Names do matter
I’ve started speaking with my principal about changing my name next year; she seems to be worried about the legal implications, so I’ve been looking for legal precedents. There is a lot of new trans-related legislation, but the laws that apply to trans students aren’t valid in my city, and the ones that do belong to my city aren’t specifically about schools. Actually, there is one very important law that I could use, which refers to underage trans students, but I couldn’t find much information about it; I think I’ll need a lawyer’s help.
The principal also wants my parents’ consent, which I’m not sure I can get. I’ll try, but I don’t think it should be necessary; I’ll be 18, after all, and even if my parents have some power over me until I’m 21 (depending on the situation), my well-being at school should be more important. In the meantime, I’ve been signing my letters to the principal with my male name, asking for permission to organize queer activities, and she’s been sending me the permissions with my female name. It makes sense because the bureaucracy wouldn’t find my male self in the system, but I’m going to continue signing that way.
A few weeks ago I signed up for a career counseling group at school using my female name; I knew they would check to see if I existed in the system and I was afraid the school might call my parents if they realized what was going on. This group started today, but I really did not want to go voluntarily to a place where I would be called by my birth name. Until the last minute, though, I hadn’t decided whether to go or not: it could prove very useful, and it wasn’t fair that I couldn’t go because my identity.
The friends that were present at that moment did not understand why I made such a big deal out of this; one of them argued that she didn’t like her middle name either, but she didn’t fuss so much about it. I sincerely told her that if her name bothered her so much, she should change it too. The point isn’t to compare our sufferings; that doesn’t lead anywhere. I believe we should all aim to be as happy as possible, no matter how small or large our complaints.
I’m tired of hearing that worrying over names is silly. I’m sick of internalizing the feeling that it’s foolish to care so much about a minor detail. It is not minor, nor a detail: I heard a trans woman talk about friends of hers, also trans, who wouldn’t go to the hospital until they were very sick, in order to avoid the humiliation of being called by their birth names; not to mention the discrimination they suffered (there are laws now that protect trans people in public hospitals). No one would risk their life like that if it weren’t so painful and violent to be called by the wrong name.
I ended up going to the career counseling group; it was awful. I decided that my Whole Future was worth being treated as female for an hour, but I hadn’t considered that we would have to introduce ourselves; when it was my turn, I got defensive and probably sounded hostile (oops) when I said I would rather not introduce myself. The counselor was not comprehensive at all and finally forced me to say my name; I couldn’t flee without making a scene. I wanted to run to the bathroom to cry while she went on and on about having to use your name whether you like it or not, especially within institutions where it’s legally needed. I obviously won’t ever go back, but I still think that’s unfair. And I’m more certain than ever that names are not foolish at all.