What’s In a Name

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Editor’s note: This is a digital version of a profile that appears in the Summer Pride print magazine. We will publish these profiles weekly. If you would like to pick up a copy of OutLife757, copies have been distributed throughout Hampton Roads at libraries, community centers and businesses. Click HERE to find a copy or view the print edition online.

My story starts out as a young lesbian,” said Zain Welsh, a 32 year-old trans man living in Norfolk. “I was in a relationship with a woman, content and happy.”

Born a biological female, he had identified as a lesbian from a young age. With the support of his parents, he lived openly and got very comfortable.

“I could be a girly girl, but I always felt like the man in every relationship, be it with girlfriends or family or friends,” he said. 

“That’s the problem with our society. It has a way of pushing people into either a strictly female or male role. I was comfortable with both, but I was most comfortable with my masuline side.”

In his early 20s, he met his first trans man, and his perceptions began to change.

“I knew what transgender was. I had plenty of transfeminine women, but I didn’t understand what transmasculine was until I met one,” he said. “That’s all it took to connect all the dots that I was a trans man as well.”

The revelation that he could be the person he always knew he was set him on a course to transitioning. One of the steps in the process that all transgender people face is discovering a new name.

“I took my time with that and did a ton of research,” he said. “I didn’t want a common name like Joe or Steve. Plus, my birth name was Brittany, another everyday name, and it was a trigger, hearing that name every where I went.”

“I looked for a name that had a special meaning for me, and I came across Zain,” he said. “It resonated with me.” Zain has its genesis in ancient Egypt where it translated to “gift from god.” It was a gender-neutral name used for both sexes. 

He began to understand the importance of naming conventions, especially in ancient cultures.
“People in those cultures had several additional names, sometimes with four or five defining words that spoke to their individuality and character,” he said. 

“It’s related to how the Native American people came to their names, which didn’t happen at birth. It comes later in life around the late teens, when you earned your name based on life experiences and how you present.”

Zain waited, too, gave it some more thought, then legally changed his name to Zain Jackson Britt Welsh at 24. 

“Jackson had a ring that appealed to me on a number of levels, and it flowed,” he said.

He kept Britt as a middle name as a nod to his birth name.

“I know many transgender people want to leave their birth names behind, and I get it,” he said. “For them, it can be a painful trigger.

“For others it feels like a threat, and if people use it, they go on the defensive. What are you going to do with this information? Misgender me, add-note who you think I really am, use it against me?”

“But I’ve always gone by Britt, which is gender-neutral anyway. Plus there are many people I know who haven’t had the chance to get to know Zain, and Britt allows them to relate to me without offense. 

“I also didn’t want to lose 24 years of being that person,” he said.

“Picking a new name is important for transgender people, but it also has relevance for all people,” he said. “I think everyone should have a name that helps define who they really are.” 

The NorVA