How To Make Good Names for Trans and Nonbinary Characters

Trying to make your writing more LGBTQIA+ inclusive and don’t know where to start? Keep reading for ways you can name your trans and nonbinary characters.

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Have you ever spent hours browsing through “top 100 baby names” lists? Maybe you’ve spiraled so far into rabbit holes of name variants, meanings, and origins that your tabs are unreadable? Finding the perfect name is hard, but deciding what your trans or nonbinary character would name themself?

If you want to know how to write trans and nonbinary characters, I encourage you to read books written by trans and nonbinary authors, such as Beyond the Gender Binary or An Unkindness of Ghosts. But if you’re looking for a simple guide on how to name these characters, look no further! Being non-binary myself, I’ve compiled a list of some of the most common naming schemes I’ve seen used.

Some Common Terminology

Anyone familiar with the concept of dead versus chosen names might want to skip this section. Otherwise, here are some short explanations!

Your legal name is the name you use for legal purposes, such as signing important documents. The legal name assigned to you at birth is generally called your given name. There are lots of reasons why one’s legal name may change. A parent might rename their adopted child, or an adult may take their spouse’s last name after marriage. A trans person might choose a new name to match their identity.


A chosen name, also referred to as preferred or affirmed name, is the name that an individual identifies with. Assuming the situation is safe and accepting, this is the name they will usually use in practice. When a trans individual chooses a new name, their given name is often referred to as their dead name. The only time a person’s dead name should be used is if the individual has explicitly asked you to.

If you deadname someone, it could make them feel dysphoric. Gender Dysphoria is the discomfort people feel when aspects of their life don’t match up with their identity. Some people desire to present and be referred to in a masculine or feminine way, or even as some of both. Others might prefer not to fall into either gender presentation, which would be referred to as being androgynous.

These explanations are not meant to be all-encompassing, as every trans person will have their own feelings about the language surrounding their identity. But this is the vocabulary I’ll be using moving forward. With that out of the way, let’s get into it!

A Variation Of Their Given Name

Many trans people keep close to home by choosing a differently gendered variant of the same name. Someone named Jackie might choose the name Jack, or the name Nate might become Natalie. If someone doesn’t like the gender their dead name associates with, but they also feel weird about changing it, this is a solid medium.


Another reason your character might choose this method is that, depending on what their given name is, it may be passable as a nickname. It’s often not safe to come out of the closet completely, and passing off ‘Jack’ as a cute name given by friends could save your character’s skin. Passing their chosen name off as a nickname also increases the chance of convincing someone who might be transphobic to use it. The catch here is that their chosen name usually needs to be more androgynous.

Keeping The Same Letter

This one’s pretty self-explanatory. Keeping the first letter of your character’s name would provide a sense of familiarity without the discomfort of being too similar to their dead name. It’s a good choice if you think your character’s given name would make them dysphoric, but you want to tie both their dead and chosen names together.


In this case, there’s a lot of creative flexibility! The name Andrew could become Annie, but it could just as easily turn into Ashley, Abigale, Ava… The list goes on!

What Their Name Would Have Been

Have you ever been told stories about what your name would have been if you were born the opposite sex? Using this naming scheme for a character not only helps build backstory, but could also be used to portray a strong connection between the trans character and their parents. On the other hand, your character could choose this to pacify their parents and protect what strained relationship they might have.


Adjacent to this, a trans character’s parents might want to be involved in the naming process. Whether that’s choosing their whole name for them, just giving them a first or middle name and having them choose the other, or just helping them brainstorm, it’s something to consider for your story.

Using Inspiration

Is your character a big nerd? Do they have a fictional character they look up to or identify with? When people have strong passions, especially relating to fictional media, it can often become a part of their own identity. Not only does this naming scheme get you twice as much bang for your buck by combining a name with characterization, but it’s a good explanation as to why your character might have a very unique, oddly fitting title for themself.


This naming scheme suits those who have very strong interests or generally don’t care about how they are perceived by others. A trans person who would rather blend into the crowd would probably prefer a more generic name, like Jake. In fact, they might even be judgmental about a trans person using a very unique name. Meanwhile, if your name’s Phoenix or Kit, you might think of the name Mary as a boring choice. As much as queer people flock together, not all of us get along. That might be something to consider when you’re developing and naming your characters.

Try Before You Buy

Some people pick a name and stick with it. But like how most people change careers, move to new places, and develop as people, the first name your character uses might not always stick. Your character could try out a couple of different options, either one after the next or in conjunction with one another. They could cycle through one after the next, accruing a small collection of names that they’re comfortable with. And if you think your trans character would have lots of different names at a young age, there’s a good chance they might have one or two they’d cringe at hearing again in adulthood.


This naming scheme could be a good way to distinguish who met your character around what point in their life. For example, if your character went by Ash in high school, but changed their name going to college, people who haven’t seen them since high school would probably still call them Ash. It’s up to you whether or not your character would correct these people or if they’d opt to let various groups use different names for them.

They Don’t Have To Change It

After all that talk about given names, dead names, legal names, and chosen names, now I’m telling you to just stick with their given name? It might seem rather strange, but not every trans person changes their name. They might have a more androgynous name, like Logan or Alex. They could also be non-binary, meaning that they don’t consider themselves specifically a man or a woman. You could have your genderfluid character pick a new name to use alongside their given name, or your demi-girl character might not mind if they were born with a more feminine name.


As someone who’s nonbinary, I’ll use myself as an example. Personally, I see my given name and the various nicknames I’ve been called almost as markers of different parts of my life. Kaitlyn is my given name, which I associate with both high school and my professional life. I associate Kaity with childhood, and Kait with my present self. I also have nicknames that have nothing to do with my given name. But I consider them just that, nicknames. While there are things that make me feel dysphoric, my given name is not currently one of them.

Looking for more? Check out some YA books with trans and non-binary reps here!