What’s in a name anyway? We get finicky sometimes over how our names are spelled or pronounced right? I grew up in the US with a French last name that no one could pronounce right and having to argue with kids who thought that they knew better than me how it should sound. Then, back in Quebec, I have frequently had to correct people who misspelled my last name (there are two common ways of spelling it here). However, it’s not until recently that I’ve realised what’s in a name, for me.
As mentioned in a previous entry, I came out at my workplace in a massive way a few weeks ago. The response has been great and most people have switched to calling me Jacky. Interestingly, and probably unsurprisingly, it has been easier for people who know me a little less since they have not been interacting with me as closely for the past 5 years. People who I interact with more and have become friends with still slip which is, of course, perfectly understandable. As one colleague explained just this evening, we make visual associations between people and their names. I’ve made it clear that I am in no way insulted by these slippages. I know that it’s normal and that it will take a while. First of all, I try to put myself in the place of someone who knows someone through transition; I have only known trans people who were already in transition and had adopted their new identity and name so I don’t know what it’s like to have to make that mental adjustment. Secondly, as another colleague put it, I should feel happy that so many people know my name so well to start with – it’s a sign, as she put it, that I have been so involved in my workplace (we function as a community in many ways as educational environments are wont to do) that I’ve made myself known as a active presense in the college.
While most people have been very respectful and supportive, for which I am so so so grateful everyday, there are a couple of people who, without realising it, have shown various degrees of disrespect in a way that they would probably never do to a non-trans person. 4 (count them!) people at my workplace have made requests to call me Jack instead of Jacky. Now, 2 of them are people that I consider friends and they did ask nicely so that was OK. I wasn’t too upset – I just politely asked that they call me by the name I had chosen (Jacky). The third one is not someone I would consider a friend but certainly a friendly acquaintance. He did ask but in a way that implied that it would be very useful FOR HIM if I let him call me Jack. Again, I gritted my teeth and politely asked him to call me Jacky. Now the fourth one . . . boy did she piss me off. She didn’t ask. Her words: “I’m really liking Jack so I think I’m going to call you that.”
I hardly know this person. I’ve had a grand total of 2 conversations with her and a handful of “hello’s” in passing in the hallways. And she has the gall to not ASK but TELL me that she was going to call me by a name other than my own. Would she TELL a non-trans person that she had unilaterally decided to call them by another name? Is it the fact that I chose my name that makes people think it is less meaningful than a name assigned at birth? I’m utterly perplexed and confused.
There is another name thing that is bugging me a bit while I’m at it. It’s not bugging me to the point that I would’ve written a rant about it but since I’m ranting anyway I might as well include it. For some reason, some people have felt that I owed them an explanation of why I chose my name. I’m not saying it’s not OK to ask, especially if someone is my friend. But what irritates me is people who ask in that tone of voice – you know the one – “Why THAT name??”, with a look of disbelief on their face. You know . . .in the same tone of voice that one might ask: “Why did you order COCKROACH SOUP from the menu??”
Well, because I feel like it tonight, I will hereby provide the definitive answer to why and how I picked my male name. Over the past few years, as my desire to transition increased in leaps and bounds, I contemplated two names: Michael and Robin. I wasn’t nuts about Michael though. I don’t dislike it but I didn’t feel that it suited me. I simply thought it would be appropriate since my parents had planned on naming me Michael (the Dr. said I would be a boy because of the speed of my heartbeat. This was 1973, before ultrasounds). On the other hand, I liked Robin because of its androgynous nature. Although I am now male identified, I still consider myself androgynous when it comes to personality. Besides, my alltime hero is Robin Hood!
However, once I made my Decision (yes, the cap is intentional there, in reference to the day that it became concrete in my mind that this was what I wanted to do and that I am as allowed as anyone else to be fulfilled and happy and comfortable in my skin and to feel HUMAN), neither of these names wound up feeling right. They just didn’t feel like me.
What felt like me was Jack or Jacky. But I hesitated. My dad’s name was Jacques, or Jack to the Americans where we lived, and I was concerned that it would come across as having “Dad issues” (which I do have, but whatever). So I decided to keep exploring. At one time, I seriously contemplated Charlie. I wasn’t nuts about it but it made sense. My dad’s younger sister’s name was Charlotte (my middle name and the name of my slutty female alter-ego by the way, the one that, until recently, would go to sex clubs and fuck strangers just for fun and excitement) and he always called her Charlie. He would proudly boast about what a tomboy she was and how tough she was. So it seemed to be a logical choice: using an androgynous version of my own middle name. In addition, I looked it up on various baby name websites and found out that it means “free man.”
But. But. But. It just didn’t feel like me. So I said “Screw it, Jacky is who I am.” I do really like Jack, of course and I always have. But it feels much more manly than I’ll actually ever be. Perhaps when I’m in my 40s I will feel that I deserve the name Jack but, for some reason, Jacky sounds more boyish to me and I feel that I need to be a boy before I can be a man. I also like how mischievous Jacky sounds and how it has an androgynous quality. Most importantly, I really like it because it sounds like me and who I want to be.
And yes, I AM proud to be named after my father. He was an alchie and had weird ideas about certain things but he was a special man that taught me a lot about resilience and inner strength. It is because of him that I know I have the capacity to keep going when all hope is lost. It is because of him that I know the value of helping strangers in need. It is because of him that friendly banter makes my day, everyday, because I saw him in action as a child and how he made people smile with his easy-going sense of humour.
So yeah . . . my name is Jacky and it feels great.