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When you have the world’s richest man and a soon-to-be-trillionaire as a father, many might forgive you for wanting to keep him close. But not Elon Musk’s son Xavier, 18, who has announced a decision to become a woman and drop the Musk part of her surname in order to lose any association with the Tesla and SpaceX founder, 50.
From now on the transgender teenager - one of Musk’s seven children and five with his first wife Justine Wilson - will go by the name of Vivian Jenna Wilson because she “no longer live[s] with or wish[es] to be related to [her] biological father in any way, shape or form”, according to newly-seen documents filed with the Los Angeles County Superior Court.
So why the sudden cutting of ties? The teen’s new gender identity and legal name change is the first we’ve heard from any of Musk’s five children with Wilson, who have all kept a low-profile until now, and a move that many suggest is a backlash to so-called transphobic comments made by Musk in recent months.
“Pronouns suck” is among tweets the billionaire has shared since 2020, despite insisting he is pro-LGBT rights and that Tesla is one of the best workplaces for LGBT staff.
From the 18-year-old’s upbringing to their father’s stance on the trans debate, here’s what we know so far.
Six siblings and a name change
Griffin. Nevada Alexander. Damian. Kai. Saxon. Exa Dark Sideræl. X Æ A-Xii. These are the (eclectic) names of Vivian’s siblings and half-siblings by Musk, five of whom he had with first-wife Justine Wilson, a Canadian author, and the latter two of whom he had with pop star Grimes, who he has now broken up with.
Tesla founder Musk and sci-fi writer Wilson met when they were students at Ontario’s Queen’s University and married in 2000.
After the death of their first child, Nevada, from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome at the age of 10 weeks in 2002, they conceived twins Griffin and Xavier in 2004, and then triplets Kai, Saxon and Damian in 2006, through IVF. Xavier, one of the oldest pair of twins, was reportedly named after Professor Xavier in X-Men.
Musk and Wilson divorced in 2008 but shared custody of all five children, who have grown up (relatively) out of the spotlight until news that Xavier had filed for a name change this week, having turned 18 - the age of consent - in April.
“Custody of our five children is split evenly. Almost all of my non-work waking hours are spent with my boys, and they are the love of my life,” Musk wrote in an op-ed in Business Insider in 2010.
His second wife, the actress Talulah Riley, confirmed this, saying he was “devoted to his children”. “He tries to come home early for family dinners with me and the kids and maybe play some computer games with the boys,” she said in a book about Musk, saying she and the billionaire saw the children four days a week while they were together.
Later, actress Amber Heard posted pictures of her and Musk’s children while she and the Tesla boss were dating in 2017. Musk himself has remained tight-lipped about his children with Wilson, but has been much more open about his children with Grimes, calling baby X Æ A-Xii (X for short) a “protege” and showing him off on his lap during video calls.
Neither parent nor Vivian herself have commented on the update and whether Vivian will receive financial support from her father going forward remains unknown.
— Tesla Owners Silicon Valley (@teslaownersSV) November 18, 2021
But documents filed in LA show that the teenager lists her legal reason for the change as “gender identity and the fact that I no longer live with or wish to be related to my biological father in any way, shape or form.”
The hearing for the name change is scheduled for Friday. Will she shed more light on the relationship then or in months to come?
A loudmouth father with mixed views
“I absolutely support trans, but all these pronouns are an esthetic nightmare”. “Pronouns suck”. “We are simultaneously being told that gender differences do not exist and that genders are so profoundly difference that irreversible surgery is the only option. Perhaps someone wiser than me can explain this dichotomy.”
These are among the tweets shared by Elon Musk - who is currently in talks to buy the Twitter platform for $44bn - in the last couple of years. Are they the reason Xavier, now Vivian, chose to shun her father so publicly?
In December 2020 the billionaire was criticised for sharing a meme mocking people who put “he/him in ur bio”. Chasten Buttigieg - the husband of US transport secretary Pete Buttigieg - was one such critic, replying: “I hear your frustration, sweetie. See me after class and we can go over the worksheet again.”
Since then Musk has expressed support for the Republican party, whose pledges include limiting transgender rights in some US states, and said he is a fan of Florida governor Ron DeSantis, who has been condemned by the LGBTQ community for his so-called ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, which bans discussion of gender identity and homosexuality in classrooms, and
Musk has since insisted that he is pro-LGBT rights, citing Tesla as a top workplace for LGBT open-mindedness, but this month he weighed into the trans debate again.
“We are simultaneously being told that gender differences do not exist and that genders are so profoundly difference that irreversible surgery is the only option. Perhaps someone wiser than me can explain this dichotomy,” he tweeted on June 11.
He replied to the tweet an hour later, saying “it is a better world is we are all less judgy”. Perhaps that’s something he and his transgender daughter can both agree on.