It’s Not Quite Dead (Name) Yet…

[Author’s Note: So apparently a month between posts was too short, and i decided to go for a month and a half this time…  Seriously, though, i really do intend to make an effort to post more regularly on here.  i’ve just had a lot of stress and, to be perfectly honest, major depression lately, and (as tends to happen when i get really depressed) everything got jammed up in my brain.  On top of that, i’ve been working on staying ahead of myself this semester with both work school and class school, and not quite succeeding at that.  And in my leisure time i’ve been trying to create my own campaign setting for 5th Edition D&D.  i could try to use any or all of that as an excuse for my lack of sitting down and writing on this blog, but the fact remains that i’ve had six consecutive days off from work (last weekend plus four snow days), and i’ve spent most of that time mindlessly playing World of Warcraft or watching my backlog of episodes on Hulu.  The truth is that i really have no excuse; i just can’t seem to motivate myself to really do anything productive (or even semi-productive, like writing on this blog), and every time i feel like i’m starting to crack the shell of this massive mental block, it re-solidifies before i press the advantage.  Anyway, i’ll probably follow this up soon with a news update from the past month and a half.  Right now, i’ve got something that’s been sticking in my brain for a little while, and i’m going to try to use that to get some writing momentum built up…]

Many of my readers already know this, but for those who might not, here’s a quick background for what i’m about to write.  Among the Transgender community, names can be a tenuous subject.  It’s a part of the process for many Trans individuals to discard their given name and choose or create a new one that better reflects their actual self.  Their chosen name then becomes their real name for all practical purposes (and all purposes whatsoever, if and when they legally change it), and the old given name of the wrong gender is generally referred to as their “dead name.”  The term also has a verb usage–when someone dead names you, it refers to them calling you by your dead name instead of your chosen real name.  This becomes a serious issue, especially in the case of family members or others who outright refuse to refer to a person by their real name and insist on continuously dead naming them.  To say that this is considered to be quite insensitive would be an exercise in extreme understatement.

An extra layer of complication is often added in cases such as mine.  i am not out publicly, mostly for professional reasons, as i have explained in previous posts.  Because my public persona is still living under my old given name, i am actually addressed by it more often than i am by my chosen name.  i work five days a week, and my old name is pretty much all i get during that time (along with being called “Mr. ______” and “sir” by students, which doesn’t really help).  Even much of my leisure activity during the week is dominated by my old name.  Most of the crowd at the various structured leisure activities i attend on a weekly basis are not aware of my chosen name at all.  i only really get my chosen name on anything approaching a consistent basis on Sundays, when i go to my support groups.

As a result, my chosen name often still feels a little odd to my ear.  i definitely prefer it, but it isn’t the name i usually am addressed by by any stretch of the imagination.  So my “dead name” really isn’t dead yet, and i haven’t gotten to a point, either professionally or emotionally, where i feel offended by having it used by others.  They don’t know any better, so how can i fault them?  (Beyond the fact that they tacitly prop up a societal structure that makes me live in fear of revealing myself fully to the world, that is…)  i’m just… used to it, and i can’t really consider my given name a dead name.  Not yet…  Maybe not really ever, if i stay in public education…

This makes for an interesting mental state for me, where i don’t even feel hurt when someone who should know better accidentally refers to me by my old name (it happens… not often, but everyone makes mistakes now and then… especially the ones that knew me by my old name before my chosen name).  i don’t feel justified considering the old name a dead name when it is still the name that i am called by for at least 80% of my day-to-day life.  Would i like that to change?  Yes.  Do i see that as happening in the near future?  No, probably not.

So what is the best way to proceed with this?  In a perfect world, i would be able to explain to everyone with whom i have contact that my old name is no longer my preferred form of address.  i could also comfortably introduce myself to new people using my new name.  Unfortunately, it is not a perfect world, and the constraints i have placed on myself for professional reasons (while admittedly at least somewhat arbitrary and mostly self-imposed) still apply to my situation and are unlikely to change soon, if at all.  So i guess i just have to grin and bear it for the time being, which, since i haven’t been able to have the chance to truly acclimate to the old name being dead, won’t be too absolutely horrible, i guess…

It’s just yet another reason for me to wish i was in a more understanding geographical region than here in the buckle of the Bible Belt…

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One Response to It’s Not Quite Dead (Name) Yet…

  1. Arin says:

    You have an undead name–a zombie name! I find the that the idea of a deadname occurs mostly with binary trans people. It’s (slightly) more socially acceptable to go from one major gender to another, and to take on a new name on that journey. I feel like the names of enbies don’t die as easily, for a number of reasons. Professionalism is one reason–your personal safety and job security depend on your being binary-passing and maintaining a name that goes along with that. Also, social transition is more difficult for us because people understand us far less. I gave my parents a pretty easy task insofar as my preferred name, but changing one letter has still proven hard for them, both because of habit and a lack of understanding. In short, don’t feel too bad that your name hasn’t truly died; enbies don’t always have that privilege.


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