To be honest, you're right; I probably wouldn't have changed my last name if I hadn't met my wife. Initially, I didn't want to do it. I fought back because just the thought of changing my name made me feel uncomfortable. I was nervous as fuck to tell anyone. But, I kept thinking about why, if I was asking her to take my last name, I wouldn't be willing to do the same thing?
Our name was just as important to her as it was to me, and she wasn't asking me to do something that she wasn't prepared to do herself. Sure, we could have each kept our own name, but combining our names represents our unity, and we both wanted to share a last name with our children.
Our marriage has taught me that equality means giving both partners an equal say and living a life of selfless and thoughtful action. In a healthy relationship where you are growing spiritually and emotionally, you will be pushed to do things you've never considered. And, if you're marriage is important enough, you'll always make the best decision for you and your family regardless of what other people think.
Most men and women will never understand my decision, and that's fine. People either support you or they don't. It's that simple. You get to choose who you spend your time with, and I don't suggest wasting it with people who aren't in your corner.
The following is a list of some of the least supportive comments I've heard since hyphenating my last name, and the reason that they're ludicrous:
1. "You've betrayed your family."
Do we tell women who change their last name that they've betrayed their family? No. We expect them to. What are we teaching young people by saying this? What are we saying about how we value women and their sense of identity?
2. "I'm traditional. I don't believe in that."
That's awesome! Thanks for letting me know! I'm so glad the decision that we made as a family (which has no impact on you at all, like not even a little bit) inspired you to tell me your opinion. You know what else was traditional? Stoning people to death. Traditional roles often perpetuate a lack of social efficacy in young girls, which means that they stop believing in themselves socially and politically. Why do we want to ensure more than half of our population feels that way?
3. "You've given up your manhood."
Not that "manhood" is defined by these things, but I'm still the same penis wielding, bodybuilding, beard growing, hiking, and soccer playing semi-bro I was before. Manhood means different things to different people. Plus, gender stereotypes are pretty harmful and exclusive.
4."Only gay guys do this."
This is problematic for two reasons. Firstly, I'm not sure what my name has to do with my sexual orientation. I am married to a woman, and I happen to identify as a cisgender, straight male. Secondly, this comment was said as if being or identifying as LGBTQ is a bad thing? This comment was so homophobic that hearing it made me happy that I was making a different choice than the guy who spewed it.
5. "You're not a Donnelly anymore."
Please refer to my last name: Marcus-Donnelly (← it's right there). Both names are equally important. The order doesn't matter at all. One last name, two awesome family heritages! For the record, Marcus-Donnelly sounded WAY better than Donnelly-Marcus. What if I had changed it altogether, would my shared family history be erased?
6. "No one will understand what your last name is."
There are indeed other people on this planet that have a hyphenated last name! Can you pronounce Marcus? Can you pronounce Donnelly? Now say it with me.
It's 2016 people, and yet, one of my favorite shitty comments is something my wife hears all the time: "Your husband is such a nice guy for letting you keep your last name." I let her keep her name? Yeah, I'm just cool like that because I also let her go to work, spend time outside of the kitchen, wear pants, vote, and get paid 78% of what her male counterpart makes. I'm such a nice guy.
So, what have I learned since changing my last name? My fears were short-lived. I feel empowered. My partner feels empowered. I've learned to be more open to other beliefs, opinions, facts, and ideals. I've learned that every person will make decisions based on what's best for them and their family. Take, keep, hyphenate, or create a new last name, it doesn't matter as long as you're happy. It's not my place to judge. It's not my business.
However, if you are thinking about changing your name, I want you to prepare for reality. I'm sorry that you probably won't receive the support that you hope for and deserve. I'm sorry for the unnecessary pain you have to endure during such an exciting time in your life. I'm sorry that your friends will make fun of you and say that they're just joking, but it will never be funny. I'm sorry that your family will say they support your decisions and that they love you, but won't honor your new last name. I'm sorry they'll avoid the conversation because they can't show support. I'm sorry that those who should be celebrating one of the most beautiful moments in your life won't celebrate your new family. I'm sorry that those closest to you will be the ones to hurt you the most. And, I'm deeply sorry for the women who don't even get to have this conversation.
But, I'm here to tell you that if you make this decision with the right person, you will find happiness. You've made a choice that most men will never make or even contemplate. Be proud of that decision. Be proud of your family. You've shown so much strength in doing so. At the end of the day, it's our actions that matter the most.