I formally adopted a “mononym” in 2018, right around this season. I didn’t even know that word at the time but I knew I had a deadline to decide what my name was going to be in the credits of my life’s greatest work so far.
At the time I was engaged to be married to who I believed was the love of my life! And whose last name ALSO happened to have a B initial so changing my last name but not initial would continue my charming but complicated triple B name.
Born Bevin Barbara B*****ham I wore a lengthy formal name well as a weird child. I hated how unusual my first name was, how no one could spell it. How I was frequently sorted by schools and summer camps into boy cabins because they thought my awesome gender neutral name was a boy name. I have frequently used the name Jenny at Starbucks.
I didn’t even like my paternal grandmother who I was middle named for! I absolutely ADORED my maternal grandmother whose name (Anise) would not have had the triple B initials and my mom said alliteration won out. I love alliteration, I am into it. My name was a good one for the first part of my life.
I changed my stage last name to a dramatic made-up version of my government last name in 2006. A weird former client when I was a lawyer printed out my Friendster profile and send it to the state ethics committee. (Gay hating? Or just an early adopter troll?)
I knew I immediately needed a strong barrier between my professional government name and the name I used when I threw queer nightlife parties, wrote opinionated blogs and all of my other colorful performance art.
My long complicated name Bevin Branlandingham on so many fliers! I just never loved the real estate it took up when I could maybe just go by Bevin? That always was in the back of my mind but I think it felt like taking up too much space to just use one name. IRONIC that less letters felt like more space.
Prince, Cher and Madonna were early examples to me of what was possible with a mononym AND a body of work to back it up. It felt like, of course they use one name they are icons. By 2018 I was starting to think about how it made me feel to not have a last name on things and the feeling was undeniable. It felt right, clean and wonderful.
At the time I was planning a wedding. And the idea of a bachelorette party felt like a wild hassle! I love getting together with friends but planning a wedding and running a small business are two consumptive things and I felt like a destination wedding was plenty for a bachelorette. The only thing I wanted was that moment where everyone is wearing a cute shirt that matches each other.
You know how at some bachelorettes there is a white tee shirt that says Bride and a different color shirt that says Bride Squad? I saw that for me except all the shirts just said “Bevin” on them in a cute barbie font. With a heart over the i. (How I prefer it written, if you’re asking, is with a heart over the i.)
So with all this swirling in my head I even went on facebook and asked if folks thought I should change my stage last name to my future government last name (my ex fiance’s B last name) OR if I should keep Brandlandingham OR if I should drop my other names entirely. Sometimes just talking it out with folks you love helps get clarity on what you really want. I really just wanted to go by one name!
I am SO GLAD I honored my gut instinct and used my mononym for the credits in the Fat Kid Dance Party aerobics video! I sure am glad I didn’t use my ex’s last name! (She is herself named in the credits–she was a big help on that production.)
Since 2018 I learned from queer ancestor & disco legend Sylvester what a mononym was. I have had to explain to multiple journalists “I don’t care what your editor will say, I really only use one name.” I have learned nearly every last name box is impossible to skip on the internet. I get a heart flip of joy when I see my name on a piece of mail with no perfunctory last name.
It makes me feel closer to Prince who I jokingly refer to as my “real dad.” Prince and Bevin are both 5 letters. He’s good at taking what makes him weird and advancing humanity. I study him on you tube a few times a week–dance moves, performativity and mindset.
It also feels undeniably good not having a middle or last name associated with people from whom I experienced violent abuse as a child.
Renaming is a form of reclaiming and I hope you’ll give my podcast with my friend Mayuri a listen. Their story of reclaiming their name is powerful.
And everyone is invited to my online bachelorette party (kinda a campfire with toasts and a brief bit of drag, poetry and a lot of tender moments!