Moross who? Aries Moross on the challenges and rewards of changing your name
The founder of Studio Moross talks us through the process of changing their name publicly and what the difficulties have been, as well as offering some advice for how you could make the process easier for others.
- Aries Moross
- 29 July 2021
Aries Moross founded their eponymous studio in 2012, one that has since garnered international aclaim for its bold, colourful and energetic typographically-led branding and design work. Alongside the growth of the studio, its founder’s online following has also grown which, when they wanted to change their name, posed some problems – both logistically and emotionally. To aid and announce that transition, from Kate to Aries, they have written the following piece. In line with the publication of this article, we have amended all references to Aries’ former name across It’s Nice That, however, unfortunately, we are unable to change this in the URLs.
I used to say a name is just a sound, but I know that is an understatement. A name is a sound, but it is often also a brand, especially in the creative industries. It can be your income. It is how you are remembered. It is how people understand who you are and it can also be how you create space for yourself to be seen.
I came out as trans and non-binary a few years ago. I changed my pronouns shortly after to they/them. It took a while to get used to those. At first, hearing they/them being said made me feel uncomfortable but I later realised that it wasn’t the pronouns that made me feel this way, I was picking up on the discomfort of others. Their mistakes and missed corrections felt heavy in the air. I’ve tried to describe this feeling to people – the best I can do is, it feels like you are asking them to compliment you. Like you are asking them for labour they didn’t sign up for. When they mess up and don’t correct themselves it feels like something has broken between you and them. But amazingly when they do correct themselves, it makes up for it tenfold.
In the workplace, it has only been in the last eight months or so I have found clients making more of an effort to get things right. If they have made an error they email after, or correct it on the spot. On some calls, people have even asked for pronouns when we start a project. All brilliant progress. Has having pronouns in my video call screen name helped? Maybe more people have also learned about pronouns from some Instagram swipeable – a format that has become more and more popular over the last year or so. Either way, when a client has used my pronouns I have felt euphoric, it is a sign that things are changing. It is also a sign to not work with people who don’t try. Perhaps it was this progress that has made me feel like it was time to change my name.
I named the studio with just my last name, Moross. I think it was because I didn’t want it to be tied to me so closely, but was there something else in it? With that foresight, thankfully I only have one rebrand to conquer instead of two. Kate has provided some obstacles. Most people’s representation of a trans person is a binary trans person that disowns their assigned gender, name, appearance, etc. I don’t subscribe to the idea that gender is binary nor do I think names have a gender or should be used to classify someone into a gender. However, the world around me doesn’t have the same view. Kate = girl, Kate = she/her. Every taxi, coffee, interaction with a stranger where my name is in the picture I’m perceived as “a Kate” when I want to be perceived as a “?”. I don’t want people to make assumptions about me, I want to be given the space to be myself. After lots of thought, I realised that changing my name could do that.
Looking for a name at 35 is really difficult. From conversations with other trans people, there are three main trends. You find one straight away and switch instantly and feel great about it; you experiment with a few names in different contexts and see which one feels right; or you aren’t particularly sure and take the plunge, understanding that things can change.
Right now I feel like I’m stuck between two and three. Whilst also having a fourth more difficult hurdle: a public name. A name gives you a context in the world and in your job. I’m certainly not well known enough for a TV special with Oprah so how do I do this? I am afraid of losing what I have built, of ostracising clients who may not be able to adjust, maybe I am experiencing some grief for the person I was even though I have never been so happy for the person I am.
There are logistical issues too. I’ve been in my career for 15 years. When you search my name on Google there are 125,000 returns. Not to mention the signed artworks, product collaborations, the book with it on the spine. The admin online is even larger and it feels completely overwhelming. Social media seemed like the best place to start, but has proved the most challenging. Most name changes for trans folk publicly start here. I’m verified on both Instagram and Twitter, the process of which is obscure enough, I had no idea how to navigate changing my name and keeping my verification. I had connections, and I waited a few weeks for replies. How can these platforms make this process more accessible for others? There will be others.
When it came to choosing a name, I had a list that initially kept it close to Kate, but why? My friend said, don’t make it like your old name to make it easier for other people, pick a name that works for you and don’t rush. I learned quickly that telling people your name options meant they all had opinions, they wanted to tell you what they liked or didn’t like. This didn’t help either. How do you ask people to be impartial but also ask for affirmation? Impossible. Instead, I worked through my list and picked Aries, that’s me, I’m an Aries. When I see astrology memes I feel like they are made out to me personally. That’s very Aries of me.
Workplaces can be a scary place for many trans people. When I changed my name at work earlier in the year it was instant. I switched my name on Slack, and everyone got used to switching between my new name and old name for internal and external meetings, pretty impressive. I wish all trans people’s workplaces could be like this. I would log into a spreadsheet and all instances of my name will have been magically updated, thinking about that makes me emotional. I thank the team for their support, I couldn’t ask for better co-workers.
So. Moross who? Please call me Aries Moross in the future. Some advice on how this could be done. “Ah yes, I spoke to the director of Studio Moross today, by the way, they have changed their name to Aries Moross.” If you have written about me and you can change my name in the articles or posts I would really appreciate that, just like It’s Nice That has done today. I am preemptively sending my thanks to anyone who corrects someone who didn’t get the memo in a graphic design class or on an Instagram post in the future.
You may have heard the term “deadnaming” which is using someone’s former name – also known as a “birth name” – most commonly in regards to trans people. Some people deadname to deliberately cause harm, it can be a microaggression, or it can just be an accident. New names can take some time to get used to, especially for close friends or family. I ask you now to remember that not all trans people have the same experience, we are completely unique in our identities. For some, their old name is off-limits and should never be spoken of, for others, it’s a part of them and their history. I know that “Kate Moross” will never be erased fully, that is just part of my timeline now. But please respect each individual’s relationship to their names old and new, and I suggest the best practice you can adopt in life is never to make assumptions about anyone.
So that’s what I’m going for. I don’t want to be in limbo anymore. I want to see how this name feels at the top of this article. I want to see how it feels spoken by clients. I am taking this time to see if it feels right, and acknowledging it might not be. I may change my mind, and that’s OK too. How did you know when your name felt right? Cyrus Grace Dunham answered this so perfectly in his article A Year Without A Name, which so many people recommended me to read when I was searching for this answer. As he wrote: “The answer was never, or sometimes, or not yet, or not fully.” And you know what, when you take back ownership of yourself, that can be enough. As trans people, we can feel uncomfortable doing things for ourselves, creating spaces for our bodies. That’s mostly because we don’t see it done for us that often. I am doing this for myself, but I am also doing it to be visible to the future creatives out there who may want to do this too. To show an example of it being done, and it being fine, and people just scrolling on like it was nothing.
Below, Aries share some tips on how to make a name and/or pronoun change in the workplace easier for others:
- Never assume what name someone wants to use at work, especially not based on their ID or passport. Ask people how they would like to be referred to. That goes for nicknames etc. Make sure you are using names people are happy with, trans or cis!
- Ask people annually if they are happy with their name and pronouns at work, this could give someone an opportunity to speak up if they did want to change them but didn’t have the confidence to ask.
- Google for business will allow you to change a name and will auto-correct this across the entire system. It’s built to allow for name changes easily.
- Other email servers can be fixed by setting up forward email addresses or alias’.
- When you have a meeting with new members/clients, let everyone say their name and pronouns. Make it a part of your work environment and this will put the pressure off trans people.
- Put your pronouns in your email signature and video call screen names.
Aries Moross: Moross Who? Original photos by Shenell Kennedy, Faith Aylward and Ina Moana (Copyright © Aries Moross, 2021)
About the Author
Aries Moross is a creative director, illustrator and designer, and the founder Studio Moross. Their clients range from pop artists to DJs, with projects spanning everything from album campaigns to live shows. They’ve worked with Kylie Minogue, Sam Smith, Disclosure, Spice Girls, Jessie Ware, The Blessed Madonna, One Direction and more.