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Seeing my name

Sounds like an odd thing to make a big deal about. Don’t we all see our name all the time? Depending on how much you do with computers you may see your name, or at least your login name, dozens of times a day. But when you are trans things are not always so simple.

I have been out at work since last November, but for reasons I will not go into, most of my work-related stuff was still using my birth name. This has been a source of frustrations and pain for months.

I don’t hate my birth name, as some trans people seem to. In fact, that is why I refer to it as my birth name instead of my dead name, as is more common in the LGBT community. My parents lovingly picked out a name for me. I know they did that based on what was between my legs, but what else could they have done? They could not see that beneath the shell of their newborn child lie a passionate woman longing to be set free.

On the other hand, that name is not me. It never really was. It was just a facade I wore for years because I didn’t know who I am. When you are told you are something you know you are not but you don’t know what you are sometimes you just accept that. Or try to. It never fit. I could never play the role that was expected of me, but I had nothing else, nothing to say this is me. Until a miracle happened and God opened my eyes to who I really am.

I know who I am now and I know I am not my birth name. Hearing that name, being referenced by that name, is at best difficult. When it happens all the time it becomes extremely painful.

It is as if you took all of the most painful moments of your childhood, that time the bullies beat you up, when your best friend disowned you for their new romantic interest, when you stuttered through a speech in front of the whole class, when your looks just didn’t measure up and everyone let you know. It is as if you took all of those painful moments and condensed them into one word. And then that word was put forth to represent you, constantly.

No matter how much you now know who you are others are seeing someone you are not. Even when you know those others fully accept who you truly are having the wrong name representing you is painful. It feels like you are trapped in a past that was never really you.

Like that awkward childhood picture your parents like to show off, if it is only brought out once in a while, you can laugh it off. But when it is brought out all the time, it becomes pins being stabbed into your soul.

I have managed to live with this pain for months, constantly waiting and hoping for the day it would all be gone. But along with so many other changes the pandemic also made taking care of this far more difficult than it would have been. There are a seemingly endless number of forms to fill out and processes to go through. Every meaningful step has a prerequisite which has another prerequisite. And now it seems every other step is indefinitely closed. It was looking like it would never be done.

The other thing the pandemic brought was so much more pain. Before a lot of my communication at work was face to face. That oldest form of communication did what little else can do. Hearing my name, being recognized for who I am, did more than just not hurt it was/is a soother ointment that healed the pain.

But now that we are all working from home, the face to face is gone. All of that has been replaced with email, chat and other such tools. All of which had my birth name attached to them. There was this constant stabbing of my soul, without any ointment to heal it.

Every day dozens of times a day, I had to interact with people seeing the wrong name. After a few days of this, the pain was nearly unbearable. Finally, in desperation, I reached out to some people that I hoped might be able to get past all of the “processes”. I figured there was a good chance I would hear back from them as I had from so many others, ‘sorry but you need to follow the process, which is closed until the pandemic is over’. But I had to try something.

Later that night I got a call from an angel. A woman in that seemed to understand what this meant to me. She saw my pain and understood that it was far far more than just a name. It is that which represents me. It is the image people see when they don’t see me. It is a cage that held me back from being me. She understood all of that and she made if very clear that she cared deeply about my problem and was determined to fix it.

Shortly after that, I started getting contacted by other people at work about various aspects of getting this fixed. They seemed to understand the importance of this, but it wasn’t easy. We have so many different systems and processes that use your name. Many of these had important history that we didn’t want to lose. It wasn’t just a matter of starting over, it was a matter of morphing what was, into what should have always been.

Now everywhere I go in my virtual work world I see my name, I see Jasmine Arabella. And every time I see my name it is like a soothing ointment has been applied to my wounded soul. I start to cry and sometimes do. I am overcome with joy when I see Jasmine-Arabella in some company system that just days ago had my birth name.

It is so much more than just a name. It is a powerful part of how you are understood. It is a single word that instantly brings up so much meaning by which everyone determines who you are in so many different ways.

I am Jasmine-Arabella. Being able to say that everywhere is so powerful, is so healing. It is like being freed from a past that was never me. It is letting a butterfly fresh out of her cocoon fly. I want to soar, and share my joy with the world.

To all of those that had a part in making this happen, thank you so very much. You have done a great Mitzvah (blessing) for me.