When I was 19 or 20, I started going by a name that was close to my birth name, but more gender-ambiguous. I could get away with it; not many people realized what I was doing gender-wise, but it made me feel a bit more affirmed in my maleness.

That was a weird period in my life, because I was going by a lot of names simultaneously, and not really thinking about what it all meant. The prospect of changing my name, legally, seemed really distant and unreal to me back then. I felt the same way about surgery and hormones. I didn’t realize these things were totally within my grasp and possible to achieve.

I chose Jack because it’s my maternal granddad’s name; my parents would have named me Jack. My birth middle name had been my mom’s middle name—so I made my middle name my dad’s middle name, Thomas. It’s entirely possible that my parents would have made my middle name Thomas.

I’ve always been very close with both sides of my family. I wanted them to know that I was taking this seriously. I wanted them to know that my identity in my family was continuing on, that this wasn’t a break from them. Jack Thomas Pinder is essentially a family name.

Everyone in my family went out of their way to spend a lot of time asking me thoughtful questions. They made a very sincere effort to understand what I was going through. It didn’t even occur to me to tell my grandparents that I named myself after my granddad. I think it was my grandma who asked. And I think that was a missing puzzle piece for them. Of all the things that were difficult for my family to understand initially, my name wasn’t one of them. They always thought the name was lovely.

I’m a performer and an artist, so this might seem weird, but I really wanted a conservative name. Other parts of my life might be for expression and rebellion, but changing my name was never about that. I also never wanted to change anything about me. Transitioning was about becoming better at being myself. The name was a big part of that. And I really love my name. I know I made the best choice with it.