I resonate very deeply with my father, Michael McLarin’s, energy, so for a while I wanted to make Michael my name. I didn’t get to know him well—he passed away when I was eleven weeks old—so most of the resonation comes from stories I’ve been told about him, and comparisons that have been made between him and me. I base my manhood on what I’ve heard about how my father treated his family, how he treated his friends, and how he carried himself in general. That’s the type of masculinity I want for myself.

So in 11th grade, when I realized I’m trans, I chose the name Michael. But by 12th grade I’d already drifted away from that, because the name hadn’t stuck. A lot of people didn’t really understand what transgender meant. I didn’t really understand what transgender meant.

In college, there was a lot more room for opportunity. I still wanted my name to connect to my dad, but the spelling didn’t feel right anymore. It felt very traditional; I’m not a traditional guy. In trying to queer up my name, I started researching trans people and trans identities, and I noticed that a lot of people would add x’s or y’s—letters that aren’t often in there. So I chose Myke. With the name Myke, I could keep my father’s energy, but also add my own energy.

When I was in the process of changing my name, Myke felt more like a nickname; I wanted my legal name to be more professional. Then I realized that my middle name, Mykell, is a name my mom, Sheila Hatcher, chose because it was a combination of her mom’s name and my dad’s name. I decided to make my middle name my first name, but to pronounce it Michael. And instead of dropping my first name, I made it my middle name, to stay connected to my father. It all worked out so well—now my full legal name connects me to both my parents. If my mom hadn’t chosen to spell my middle name that way, I would have had to come up with something else. That’s why the spelling and the pronunciation are equally important. My name makes me feel connected to all of my family—to my whole history.

When people started calling me Myke and Mykell, it felt calming. I felt seen. I felt heard. I felt recognized and understood. Because in high school, when I’d tried to go by Michael and it hadn’t stuck, I think part of the reason was that I hadn’t been confident enough to be authentic. When that time passed and people started calling me Myke, I developed more confidence. Over time, I have come to deeply believe in my namesake. I have come to deeply believe in the histories I am creating for myself.