What’s in a name?
Everything as far as I’m concerned. Names tell who you are. They’re your primary identifier. They say something about your personality, the culture you were born into, and your family history.
They possess power.
Names are important. Deep down, I think we know that, even if we don’t consciously acknowledge it. I think it’s why we give each other nicknames and pet names, because we recognize that public names don’t have the same power as a name that is more personalized to an individual.
I hate my given name, but it carries a lot of information for an observant person. When I introduce myself with my birth name, someone could easily figure out that I grew up in a Christian home. A person who knows the etymology of my name would know that I was named after an animal that is not exactly known for thinking for itself. Someone who knows even a little bit of my background could easily deduce how the animal I was named after was both revered and disdained by my religious group.
When I first decided to choose a different name for my online life, I did so out of a desire to protect my given name. I was taking baby steps out of the IFB and was paranoid about being watched—for good reason. Family and members of my former church would stalk my online activity, often attacking me or chastising me for the questions I was asking. Something as simple as choosing a new music artist to listen to or talking about seeing a movie at a theater was enough to get me embroiled in arguments or buried under nasty emails. As the closet to my sexual orientation and changing religious beliefs began to peak open, I felt trapped. I needed a safe place to figure out myself and my world, but my Facebook page wasn’t that place.
I briefly considered going offline altogether, but I had started to build a true network of support for the first time in my life and couldn’t imagine leaving all that behind. Changing my name seemed like the only way I could protect myself as I explored where I needed to go.
So I unfriended everyone from my former church and blocked them on Facebook. Then I changed my name and web address. From then on, I started to develop a persona under Diane.
While my given name had been pretty well descriptive of who I was within the cult, Diane was much more descriptive of who I was striving to be. Diana is one of my favorite Goddesses—the virgin Goddess, a strong, capable woman who owes nothing to no man . . . the type of girl who doesn’t take shit from those who stick their noses where they don’t belong.
I felt different interacting under that name. It wasn’t just the security of having a protected page. It was the way the name made me feel, the personality traits that it brought to mind.
It was liberating.
Eventually, Diane came to feel like a true name—my birth name felt more like the shield that I wore around my family to protect my identity. Diane was the persona I wanted the world to see, while my birth name was the persona I adopted when I wanted to give the world as little of me as I could.
When I started this blog, I considered going back to my birth name. By that point, I knew that my chosen name had been divulged to my family (because the IFB are really persistent stalkers, especially when they’ve been denied the ability to snoop easily). I had no hopes of continuing to keep my chosen name a secret, but I also knew that I was no longer so afraid of them seeing my beliefs. They had lost the power to shame me into conformity.
But I came to realize that Diane felt too real to me now. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to use my birth name for fear that someone would link my words back to me; I didn’t want to use my birth name because I felt that my birth name no longer applied. I’ve even considered having my name officially or semi-officially changed (by semi-officially, I mean announcing it to friends and family and smacking them if they don’t comply).
But here’s a secret, even though I’ve adopted Diane as my own name, it’s another alias to one extent or another. It’s closer to who I am at my core–as close as I will ever publicly get, but it isn’t the name that I sign off with in my journals. No, I first learned the name I would adopt as my innermost name from a friend way back in high school. It was the name that resonated to my absolute core. It is my soul’s name, and only a handful of people have ever heard me refer to it.
And no, I’m not going to reveal that one here to you because, like the Doctor, I believe fully in the power of a name and the need for that power to remain with the one who possesses it.
Nor am I going to reveal my birth name because, as every musician, actor, or writer has discovered at some point, the power in a given name is nothing compared to the power in a name you choose for yourself.
What’s in a name?
Only the identity you are given . . . or the identity you create.