Name

Is pretty sure I am really, really close to having my name finalized enough to make it legal once I get my documents together. I am asking myself questions like “What do I want this name to communicate” and “How easily-gendered do I want to be” or “Since it does what I want it to do sonically, and culturally-meaning-ly, and degree-of-uniqueness-ly, does it feel too ambitious?” and shit like that. I hate this process. It has taken me years of considering and tentatively accepting and trying out and rejecting. I am over Zelda. If it’s gonna go anywhere, it’s gonna end up in the middle name.

I saw a name a few days ago that made me think. It was a traditionally male name followed by a traditionally female name and then the last name. A trans woman took this name.

The name acted as a statement against the cultural pressure for trans people to present unified genders. The name doesn’t pass. How rad!

My friends suggest I should be aware that such a name will cause me trouble getting a job. As a trans person whose physical appearance does not pass, I think it would be appropriate to take a non-passing, non-binary, gender-incongruous name as well. One more way to resist the binary by living outside of it and drawing attention to it. I reply to my friends that when my application documents are passed over in the hiring process, if it’s something like my name that turns people off, then I probably don’t want to work there anyway.

There is already so much about my presence that doesn’t pass. I recently applied for a job teaching introductory creative writing at a university, and I hadn’t heard any news about the position in a while, so I queried the person whom I was instructed to contact for further information about the position. I contacted her via email. My professional email contains a passing female name (Zelda), as did my hiring documents. The administrator assigned me female pronouns in our email exchanges without me having to ask for them. Things were going smooth until I thought to leave her a voicemail. After she heard my recorded voice, her next email apologized for her getting my gender wrong. I responded to her email by saying she had gotten it right, and I was transgender, and my voice doesn’t match my identified gender all the time. A few days later, I received a voicemail saying I would not be hired for the position.

She was getting my gender the type of right that I compromise with. But the incongruity between my sonic gender and my gender on paper were enough to keep me from passing, I guess.

I tell people I am ok taking female pronouns (she/her), because they feel more right than male ones. I’d really like nongendered pronouns (ze/zir or ze/hir) because they feel most accurate and least intrusive. But I figured it best to not ask for the pronouns that feel best in the professional world, because I wanted to seem easy to work with.

So when I choose to take a non-passing name, I tell myself it won’t really make much of a difference in my professional life. There are already so many ways I don’t pass, I might as well just be open about it.

I spent twenty-seven years hiding the fact that I was transgender. I am not about to start now. And I resent that the professional world makes me want to.

Z

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