The Perfect Fit
A newly minted parent is tasked with the highly anticipated and/or much dreaded job of choosing a name for their baby. This soon-to-be alive little tiny person has yet to form an identity, showcase a personality, settle into habits and quirks; he/she/it/they are just an idea, an unformed blob of dreams and fears. The name that the parent(s) choose is based on the abstract – having a certain affinity for particular sounds, attraction towards a meaning or history, or honoring a long-standing tradition. Thus the impact this name will have on this future person – whether they’ll embody it or reject it – is pure conjecture. It is chosen for the person, not by the person, before the person even exists.
My brother’s first name “fits” him perfectly. He even has another name – complete with multiple variations – which we use on a regular basis for him. This name, unrelated to either of his two “real” names, is like his first name, spot-on. But my brother, for who knows what reason, is the only one in the family who has a middle name, and this middle name is anything short of appropriate. It’s one of those best kept hidden, a dusty remnant which, when discovered, kids laugh at in middle school, although mostly the laughter is directed at your parents as the children exclaim “what were they thinking?” and ridicule their complete lack of foresight.
But how could your parents have known that this name would fit you like a checkered bowtie on a polka-dottted bathrobe, while that other name would be the slick skinny black tie that completes the three-piece ensemble?
You, on the other hand, already know whether your name – current, chosen, future, or otherwise – fits you or not. To some degree. Because sometimes we can’t be sure.
The Story of My Name
Maddox “fits” me online. I see it and it’s me. People actually recognize me when I say “I’m maddox from tumblr / blog / forums.” “Oh THAT maddox. Of course!” It has become my brand, my online persona. But as my first failure succeeded in showing, it doesn’t work so well for me in person.
For the past two years or so people have called me Mich in real life. I get asked what it’s short for. I get very annoyed at this, but since you’re privvy to my history you can quickly make a good guess. And it came about because it is short for my original name. At least, it is the natural shortened version in Spanish, much like Tony is for Anthony or Chris is for Christopher. So naturally, I’d use it for emails and such, or whenever I needed a short-hand version. Upon applying for a new job, I got asked what name I go by, given the proliferate use of Mich in all my communications. It actually never occurred to me that I could change my name – on purpose – until much much later, but somehow I must’ve unconsciously felt this was a good opportunity for a change. And so it began to shift.
“How do you pronounce it?” Ah, another conundrum. In Spanish, it’s straightforward. But I’ve found people hear what they want to hear, so I’ve gotten anywhere from Meech to Meesh to Mish to Mic to Mitch, and then the nicknames Michy, Michelin, Michelada, Justin (as in Bieber, unrelated but whatever). Even I will pronounce it differently depending on who I’m talking to. My girlfriend has an awkward way of saying it too.
It just doesn’t really flow as smoothly as I’d like. Not to mention it is directly tied to my old name – the old me. Which may be good, because after all, this was me for a long time, and in a way still is. I will probably always turn my head when I hear it. But it is also a bitter reminder, like baggage, that my past is not as far off as I’d like it to be.
About two months ago, I was at the peak of my desperation; the hopelessness of ever finding a new name – the “right” name – was closing in with a suffocating grip.
Then, I stumbled upon it. My new name. It came out of nowhere, yet it was always there.
It all started with an experiment. A fellow trans* friend asked me what would happen if he changed his name on Facebook, whether his close friends and family would be upset, make a stink, not care, get the point, or perhaps politely ask. That got me thinking, what would my friends think, and would they would even notice? So I decided to go for it.
I picked a name I’d been mulling over for a few days, though hadn’t really given much serious consideration until then. For the first few days, nobody noticed. Or at least nobody mentioned it. Granted it’s hard to notice, mostly because I simply added one letter (an “a” for awesome) to my previous name, transforming Mich into Micah.
Then, all of a sudden it was real. In less than 2 weeks, the change had propagated into my email, twitter, netflix, dropbox, computer, and any other social profile that came my way. I found myself eagerly printing out the forms to get a CA Court Order name (and gender) change. It passed the last hurdle as I got the chance to test drive it at the latest trans conference. A part of me had already chosen it; it was my name.
I can’t really say why I liked it so much. It’s exactly what I was looking for: something not radically different from the previous, but different enough. Original, but not unknown. Pronounceable and spellable, for the most part. Perhaps it was the way it looked written down, or that it has a good ring with my last name. Whatever the reason, it felt right.
Above all, it’s me. It just fits.