy? Despite these fears, I decided my feelings were more important than others’ potential discomfort. I started to let go and let Lupita fill in her place.
I was met with many different reactions from family, friends, and even people I didn’t really know. At my first salsa practice after publicly changing my name, one friend ran up to me and hugged me. She embraced me and said, “Hi Lupita, it’s so nice to meet you.”
Another friend stopped me once to ask if we could have a conversation about names because she had similar feelings to those I had publicly expressed. These moments of support affirmed my decision and boosted my confidence to continue to push through the challenges.
Others weren’t as welcoming of the change and often interrogated me about it. Some days I was asked so many questions I would just stop responding. At one point I even stopped correcting people, feeling defeated. The difficult transition extended to home as well. One of my siblings showed my Instagram post to my parents. I hadn’t talked to my parents about my name change because I didn’t feel as though it would affect them—they would still continue to call me Lupita regardless of what other people would call me. But I underestimated what it would mean for me to shed one name and replace it with another, even if the replacement was a name they had informally given me. My dad, who had called me by my legal first name maybe a handful of times in my life, now intentionally and exclusively started calling me by it. Perhaps he felt as though Lupita was a name meant to stay in the family, while my legal first name was the one I should use to navigate the world around me.
I wasn’t sure how long this transitional period would last, but it seemed to go on forever. Looking back, I see now that my network of support helped me fight the battle when I felt like I couldn’t. I know my friends corrected other people for me so I wouldn’t have to. I imagine the transition at home must have felt strange for my family, even though I wasn’t home enough to witness all the changes. I know my sister would correct my brother even if I didn’t always answer her questions surrounding my name change. I don’t think I have thanked you all for this, but thank you for what you did. I appreciate you.
Continued support, along with time, have made me feel more sure of myself. Recently, at Homecoming, a Tufts graduate from the Class of 2016 called me by my previous name. I smiled, answered her question, and moved on. I think there will always be moments like these, but I no longer shut down when they come up. I understand my name as always being—at least somewhat—in transition.
As for my next steps, I have now been considering making a legal name change. However, this process is expensive, and it isn’t easy. I want to have this sorted out by the time I graduate in May. I imagine my degree reading, “Lupita [pending middle name] Rodríguez.” I’ve always liked having a middle name, so I know I still want to have one. Lupita Guadalupe Rodríguez sounds redundant, so I feel I have to make a change. I am between two names at this moment, but have been strongly leaning towards one for months now. I won’t share either until I am ready, but both of these names are short and simple, and hold a similar warm energy. I am intentionally choosing my middle name to be a guiding light.
But for now, I am still thinking about names, and specifically my nickname, Lupi, and how it is a sign of care and a testament of love. Since I already “changed” my name once, I haven’t felt like I could ask people for another change. But a nickname isn’t necessarily a change—it can just be a sweeter pronunciation of my name. I went by Lupi for almost all of junior year and it felt so caring to be called that. It didn’t feel as though anyone was trying to erase my name, but that Lupita was so well established that different iterations could emerge. I felt as if I had hit a huge milestone since first changing my name and the feeling was extremely rewarding. I felt secure. However, I also noticed a sharp difference back on campus after being abroad for the entire year. Perhaps people who knew me by my previous name felt as though they had to be very intentional about calling me Lupita. I appreciate this, and I don’t expect everyone to just start calling me Lupi automatically, but I hope people know that this is a nickname that makes me melt with joy.
Names, nicknames, and name changes are complicated. I have definitely discovered this while working on the relationships I’ve had with my own names. It has been almost two years since my Instagram post announced my public name change. I will be celebrating my second Name Day on October 18th. I don’t know what I’m going to do to celebrate yet, but I do know that I’ve never felt more at home with myself. I can feel an almost tangible difference between who I was freshman year and who I am now. I feel like I’ve finally established Lupita. I had no idea what it was going to be like to rename myself, but I am proud of my journey. While at first it felt like meeting people all over again and working through ideas they already had of me, now there’s almost no precedent. There are two full, new classes of students at Tufts who have not known me by any other name, and might even feel like no other name would fit me. I feel as though I am in place.