An ineffable string of random letters and/or sounds that somehow represents you. YOU. Who you are. Your essence. The same word is used to refer to who you used to be; to call your attention to the present; to stand in for who you will become. This name is yours. Your name is yours. You are your name. Even when so many others share the same four, five, six, seventeen letter phrase that, through all your years of existence, has come to signify YOU.
This is why your name is important.
Yet, as transgender and gender-aware people know so well, most names are inherently gendered, which is why most of us choose to change it. We didn’t choose our birth gender, and we didn’t choose our birth name; but we choose our new body, and we choose our new name. Somehow all other aspects of transition don’t have as many options as a name: the possibilities are infinite, and with it the difficulty of a decision increases exponentially.
Sometimes a name chooses us. Much like our gender, as hard as we tried to fit into this or that box, our place in the spectrum awaits us as soon as we discover it, already warm for when we’re ready to nestle into it. But other times, much like our gender and transition and all the choices we’ve had to make along the way, we agonize over our name, mull over a handful of the options, start going down one path only to realize we need to back up or start over.
One of my earlier experiments with names failed miserably. It turns out this was not the right name for me. But is there a “right” name? Or can I at most hold out for a close approximation? Will I be forever stuck with a name with which I can live by, but never truly feel at home in?
I can think of a sizeable number of names that I like, or would like to like. I dream of a name I can call mine, a name I can see myself in, a name that is ME. But it is just a dream.
Given this constant state of flux I’ve been in for years, not being able to see myself in my name – for perhaps my whole life – I’ve come to feel like there is no name at all that fits. It is, after all, called transition, wherein motion is implied. My transition is in progress, with no end in sight. And what is constant motion but a blur; what is the space between moleculues but emptiness; what is something that has no name but ineffable – undescribable, undefinable. Do I even exist without a name? What can I call ME? Who is ME?
Finding a name that “fits” has been one of the hardest parts of my transition.