The single most powerful act I have ever committed was to give myself a name. It was not simply an act of self-love, but of creation and affirmation. I am just now catching up to just how powerful it made me feel at the time. Every day I still have to deal with my old name in some form or another, and I realize that this is not going to go away. But I have also realized that the act of naming myself is an affirmative deed, a political act, that I can look to for strength when I have to confront my old name, or anything else from my past.
When I changed my name, I was still in a life situation where I needed to speak, read, and write my old name dozens of times a day—but as soon as I could, I dropped using that name completely. I was actually kind of shocked at how quickly I dropped it, and how unpleasant it became to have to confront it. This past weekend, I was dealing with some stuff that required me to speak my old name out loud a few times, for the first time in a while. It felt awful. I actually felt dirty, like I needed to go take a shower or something, when I uttered it.
Things finally broke for me last night, when I ran into a stray usage of my old name as an alias for an old instant message handle. I stared at it and felt the single most intense surge of emotion I’d felt in weeks. The moment lasted a split second, but I could immediately recognize its importance. In that second, I finally fully recognized how powerful I had become when I changed my name. I grokked how powerful my name makes me.
In contrast to my own speech acts, the constant misnamings and mispronounings I get from strangers and friends haven’t really bothered me much, at least not yet. I know this is awful self-policing bullshit, but I wonder if the fact that I don’t get as riled up about these things happening to me as most other trans individuals I know means that I’m somehow Less Serious than them, that it means I’m not a Good or Real Trans Person, or that I’m somehow letting the side down. I don’t know if or how this attitude towards myself may change as my transition goes further along, but this is where I am right now, at least as far as other people go. And I feel more confident than ever in my own identity, and the name that goes along with it, that I can look to that confidence for strength and reassurance when I have to confront my past.
I can look at myself and know my name is Emily, in a way that I never felt about my old name, or any nickname I ever used. I don’t feel like an impostor when I introduce myself that way to people; I know I’m not playing a part. I am affirmed when someone calls me by my name. I can feel the power that names bestow, and can recognize the self-love which is the source of that power.
I am a powerful person, and my name proves it.