I – like many trans/gender nonconforming people – have a given and a chosen name. For many people like me, choosing a name is a huge step in affirming and communicating our identities. I had no idea what this process was going to be like when I first started thinking about going by a different name. It’s scary. It’s hard. It’s confusing. It’s a long, unfolding process and it requires a lot of communication and vulnerability. Here is a little bit of my insight based on my own quest for authenticity.
My journey began shortly after I came out as genderqueer. Almost as soon as I had opened up about my gender, my given name began to grate on me. It’s not because I don’t love the name, or love the person I am named after – it’s because this name automatically genders me. I had begun wearing ambiguous/neutral clothing. I have had an androgynous haircut for a long time. My name, however, was something that I thought was fixed. How could I really ask people to call me something different? This would be relatively easy to do with new friends, but my old friends? My family? A lot of my fears around changing my name carried over from my general fears about coming out about my gender identity. In some ways, it seemed like it might be easier to identify as male, because binary genders are easier for many to understand. Changing my name – I assumed – would spark a lot of questions about gender as a spectrum, and force me to defend my identity. Was I ready to do that?
I realized that despite my questions and my fears, I needed to take action. If I was uncomfortable with my name, it was on me to take the leap and change it. I was choosing my name at a point in my development where I was also changing my pronouns. I didn’t love the use of the word “they” as an individual pronoun for gender nonconforming folks (although I’ve since come around), so I thought I could choose a name that would double as a pronoun. I eventually landed on E. E is my name. It also happens to comprise 50% of my given name. Any guesses? E can also be used as my pronouns i.e. “Did you hear what E said?” I got a kick out of this idea because I thought when used as a pronoun, E would make folks sound a little cockney.
Additionally, E is the ending of both “he” and “she” while taking away the pieces that make them gendered. It has not survived as a pronoun, I use they/them/their pronouns now, but it has survived the name test. I am E.
As expected, I have gotten some varying reactions to my name change. Fortunately, none of them have been malicious – at least not to my face. I have mostly received support and genuine efforts from folks to use E. Most of my friends now pretty consistently call me E, although sometimes they may slip up. I completely understand. I am being patient, because I know it is hard to call someone you have known by one name for a long time something different. I have had people tell me that they would struggle with the change. I get it. It’s cool. As long as you try to respect me and my preferences in name and pronoun, I am grateful.
One of the most difficult parts of this process has been coming around to using my chosen name for myself! I was surprised to find this out. When I first made the switch I often found myself introducing myself: “Hi I’m – insert first half of given name – …I mean…E. Just E.” This has also been a bit of a struggle because I am not E in all of my spaces. I am performing a bit of a balancing act with my identity at this point in my development. It’s ok, but ever more I am becoming E universally, and it feels great. Most recently, I even started applying to jobs/volunteer positions as E. This was a huge step for me, because it introduces me as E to folks that I’m not meeting face-to-face. Changing my name on my resume is one step closer to being E, the whole E, and nothing but E.
Wardrobe by: Kirrin Finch