Changing name at work as a trans and non-binary person was scary – but it couldn’t have gone better

This is a creative image of Thea Bardot.

Thea Bardot, the “Thunder” and chief executive at Lightning Travel Recruitment, tells PinkNews about their recent experience of changing their name and transitioning while running their own business.

I informed the team of my name change to Thea Bardot by email on Monday morning. I hadn’t planned any of it, but that has been the theme throughout my journey so far – not just in terms of my gender but everything that has been truly life-changing, including my decision to set up a luxury travel and lifestyle recruitment consultancy (without any prior recruitment experience). 

All these decisions have one thing in common: they come from a place of authenticity – from doing what makes me feel good, what feels right. There is no timeline, no spreadsheet. Once the decision is made, that’s it.

It’s difficult to describe, and it may be attributable to my attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but there’s this recurring theme whenever I have one of these epiphanies. It’s like my body and mind are suddenly aligned and I’ve never been so sure about anything in my whole life. It comes with an overwhelming sense of calm, that everything’s going to be OK.

‘It could not have gone better…’

I had no idea how the news would be received. I won’t lie, as a trans and non-binary business owner, navigating my journey publicly, against the current backdrop of an anti-trans climate, there was some trepidation. I try to use my platform to inform and educate allies while empowering others who may be on their own journey towards authenticity. My aim is to show them that it is possible to be yourself wholly and unashamedly. I am living proof.

My main focus initially was on the admin – and there was a lot of it – before I started thinking about how I could tell clients, colleagues and associates in a way which helped them to understand what was happening and that, while I appreciated there would be a period of adjustment, my main request was that they make a conscious effort to get it right. I decided to keep things simple and to share my story in my own words.

You may like to watch

It could not have gone better and I have been absolutely overwhelmed by the positive way in which people have reacted. This exercise has brought the best out in clients and the industry as a whole and people have gone out of their way to show their support, which has ranged from getting my name changed on their supplier platforms and contact lists, to doing the work and further reading to educate themselves.

The interactions I’ve seen from the industry have been 100 per cent positive. The exercise has had no negative impact on the business and people are proactively supporting my reintroduction.

This is an image of a trans and non-binary person signing a document. There is a cake on the table. She is wearing a blue dress with white accents.
Thea Bardot signs the deed poll to officially change her name. (Thea Bardot)

FAQs on changing names

All this just goes to prove that storytelling and authenticity will always be two of the most powerful tools in business.

As part of my update, I pulled together a Q&A in anticipation of the kind of questions that might come up. These were intended to avoid me having to answer the same questions over and over again, but were also aimed at helping to educate anyone keen to learn.

I have adapted these below to be used as guidance for others who may be supporting someone embarking on this journey.

Q: Should we only use your new name going forward?

A: Yes. A previous name is referred to as a dead name, and its use must be avoided.

Q: What should I do if I get it wrong?

A: If you slip up, as can happen, please just say sorry and use the new name.

Q: How did you choose your new name?

A: Some people may wish to share this information, others may not. Let the individual lead that conversation.

Q: Have your pronouns changed?

A: This is a great moment to ask this question!  

Q: As a non-binary person, does changing your name to something more gendered mean you now identify as a woman? 

A: This is a great question and is a reminder to never assume. 

Q: How can we help?

A: Changing the name you have for me in your personal and work phones is a great place to start.

Q: Would you like us to send a communication out about your name change to the wider team?

A: Allow the individual to lead on this: don’t make announcements without first checking with them. 

Q: What about clients? Would you like our support in informing them?

A: The individual in question may want to do this themselves but offering to help them is in itself a demonstration of support.

For our community, our chosen family are the most important pillar in our lives and I wouldn’t be the person I am today without my friends, who threw me a “name-change” party at a south London LGBTQ+ bar. Whatever is happening with your work or business journey, make sure you surround yourself with that chosen family whenever possible.