What's In a Name, Anyway!
April 19, 2011
One week and one hour from now, God willing, I will be in Judge O’Brien’s courtroom with a small contingent of friends and allies waiting for my hearing to commence. This will be just one more milestone reached in my transitional journey into the sisterhood that I’ve envied, adored, and longed to be officially admitted to from as far back as I can remember. It’s only a name, but changing mine to finally be gender-appropriate has taken on both symbolic as well as quite personal import and significance the closer my name-change hearing has gotten. As much or more so than applying for and receiving a marriage license (a little over forty years ago) the court’s formal sanction of my “gender-congruent” legal identity shall represent a profound and vital change in who I officially am from that moment onward.
Although the gender designation will remain inaccurately listed as male on my birth certificate and other ID for the time being (until I’ve completed SRS), at least my name will reflect the real me and my true gender. What is in a name? As much as we place in it, I suppose, and I have placed a lot of significance in the name people called me most of my life. It was a harsh and continuous reminder that other people believed I was male. It invalidated my gender with every utterance. It insisted that I must be who other people needed me to be, or wanted me to be, or at least saw me as, instead of being myself. It implied I was delusional or at least profoundly disturbed. It told me every single day that others expected behavior and attitudes from me that felt inappropriate and virtually intolerable. It - my birth name - denied my existence and forced me to pretend to be someone and something that even further negated my existence. It meant I had no chance to experience growing up as a girl, among my peers, among other girls. It meant I could not like who I liked, emulate who I emulated, love who I loved, but feel crippling shame for my genuine feelings, my real interests, my true longings. It was a plague upon me and my identity, which stealthily eroded and corrupted the flesh of who I am like some insidious cancer. But other than that, my birth name wasn’t important to me - I mean, I felt no attachment to it in any way other than in how much I loathed it and the male identity it forced me to wear like an ill-fitting garment, like a little boy’s uncomfortably stiff and scratchy first suit.
The idea of being free of such an onerous and stifling straight jacket is exciting enough, in and of itself. Slipping into the beautifully tailored gown of my feminine name, however, brings me an unparalleled joy I cannot adequately describe, other than to say that (like wearing makeup and feminine clothing) it helps me to feel more like the women I am. It validates my gender in ways that help me to feel good about myself. It reflects who I am, rather than denying the real me. It declares my femininity and celebrates my female essence. It says, “This is who I am, and who I am is someone wonderful and caring, full of tenderness, compassion, and love, someone who is glad to be alive, someone who has a lot to offer and deeply appreciates her life as one of God’s daughters.
So, what’s in a name? For me, my chosen name is my declaration of independence from the tyranny of mis-gendering myself in a vain-glorious attempt to gain acceptance, and it affords me the freedom to humbly accept and be the beautiful woman who is emerging to take the rest of my life’s journey.
My name is, Christina Eileen Shannon. I’m delighted to be who I am, and I’m as eager to experience, celebrate, and share (with others) the woman I’m still becoming. Current Mood: hopefulCurrent Music: silence