On Names

I never know what to call myself.

That’s always been the case as far as I can remember– the only thing that  was sure to stick was whatever someone else named me, whether it was a nickname or what’s on my birth certificate. Which, really, just happens to be the one name that the government recognizes. Case in point: I’ve been going by a nickname for almost 15 years now, and since coming to recognize myself as trans more recently, that’s the name that I’ve started giving strangers too. Since then, though, I’ve had lots of other names that I’ve answered to: my rave scene and cosplay moniker; my old DeviantArt username; a handful of “magical names” that I cycled through in my pseudo-Wiccan days, and others I don’t even remember.

As a kid I recall being rather unimpressed with my birth name, and always endeavored to come up with something I liked better, and never being able to do so. Fast forward 20 years later, and as a trans person wishing to let their  birth name fall out of favor in lieu of something a bit quirkier, a bit more androgynous, I drew the same exact blank. I wound up having to outsource my decision to some friends.

This is how Milo came about– the only requirement that I had was that it had to make sense to use with a nickname that I really liked, Lo. My husband asked why I wanted a “real” first name to replace my birth one if I wasn’t planning on using it much anyways, and I told him that someday I wanted something else on my driver’s license. Milo was for me, first and foremost. In a way it was to be the first time I’d ever committed myself not just to a chosen name, but to accepting some kind of self-determination and autonomy that I was having a hard time grappling with.

Truth be told, the idea of having a name that transcended everything else about me didn’t seem right. In fact, something about it seemed terribly unsettling and downright wrong. Part of me will never fully accept that I have the freedom to name myself. Does anyone else have this problem besides maybe Aragorn or Gandalf?

Under more conventional circumstances, this really wouldn’t be an issue. If I were just a trans person that maybe blogged about just trans stuff, or even something more benign, like fandoms, then two names is all I’d need at most: my birth name and a nickname. Handling those two wouldn’t even be considered juggling– you need three or more objects for that.

But no; I still can’t seem to whittle my names down to anything less than what a professional juggler could handle: I’ve got Milo the someday-legal-name, Lo the nickname, the online activist and someday street name, the erotica artist and writer name, and the actual birth name. Some of these are obvious in how and where I could compartmentalize them, and others… not so much.

Take my two blogs for instance. There’s this one, and then there’s Zero Waste Millennial, an attempt at talking about things that are important to me as a green anarchist (y’know, like eradicating copyright law or legalizing jaywalking) in a way that wouldn’t make my parents flip out. So far, its an interesting and successful exercise for me. I also get to practice amateur journalism and essay writing. But how do I reconcile the two blogs? I’m not necessarily a different person when I write here vs. there, but there is different baggage that gets checked, different priorities tackled, and different personas come out. My first inclination is to want to use two different names for the blogs, but WordPress doesn’t allow this as I use the same login for the both of them. I don’t have a “pagan” name–I swore off them when I realized that I’d never be able to settle on anything–so that solves the problem for this blog, I guess. So do I then write at ZWM using my chosen name or something else? It’s an anarchist blog, and I really haven’t done anything to protect my identity from prying government eyes, so my chance at remaining anonymous through the use of a pseudonym is long since gone.

But I can’t shake the feeling that using my day-to-day nickname, or my personal someday-legal first name doesn’t quite seem right still. What if I switched to Keen, my chosen someday-legal surname? I think I probably will, and I apologize for the inevitable confusion. I’m confused myself. :V


4 thoughts on “On Names

  1. An integral part of both my gender (genderqueer) and my religion (mup) is the practice of having multiple names which I use interchangeably (in fact, I usually tell people that the most respectful way to refer to me is to use a different one every time they refer to me!)

    It’s also quite fun at parties, when I introduce myself with three different names to three different people in succession. 😀

    The original intent of this was to keep my central identifying signified quantum and queer — the names all refer to different mes the way agua, mizu, and water all mean different things. The point is to refuse to collapse the waveform, to live in the House of the Question Mark, to reach the Limitless Zero ( thanks for the term, http://www.thorncoyle.com!) through the OMG-So-Many, to identify with everything without having to reduce it all to one.

    I have 12 names now:

    Christopher Douglas Salvatore Hughes
    Grok Amiri
    Staci Everheart
    et alia laughing and weeping
    Wizard Lizard
    Princess Teacup
    Pope Uncommon the Dainty
    Gandalfina Ixtliyollotl Face-and-Heart
    Merlin Monroe
    Darcy Marie Salvadora Hughes
    and all the names I have not yet acquired

    In mup, one of the deities I made up is the saints of the Name, small tiny little bits of your soul that are also not you — they live on the borders of Just, Or, and And (Self, Other, and All) and they are the agents of your magick, how it is accomplished. They have a sort of subsidiary Will that is only half their own, and you have one group for each of your names (thus, I have the situation saints, the reptile saints, the wave saints, the craft saints, et cetera). Everyone has the untamed saints, for they are the saints of the names you have not yet acquired, and they are more delivering-magick-to-you than the other saints of the Name, who are more delivering-your-magick.

    I have recently had to get into a struggle with a Dominant of mine who is multiple (and in fact fur other two submissives are multiple, too; I’m the only singular) because they saw the names as both a barrier to socialization and community membership and as an appropriation of plurality. It took some back-and-forth, trigger activation for both of us, and time before fey finally began to call me by more than one of my names.


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