What's in a name? (this DICK)

12/04/2023 Holy Wednesday Vespers/Μυστικός Δείπνος - Being a trans person obviously necessitates a good deal of introspection; however, no part of transition feels quite as disgustingly navel-gazing as the selection of your own name. This was definitely one of the more difficult parts of my early transition for me, and I spent what was really an inordinate amount of time even by trans standards on trying to figure out what I wanted to be called. Funnily enough, I ended up selecting the first name I ever considered: Anastasia.

The reasons for the selection of this name were several. First of all, it’s completely different from my deadname, like not even close. However, while the name itself sounded completely different, the name day for Anastasia is only one week away from the name day for my deadname. For those who don’t know in Orthodoxy your name day is the day dedicated to the saint after whom you’re named, and basically prior to independence in 1960 when the government started to keep reliable birth records for the first time, you celebrated your name day in the way you would celebrate your birthday in the West. Even today most people celebrate their name day to some extent. So not having to start celebrating a name day in a completely different time of the year was also an attractive feature. Beyond that, the name also has some nice and fitting symbolism - the name Anastasia comes from the Greek word Anastasis which means resurrection, which is a nice Trans Imagery Moment™. Finally, it’s pretty. I just love the way it sounds. It’s pretty and it shortens nicely for nickname purposes, namely Ana.

However, this last point depends entirely on a crucial thing - I was envisioning it in the Greek pronunciation. This is going to become a recurring theme. I did not anticipate that in real life in North America, the average person was going to pronounce it not anastaSIa, as in Greek, but anaSTAsia or worse yet, anaSTAYzha. I absolutely fucking HATE that. So that was instantly a bust, but I decided to forge ahead, because I still loved the idea of going by Ana. Unfortunately, I once again neglected to anticipate the malevolent workings of the perfidious eternal North American. The plain IPA /a/ does not exist in North American English - it either becomes /ɑ/ or gets fronted to
/æ/ and then diphthongised to shit - imagine how a midwesterner would say Anna. Absolutely hate that.

This is bad for two reasons. One, it sounds ugly and cringe. Two, it completely voids one of the main reasons I chose this name: its simplicity. I’m very nervous and anxious when meeting new people, especially knowing that I am appearing to them as a clocky trans woman. Because of this, I tend to say my name very quickly and very quietly, which means that it is of the utmost importance that it be a name that is easily identifiable no matter how inaudible it is. This would mean that I do not ever have to repeat it or provide any follow up information; I can just say the name and be done with it. In Europe this would be the case, but in North America, I’ve found, I always, ALWAYS, 100000% of the time, get asked “wait, /æ/na or /ɑ/na?” and there is literally no right answer that can put a stop to the interaction. Either I say “uh, neither, it’s /a/na” and they repeat it back, wrong, and I say it again, and they repeat it again, and we go on ad infinitum in this horrifying suicidal ideation-inducing interaction which serves only to make me look like a weirdo and does nothing to correct their pronunciation. At the same time, saying “eh, I don’t care, go with either” has never EVER put an end to an interaction, and will only result in them going “well which one is it?”, to which I can either say “neither” (which loops us back around to the cycle of saying Ana at each other over and over again until one of us dies) OR “well, just go with /æ/na I guess” to which they’ll say “no what is it actually”, once again putting us right back where we started. It’s a horrifying mousetrap of awkwardness.

Another issue which I did not foresee is that, faced with a clocky trans woman who is clearly attempting to pass as a woman but is not entirely succeeding, most people (including wannabe ‘ally’ type girlies) will be listening for a male name rather than a female one. Yes, I must admit that I did not expect that the mind of the cissexual would be so ready to interpret “Ana” as “Adam”, something which, though perhaps understandable given their aural similarity, would NEVER happen to a cis Ana. This has been the second most common misunderstanding after the pronunciation thing, and happens in about 50% of the instances in which I have to introduce myself to someone. This one has the disadvantage of being soul-destroying and heartbreaking on top of being very awkward. I try tell myself that, the more fish I get, the less this will be a problem, even if I’m still somewhat clocky, but I must say that at this point after a year on HRT I don’t see it getting any less frequent. Of course at this point in my transition I wouldn’t expect something like this to no longer be a problem at all, but I would hope that at the very least it would not be as frequent as it currently is.

Maybe I’ll pull a Vivian and get a few years in and decide on a new one. After all, names are fake and I can do whatever I want. I heard recently from a friend that the girl he’s seeing has like five middle names or something like that, and I think that’s based. As long as my day-to-day name is something simple and normal like Ana, I think it would be fun to have a big long string of names as my full legal name. But for now, the world simply is not ready for Anastasia Josephine Kallistheni Roberta Hasegawina Neocleous.

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