Wednesday, January 27, 2010

What's In A Name?

Names have power, and that's especially true for the LGBT community in general. A name is how we identify ourselves, and it's also a tool for affiliating with others.

I know many couples who have changed their last names when they had an official ceremony to formalize their symbolic union.

Naming was important for me and my partner when we adopted our son. Giving him a hyphenated last name has made a lot of casual interactions much easier - he's now automatically affiliated with both of us, simply by dint of sharing our last name.

Names are particularly significant for the trans community. For many trans folks, a legal name change is a first step towards having their legal identities conform to the way they self-identify, as well as the first step towards living their lives authentically.

Securing a legal name change can be an intimidating experience, however, involving interactions with the court system and possibly multiple judges, an experience that is foreign to many people (and onerous to all). It can also involve a significant expense, as well as a serious commitment of time and effort. Until you've done it, it's difficult to understand how hard a process like this can be.

Stories have power, too, and the stories of people who have gone through this process help enlighten the public. The New York Times featured a great article on a program for New York trans residents, the Name Change Project of the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Reading about the travails of other folks in the LGBT community help remind us of our common struggles, as well as broaden our understanding of what other folks are dealing with.

Shakespeare is known for encapsulating universal experiences. As is observed in Romeo and Juliet, "Thou art thyself ... retain that dear perfection."

The love that dare not speak its name would smell as sweet ....

No comments:

Post a Comment