Navigating Identity: The Significance of Names in Self-Discovery

By Cj Rosenstiel

In the intricate tapestry of identity, our names are the first threads, weaving the fabric of who we are. They carry history and significance, shaping our sense of self from birth. But what if the name we're given doesn't quite fit? This question sparked my journey of self-discovery, delving into the essence of being and my place in the world. Despite multiple legal name changes, none felt right, prompting a deeper exploration.

When my partner, Jennie, and I welcomed our boys into our family, we knew their first names would remain unchanged. However, understanding the importance of cohesion and security, we opted for matching last names. This decision was crucial, providing a safety net for our young sons, especially our eldest, who was prone to wandering.

Embracing tradition and heritage, we decided on Hebrew names for our boys. Giving our eldest the agency to choose his Hebrew name empowered him to assert his identity. Jennie and I incorporated parts of their Hebrew names into their middle names, a collaborative process that reflected our family's journey of exploration and understanding.

Now, aged 12 and 10, both boys are aware of their full names given by their mother of origin. They understand the significance of names in shaping identity and know they have the freedom to explore and redefine themselves. Supporting their journey of self-discovery is paramount to us, as we hope they find names that are a perfect fit—a true reflection of who they are.

In our family, names are not just labels but symbols of individuality and belonging. They remind us of the complexities of identity and the power of self-discovery. As we navigate this journey together, our hope is that our sons embrace their names with pride, knowing they signify not only where they come from but also who they aspire to be.



Cj works in IT doing telephony project work at Progressive by day, advocating for trauma-informed care in public schools and as a board member of Transracial Journeys, he contributes to fostering understanding in transracial adoption communities. Together with his partner Jennie, Cj lovingly parents two transracially adopted boys by night, showcasing his commitment to family and inclusivity.

This post is from our April, 2024, newsletter. If you would like to get our newsletter in your inbox each month, as well as information about our annual Transracial Journeys Family Camp and our monthly Zoom call to provide support for our transracial adoption parents please subscribe.

April Exploring: What’s in a Name?

Our names are central and significant to who you are and, in essence, can be the keystone of identity. When your child is adopted, there’s another world, another narrative, and perhaps another name that accompanies them along their identity journey. The way in which we build a strong and healthy identity often begins with our names as one of our central and original “keystone” building blocks.

June-in-April Calendar Conversation Cards

Transracial Journeys invites your family to experience the calendar in a whole new way. With the help of the June-in-April Calendar Conversation Cards, each month your family is invited to use the cards as a tool for more regular and intentional conversations about identity, family relationships, and differences of race and culture.

Each month has four cards with conversation starters. The prompts and questions are designed to spark reflection and ongoing dialogue within your family as well as with extended family and friends. There is no prescriptive way to use the cards, sometimes parents or grown-ups can take the lead and ask the questions and other times, children can go first.

April Pro-Tip for Parents: Becoming more fully aware of the deeper elements of adoption related to names will prepare you to authentically hold the realities of identity formation experiences. Diving into these delicate topics may evoke strong emotions. Have confidence in yourself to take steps on this journey. As part of the TRJ community, you have the support, love, and guidance of this community to commit to moving toward complexities in service of a healthier, fuller experience of adoption for your child/children, your family, and for YOU!

April Exploring: What's in a Name

• How do you feel about your name? Love it? Dislike it? Have never really thought about it?
• Did you ever change your name?

• How did you choose my name?
• Do you know if I had a different name before I was adopted?
• Did you discuss my name with anyone in my family of origin?

• Does my name have cultural significance?

This post is from our April, 2024, email newsletter. If you would like to get our newsletter in your inbox each month, please subscribe.  You will get invitations to our monthly Parent Meet-Up, a virtual meeting to act as a transracial adoption support group - sharing issues, ideas and strategies for creating a culture of communication and curiosity in your home, as well as monthly card prompt to keep the conversations about race, adoption, family, love and relationships front and center all year long.  And lastly, you'll always be made aware of important dates for Transracial Journeys Family Camp.