by Lady Amanda Martel, Crux Australis Principal Herald
Registering your medieval name and coat of arms with the College of Heralds is an important part of many people’s experience in the SCA, but for trans and gender diverse people, it can be a little daunting. The College of Heralds would like to extend our welcome and support to our trans and gender diverse members.
If you’re new to the SCA, and looking to register your name and coat of arms, then you should have no problems! Anybody can register any name they like, so long as it’s a plausibly period name, and not already taken by someone else.
The only checks about a name’s gender is that it’s internally consistent. For example, if you’re submitting a first name that was only considered male in period, with a surname that means “daughter of”, you will probably not be able to register that.
There are no checks about the gender of a name against your real-world identity, either in your presentation or your legal documentation.
Coats of arms aren’t gender-specific at all, especially since in period they’d be inherited down the family line.
So, you’ve been in the SCA a while now, and you have your name and device registered already, but now you’re in a position to transition, and want a name that better reflects who you are. First of all, congratulations!
The list of everything that’s already registered is a publicly searchable database (which we call the O and A, or Ordinary and Armorial). In standard practice, once something is put into the O and A, it stays in there. This can be the main stumbling block for people transitioning, but there are ways to deal with it.
You can just submit a change of name, like anyone else deciding that they want to have a change. But for your situation, the problem is that the O and A will have a listing saying “<old name> was changed to <new name> in <month of year>”, which you may or may not find uncomfortable.
If you want to avoid this, another option is to submit a new name while acting as if you were a whole new person, and then have the ownership of your existing arms changed. This transfer is also listed on the O and A, but looks like someone generously gave up their registration to someone who wanted it more.
This can be done discreetly. There are standard form letters for transferring armoury from one person to another, which any herald should be able to help you with
For more help, or to have someone on hand to smooth things out for you through the process, have a private conversation with your Kingdom’s Principal Herald or Submissions Herald (for Lochac, these are Crux Australis and Rocket) or another herald, if that’s more comfortable for you.
But, perhaps you want a more full break from your old identity, either for safety or for your own comfort. That’s fine too. You can register a new name and new coat of arms, doing the process just the same as any other new registration.
If you’re taking this route, it can still be useful to speak to your Kingdom’s Principal Herald or Submissions Herald about the process, so that they can smooth out any bumps along the path quietly.
If you want to have your old name removed from the O and A entirely, or to otherwise have the O and A modified in a way that is outside the normal procedures, this is possible.
To do this, contact Laurel Sovereign of Arms privately, and they can help you through the process, including working out which approach to the changes will work best for you.
You should not need to give them more personal details than you are comfortable with, only enough to show that you own the items you’d like deleted. Your personal reasons for the request can remain private if you wish.
It’s up to you which approach you take. Do what makes you most comfortable
Maybe your original name is from a culture that didn’t gender their names very much, so you don’t need to change anything.
Maybe you want to keep your coat of arms, since you’ve always been who you are, and it’s just the name that’s a problem.
Maybe your name and coat of arms are so linked in people’s minds that you want a fresh start.
It’s recommended that you get your Kingdom’s Principal Herald or Submissions Herald to help with the process, if you take one of the options to try to minimise how the changes show up in the O and A. They can help make sure the process goes smoothly.
If, for any reason, you’re not comfortable approaching them, then you can talk to Laurel Sovereign of Arms instead, or to another herald that you know and trust.
It’s our goal to have the process be as easy and as safe as possible for you.
For many cultures in period, names were quite strongly gendered. Luckily, this isn’t true for all cultures.
Some cultures have names which were used by people of any gender, with little to no difference.
Others have names which were used heavily by one gender in period, but are mostly perceived as another to a modern ear.
If you would like a name not tied to the gender binary, please consult with one of our heralds. They can help you find something that fits you perfectly.
You may find yourself restricted in which cultures and time periods you have to choose from, but nothing says that your name’s culture has to restrict your outfits or activities.
Please note that while the current name submission forms include a checkbox for submitter’s gender, this information is no longer wanted. The checkbox is going to be removed entirely in the next version.
Awards and the Order of Precedence
If you have an entry in your Kingdom’s Order of Precedence, your transition shouldn’t have any negative effect on that. The awards you have were given to you, not to your name.
As these are maintained by the individual Kingdoms, and are not the SCA-wide behemoth that is the O and A, a complete removal of your old name to replace it with the new will be possible.
In fact, it is a policy of the SCA-wide College of Arms that Kingdoms should allow this to be done quietly and such that nobody can trace a link between the old identity and the new.
As with the registrations above, please contact your Kingdom’s Principal Herald or Precedence Herald (in Lochac, this is Canon Herald) to have them handle the process.
If you’ve previously lived in another Kingdom, you may also be listed in their Order of Precedence. The process should be similar for your previous Kingdoms as your current one.