Am I Too Young to Change My Name?

Filed under: Teens, Baby Names

I'm a boy, and my dad thought Karmen was a boy's name when I was born. Now I'm called Karmen in all my official statements, school records etc. I really hate it and I get bullied for it. I'm 16. Can I change my name? How?

- Karmen

In the U.S., you can't petition the court for a name change until you're 18. For now, the legal request would have to come from your parents. I understand that it may be hard to ask for their help on this, since they gave you the name in the first place.

Part of me is tempted to refer you to the tag-line of the anti-bullying campaign: It gets better. Readers write to me of "growing into" names, or learning to love unusual names they despised as a teenagers. This is one reason I usually discourage minors from making legal name changes.

Your case, though, is a little different. You've run into an ugly truth about names in America: Gender matters. A lot. And there's a double standard. Parents love to give girls traditionally masculine names, and there's even some research suggesting they give girls a competitive advantage. But it's tough to be a boy with a girl's name, and you're right, Karmen is used overwhelmingly for girls. (It's a form of Carmel, a biblical place name. The Italian name Carmine is one masculine version.)

If you'd like to change your name now, have a conversation with your parents. Be gentle; they chose this name for you and understandably have different feelings about it than you do. Build your case with facts. You can show them baby name data from the Social Security Administration to show them that girls named Karmen (and Carmen) swamp the boys by a rate of more than 25 to 1 in the United States. A Google image search of Karmen works too -- but be sure to select "safe search" or you'll be in for a whole different kind of parental discussion.

You can also give your parents a practical argument. If you know you'll change the name yourself on your 18th birthday, the change will be simpler now before you're issued a driver's license and start applying to jobs or colleges.

If your parents won't go for it, though, take comfort that the decision will soon be in your own hands.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.