What is this blog about? Me? You? Is it a discussion, in fact? I can tell you what it isn’t. I’m not selling anything. Not even myself. I don’t offer a window into what is trans, even. It isn’t about grammar, spelling or syntax. It’s not based in hard, cold, evidence. You can’t call it creative non- fiction. Is it considered memoir? Who knows? It’s from my brain. My heart. I laugh and cry when I write it. I write it for me. I don’t have much of an idea of who I’m writing to. As much as I want to know you, I’m fairly certain the discussion I have when I write these posts is perhaps, with myself.
I’ll use words like shit and asshole. Fuck. Mother fucker. Cock and cock sucker. But one thing you’ll not ever see me do is dead name a trans person. What, you say? You don’t use names. Only initials. Oh, well. This one time I’ll dead name someone. Me. My dead name is Janis. When I was little I was shy beyond words and I gave my name as Janisin. I made a face, if you picture a very shy one and my chin dug into my right shoulder and gave a goofy smile. My mother chastised me for this. “Your name isn’t Janisin,” she’d bite. “It’s Janis!”
It’s not the only thing she did that caused me to hate my ‘given’ name; my ‘real’ name. She drew out the ‘s’ like a snake would when they’d hiss, especially when she was pissed. Janisssss, I’d hear and I loathed it. I hated it because I was a boy and it was a girl’s name. “Were you named after Janis Joplin?” People sometimes ventured. No. “Janis Ian?” No. I always thought Mother picked my name and felt a twinge when, recently, I learned it was Dad’s name for me. I really love my dad.
He shortened it to Jan Pan when I was in elementary school and I’d been grateful. When I was old enough I made an attempt to change my first name to Jan. Mother still calls me Janis. My younger sister, of four years, said she asked Mother why she insisted on using Janis and Mother replied, “Because I like the name.” So much for respecting me. Generally, with her, I choose my battles. Believe it or not, no matter how much the hair stands on the back of my neck when I’m dead named, I have other more pressing issues to confront her with. Dead naming takes a back seat.
My therapist, L, says I have the right to request/require people to use my chosen name, Sam. I say,”Well, Sam is my pen name.” When I change my gender markers and name on official documents I will use Jan on my records. I sat next to a boy in home room and he was one of twins. His brother’s name was Jerry and his name was Jan. I always thought that was so cool. When I grew up I’d change my name, ‘in the books,’ I told myself, to Jan. Lose the ‘IS’ forever. And I’d never be dead named again.