​​10 Queer Couples on How They Picked Their Married Last Names

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How 10 Queer Couples Chose Their Married NamesSHENG YE/Pexels

Names are a massive part of our identities—we use them every single day. And for something as personal and important as what you’re literally called, it’s pretty bewildering that you don’t actually get to pick the one you get.

Chances are you know the backstory of your first name; maybe it was inspired by a fave family member or an iconic historical figure. (Or maybe your parents just liked it!) But last names are different. In the U.S., surnames uphold centuries-old patriarchal traditions. In 2002, researchers found that about 97 percent of married couples passed down only the father's last name to their first child. A 2023 Pew Research study revealed around 80 percent of women opted to take their husband's last name, while only 14 percent decided to keep their own, proving that even in 2024, we’re still, mostly, doing things the way they’ve always been done.

But in most queer relationship structures, hetero norms and outdated legal practices are thrown out the window. When you don’t always have one male partner whose last name gets chosen by default, you’re faced with an exciting project: Picking a new name altogether. There’s no guidebook, and the possibilities are endless—do you pick one partner’s name? Keep your own? Create an entirely new name, or come up with a combination?

It’s a deeply personal choice, but picking a married last name (or proudly deciding to keep your own) allows queer people the opportunity to build the families and communities they deserve, and define their legacies in a way that’s unique to them. Below, we asked 10 queer couples how they chose their last names, inspiring all of us to remember that the only correct choice is what feels authentic and right.

  1. “We both wanted to take the other person’s last name when we married, so we decided to hyphenate. We went with Lawrence-Jones instead of the typical alphabetical Jones-Lawrence because we liked the flow of it more. We also wanted our future kids to share our last name, so it was important to us to get our names changed before our first child is born.” —Katie Lawrence-Jones, 34, and Kelsey Lawrence-Jones, 34

  2. "I had already changed my name professionally to incorporate my mother's maiden name, which felt very important for me—to join both my mother's and father's names. For that reason, I knew I wouldn't change mine. Sam, on the other hand, saw the name change less as something associated with marriage and more as an opportunity for a socially acceptable reason to change your name apart from gender reasons. Still, she had spent a lot of time getting her dual nationality and didn't want to deal with the headache of changing her name across two countries. We felt no emotional attachment to changing our names together, so logistically, we felt it didn't make sense to go through all of the legal hoops. We also don't plan to have children, so ultimately we felt there were more important and significant things we wanted for our marriage." —Sara Youngblood Gregory, 27, and Sam Grasland, 32

  3. "I’m a cisgender woman and my wife is a trans woman, so unsurprisingly, we did not have many examples to look toward. Being artists, we thought that making up our own last name would be a potential solution to the problem. However, I asked Lily, who had already gone through an intensive process of changing her first and middle names and gender on every state identity card, if she really wanted to go through that again. Her answer was, ‘No, that process was hell.’ And then I asked, ‘Would it make you uncomfortable if I took your name?’ And she said, ‘Hell no, I would love that.’ And we became Mrs. & Mrs. Kucinski." —Alyssa Kucinski, 35, and Lily Kucinski, 32

  4. “My husband and I got married at an older age. We both had previous marriages before one another. I’m an author, my husband is a doctor, and we have created significant careers with our names. We also didn’t really have the time or energy to go through legal hoops to change names. We had a small ceremonial wedding, too, and decided it was best for us to keep our own names completely. We don’t plan on having kids, so it wasn’t a huge choice for us. If we were younger, things may be different, but I’m happy with this choice. We love each other, and we’re legally married. That’s all that matters to us.” Arthur Forman*, 58, and Peter Levine*, 60

  5. "When my wife and I got married, we knew we would have kids. We’re in a mixed-race relationship and have always planned for the children to be biologically hers, which meant that my kids truly wouldn't look anything like me. We thought all of us having the same last name would help us greatly. I didn't have a huge connection to my last name and she loved hers for a lot of sentimental reasons, having lost both her parents, so we took her last name. It was an easy choice for us in the end!” —Emily Clarkson, 35, and Chelsea Clarkson, 32

  6. “When my wife and I went to decide our new last names, we didn’t want any ties to previous spouses or our families. We first looked at the names of people we admire. She’s a physics college professor who is also a doctor and chair of her department, so we looked at some famous female physicists, but didn’t like any of those iterations. We played around with the letters of our two first names and came up with Dresler. The D, E, and l came from her name, and the R and S came from mine.” —Sarah Dresler, 51, and Adelé Dresler, 45

  7. "My spouse and I chose to combine our last names almost two years ago. We honestly didn't think there was another option besides one of us giving our last name to the other or hyphenating, so we were surprised to find that New York State allowed another option for marrying couples—to combine the last names and form a new one. Immediately, this spoke to us. My original last name was Rocker, and their original last name was Prewitt. In no time, the new name, Rockitt, spilled out of one of our mouths, and we both gasped in excitement. We were also trying to figure out another option for Mr. and Mrs., which we both disliked, and with this new name choice, the obvious choice going forward became Team Rockitt, which was declared at our wedding ceremony!" —Drew Rockitt, 39 and Bonnie Rockitt, 33

  8. "When we were engaged, we wanted to have a family name that we would share with our future kiddos. Both of our maiden last names were German (Eiserman and Schwarz), and together, they sounded clunky, so we knew we didn't want to combine or hyphenate. We wanted something symbolic and meaningful. After trying out many options, one day, we started thinking about Sanskrit words, given our love of yoga. When we said ‘Anahata’ out loud, the name of the heart chakra, it rolled off of our tongues so beautifully and melodically. The meaning behind the word is magical—it literally means ‘unstruck,’ like an unstruck bow of an instrument. We knew we had found our name." —Lori Anahata, 42, and Shannon Anahata, 41

  9. "As a raging feminist since birth, an only child, and someone who’s always really liked their name, I never liked the idea of changing mine. It was a pretty simple conversation with my partner early on. Liz, my partner, loved the idea of changing their last name to mine, Vondran. It also made sense when thinking about safety as a queer couple thinking about having kids. For example, if Liz was in the hospital or if something happened while we were out of the country in a place that wasn't as queer-friendly, having the same last name legitimizes the idea of us being seen as a family. It also legally legitimizes us as parents to our future children. It feels almost radical for Liz, the ‘more masculine’ partner, to take on my last name when it’s a more traditionally feminine role." —Courtney Vondran, 33, and Liz Vondran, 35

  10. "There is no perfect solution for a last name; no right answer, but words are very powerful. Personally, I wanted to redefine a ‘woman's’ role in a heterosexual marriage as a queer woman, which is why my husband and I decided to combine last names. My last name is Fine. My husband's last name is Dziekanski. Our children's last names became the DzieFineskis." Alex Fine, 36, and Perry Dziekanski, 36

*Last names changed.

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