Remaining stealth is important to many bloggers for a variety of reasons, and I frequently refer to my inclination for semi-anonymity. But lately it has become increasingly difficult to keep all of my identities in check, neatly compartmentalized and perpendicularly aligned, as my lives intersect in many ways.
Whenever I have to give out my “real” name to someone – by “real” I usually mean last name, as my first name lost any sense of realness long ago – I advise them that I prefer to keep it private, separate from my “online” identity, my trans identity. I explicitly clarify that this means no outward public links between the two. My last name is quite unique, and thanks to my prowess as a professional web person, googling it would lead you straight to me – the “other” me, that is. Thus, I actively avoid creating the situation where searching for one of my names would lead you to the other, especially when it concerns digital fingerprints, which are the most visible, yet indelible, of all.
But the fact that there are situations in which I reveal myself – rather, my last name, or details of the physical world which we’re connected to – unearths the very purpose of writing this.
Where is the line between these two “me’s,” both of which are “real?”
Professionally, my work has nothing to do with being trans or even queer to any degree. But people ask about my personal life, which includes a lot of time spent doing advocacy and education, not only online, but offline as well. Most of the time I keep it under wraps, because I’m generally quite a private and mostly distrustful person. Once in a while I will let someone be privvy to some details. Rarer still, I will give them a link to this presence, which in some ways is more real than the daily self I put out there.
If you’re a super sleuth, you’ll also remember that I volunteer for a local Speaker’s group, where we talk to schools, colleges, and other professionals about being LGBTQ. As we tell our stories, I’m often compelled to point people to the blog, at least when it’s an older audience. Through this I’ve met many real trans people, queer advocates, medical providers, and well… friends. “Real” friends, or rather, real friends. One of these friends is taking her morning off to take both me and my partner to our driver’s test. Another of these friends brought me blueberries and a sandwich when my partner was away on a trip, and I was at home, sick with the flu.
At some point I let these two identities cross paths, but when exactly is that? When I send an email to someone I met in person, do I send it from my pseudonym, or through my personal account? Suppose we met in a non-trans context, and I had already introduced myself, or my full name was already known, or a friend referred me to them? When I present myself in conferences, what name do I use? What happens when I publish a book?
Each situation is unique and complex, with no right answer. What’s more, juggling these identities has led to confusing inconsistencies, both for myself and others. And I much prefer order.
A friend/co-worker, who also happens to know about this “other” me (yes, the rare combination) once remarked that I seem extremely proud of my work here. I’m damn proud! I want my name attached to any of my accomplishments, big or small. I want my partner and my parents and my friends to be proud, to point and say “I know that awesome little person.” I also want to put myself out there, to show the world that “real” people are transgender people, and some of them have a non-binary gender. We simply exist.
It’s not just about an anonymous blog anymore; it has become so much more. It’s about national conferences, local lectures, interviews with news outlets and magazines. It’s about advocacy and education at every chance I get – whether that’s online, or off. It’s about confiding in a stranger on the other side of the world, or shaking someone’s hand. It’s about meeting someone who happens to be 6 degrees, 3 degrees, 1 degree apart from my “other” life, each time more intimately connected in unexpected ways. It’s a (creepily yet unsurprisingly) small world.
I want to keep my identities separate, but they aren’t distinct – it’s all one me.
Someday, this conversation will no longer be relevant. Until then, I’ll be working on that book.