Rhyannon Styles: What's In A Name?

How does one choose a name when transitioning?

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I have my birthday and then I have my second birthday (I’m lucky that way). Today, 18 April, marks the date I legally changed my name from Ryan to Rhyannon and really began living my life as I felt I should. 

This month marks four years since I began my transition. Back then, one of the first steps I took was changing my name. It’s a big step, and one that needs considerable thought. After all, how many people get to rename themselves? 

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Nearly all trans people have to go through this process. It marks the beginning of life’s new journey. See, I didn’t have a gender-neutral name like Jordan, Charlie or Harry. My name was Ryan Edward Styles. I was called Ryan because I was born on St Patrick’s Day. (Many people thought it was because my family were Irish – not a trace as far as I know). I asked my mum why she chose Edward for my middle name and her reply was, ‘It just felt right.' For most of my life, my name did feel right. And although I loved the name my parents had originally decided, I didn’t feel I could move forward in my life as a trans woman with how it was.

I knew I'd have to change my name when I started living and presenting as a female ‘full-time’. I didn’t want to keep the name Ryan because it was the old me. Also, I needed to separate myself from ‘him’ and become ‘her’ – or so I thought (more on that later).

But back to girls’ names. Yes, I’ve been called a few. 

When I was young and being bullied, one boy in particular would always call me Rachel. ‘Rachel the poof’ was his favourite quip whenever he saw me on the estate. This was mortifying and gratifying at the same time. It happened so regularly though, that eventually it stopped becoming an insult and I took it in my stride. I was proud and happy to be seen as a girl by other people. 

As an adult, I would sometimes use the name Rachel to take ownership of the homophobia I suffered, and this name was in the top five when I began deciding what to rename myself. 

I knew I wanted to stick with a name that began with the letter R. I thought Melissa (Auf der Maur) or Sabrina (The Teenage Witch) my teenage idols, was a jump too far. I could have been clever and chose something which rolled with ‘Styles’. I liked Roxy, Randy and Rio but didn’t know if I could keep a straight face when introducing myself without sounding like a burlesque artist. 

The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to keep an element of Ryan. He would never be gone completely and I always wanted to remember him. I could also see how it would be beneficial for my family and friends to have something similar, so I decided to feminise it. 

Rhiannon appealed to me for three reasons:

1. I loved Stevie Nicks and the song ‘Rhiannon’ was one I’d grown up with. 

2. Rhiannon is a classic figure in Celtic mythology, often referred to as a goddess or a witch. What’s not to like about that? 

3. I liked the abbreviations of Rhi-Rhi and Rhia.

It was done, with Rhiannon spelt with a Y for a nod to the past but also to signify the new. Now I just needed to figure out the best way to announce it. I applied to Deed Poll to legally change it and then set about tackling my multiple social media accounts, not to mention my passport, driving licence, bank accounts, phone contracts, medical records, and ASOS account. 

As for separating ‘him’ from ‘her,’ regardless of what I decide to call myself or how I decide to dress, I’ve always been the person that I am today. Living and experiencing life goes beyond names. I know I’ve always been trans and will continue to shift and change throughout my life. 

So as I reflect on the last four years, it becomes clear that the journey hasn’t been easy. But I wouldn’t want it any other way. Over to you Stevie…