“What’s your name?” On the surface a fairly straight-forward question with an easy answer.
My first (silent) response is actually hearing Margaret Cho ask “what’s my name?” in a deep, gravely half-whisper. The answer then is Aaron Neville, but I digress.
The next response (usually also silent) is “which one?” There is the name my parents gave me, and then the one I legally changed to 22 years later. Plus the name I added a few years after that when I became fully professed in the Toronto Order of Perpetual Indulgence. And a few years ago I formally changed that name. My family has two nicknames for me; Dad gave all four of us kids animal names when we were young. And there’s another used mostly by nieces and nephews There’s my business name, and finally a nick from my involvement in certain fetish/kink communities.
Of course which one of these names is being requested is generally obvious in context.
But I’ve contemplated and blogged about identity, and our names are a major part of that. Names, careers and gender (and isn’t that word alone another whole library)- we feel we know someone pretty well just with these three details. Add in religion, politics and sexual orientation and too often we’ve placed someone in ‘their box’.
And… focus. What are my names?
My birth name is known to a few, not to be spelled out here. I’m not in Witness Protection, nor ashamed of my family or heritage (Scottish border-raiders to Canada via Ireland). It’s not exactly a “dead name” as I’m not trans, but my approach is similar; I don’t identify as, or with, that name from my past. Actually, my first name has always been Brian. It’s not that I really luv the name, but when my brother switched from using his middle name (which is what we all used for decades) to his first name (which was Dad’s first name, his father’s first name, etc) Mom had great difficulty adjusting. So I kept Brian.
My original middle name was to honour a relative (distant and not someone I ever met, as far as I can recall). Nanna had pushed to have it my first name, but Mom hated the name and the various diminutive forms. So changing that didn’t create much drama. My new (current) surname is one that I and my first long-term partner (7 years or so) both legally adopted back when the concept of ‘same-sex marriage’ was unfathomable. How romantic. Dad was living with the woman who would become his second wife; in no position to say much. I’d been out for a few years with no intention of fathering a kid and passing on the family name, or genes.
So I stayed ‘Brian’ and became one of a pair of Gryphons. My middle name now is one with personal spiritual significance.
There is a detailed post on this website about my original and current names within the Order of Perpetual Indulgence. Each is a reflection of both where I was at, and where I wanted to be headed, at the time.
For business purposes, I am Brian, The Digital Gryphon– photographer and publisher. Nicknames are generally reserved for specific people or places, rather than being broadcast in a list of personal details (unless one slips through). Keeping or changing one’s name(s) may reveal some things, but are merely one part of the whole.