What’s in a name?

For a lot of trans people, changing their name is a really big and meaningful step. But for me, I have a hard time figuring out exactly how I feel about the idea of changing my name. Some days I feel apathetic about it and others I feel conflicted. Never once have I felt strongly that I should either keep my name or change it. So for now I take the easiest path which is keeping my first name, although I did change my middle and last names when I got married which was a much bigger paperwork ordeal than I thought. I changed my middle name to something gender neutral so that if I decide to change, I can just go by that name.

The part of me that wants to change it is driven by the idea that people would make less assumptions about me if I didn’t have a male-gendered name. But realistically I know that people make those assumptions regardless based on my voice and appearance. The other reason to change is because of the religious baggage associated with my name. The cult I grew up in treated your name like it was your destiny and when you met the leader, he would tell you the meaning in a very creepy way. All the children in our family had biblical names because of that background. And this month I had a difficult conversation with my dad where he made it clear he would never use a different name for me because this one was “god ordained” and that’s always who I’ll be. And while I had no plans to change my name before that, my first instinct is to say “well if you’re going to shove your “gift” down my throat, then I will reject it.”

The reason I haven’t done that yet is because I have seen how difficult it is for my trans friends to have their new name respected outside our own community. Trying to get coworkers and old acquaintances to switch sounds overwhelming to me and I know it would just increase tensions with my parents when I am still just trying to get them to use my pronouns. I wish I had the courage to be more assertive about these things but right now I am so tired of fighting.

As much as I want to start using my gender neutral middle name with my chosen family and friends, I am also afraid of getting used to it. And more importantly, I don’t feel any stronger a connection with my new name than my old one. To some degree, the name isn’t important to me, at least relative to my pronouns. Is it normal to never feel an emotional connection to your name?

More thoughts on identity

I’m still struggling with knowing whether I am nonbinary because that’s who I truly want to be or as an artifact of the barriers I feel stand in the way of being a woman. I don’t necessarily feel like my brain is composed of part-masculine, part-feminine aspects. I very much feel like I was born with a girl’s brain in what was perceived as a male body. Most people these days understand that femininity is broad and can encompass tomboys and people who don’t wear makeup every day. And with the right body I think I would have made a great girl, although not one that could live up to the expectations of the cult I was raised in.

And I’m definitely a femme. I’m perfectly happy to put on jeans and a tshirt when I’m getting dirty or doing something outdoorsy. But I’ll always opt for very feminine clothing whenever it’s not extremely impractical. I’m not someone who puts on makeup every day but I certainly love doing it when I have the time and I am very particular about my appearance. In other words, a fairly typical woman in my appearance preferences.

So that just leaves my physical body. I’m tall and I have a large frame with wide shoulders and huge feet and hands. So I feel like I could never fit into culture as a woman which is mostly why I don’t try. It’s the fear of rejection from other women that keeps me stuck in this in-between place. Not that women can’t have that kind of frame either; my mom and my aunt certainly do although they often times get questioned in bathrooms about whether they belong because of it. They are 6 foot and 6′ 2″ respectively and my aunt has size 13 feet as well. So if they can do it, why can’t I?

As I’ve said a few times before, I keep my beard mainly because it covers up masculine features of my face that I really don’t like. Somehow the facial hair gives me less dysphoria than the underlying face. But I wonder if I also keep it as a signal to the rest of the world that I’m not trying to pass as a woman so they won’t judge me by that unattainable standard. I guess I’m scared of the ridicule trans women so often get so I try to avoid it by doing my own thing.

So then is nonbinary just a phase I’m passing through on the way to becoming a woman? It’s hard for me to say at this point. And just because it’s a phase doesn’t make it any less valid. It’s where I’m at right now and that’s all that really matters. I’ve found that no matter how much I try to plan, life seems to throw a wrench into the gears and redirect me. So I’m just going to take this one step at a time. I’m starting estrogen in 20 days and I’m curious to see what that does to my brain and my body to shape how I relate to them.

Who knows. One day I may need to rename this blog. But for now I remain your Bearded Genderqueer.
PS – I mostly maintain this blog as a way of shaping my own thoughts. When I start to have big gender feels I often come here to write about them before I’ve even fully thought them through. I wasn’t consciously aware of half the things I just wrote before I got there. So thanks for following along in my very confusing journey.