What's In A Name? Everything.
I announced to friends, family, and colleagues this week that I was changing my name as part of my Gender Confirmation process. In the announcement, I included my new email address and Messenger IDs. I also explained that while my previous name was perfectly comfortable for me, I chose Lance as a definably male name to help future employers and readers (one of the many hats I wear is that of author) to know what to expect from me. The responses have been positive so far, with about 85% of my friends, family and colleagues insisting on calling me Lance.
In conversation with Arvan about my blogging for sexgenderbody, he asked whether I would ever post as the name by which he met me. This led me to thinking about my knowledge and experience with names, pronouns and labels.
As I see it, the Trans process involves so much more than hormones and surgery--it involves getting to know yourself, probably for the first time. As that happens for me, I have learned that I must renegotiate entire relationships with my Significant Other, Friends, Family, and Allies (SOFFAs).
I have never met a person who did not want to be understood by the people they cared about. A common thread in Trans conversation is being read correctly (also known as 'passing', though I dislike that term. More on that another day), not just visually, but when interacting with other people. Red Durkin of Tranny Roadshow tells a joke onstage about being a "Woman in a Gorilla Suit", replete with hypothetical lines from others like "I'm sorry about the banana comment."
That underscores nicely what it is to be Trans... what it is to try to simply relate to others when they're miscued by the ways they perceive your body, your face, your name. These cues are how people think about who you are, and that training goes deep. The conflict between the body and who we are can be frustrating, painful, even dangerous. That's why John Doe, transman, changes his name from Jane Q. That's why I won't publish under my former name again (and am talking to my publisher about reissuing my previous publications with the appropriate name).
Everyone deserves a life of dignity and a new beginning. This is the start of mine. Arvan... thanks for understanding how important it is for me to be able to define myself the right way.