The Name Game


Field Notes In/On Transition

The Name Game

Shakespeare had that star cross’d lover Juliet speak this truth: 
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.” 

The name change thing is kind of kicking my ass right now. It’s very daunting to me for some reason. It took me most of my life (first 30 years or so) before I was comfortable with my name... since then I’ve always gone by Joe Boyce Burgess.

As a kid I was always Joey, rarely or ever Joseph, or Joe. In fact except maybe only in some sort of bureaucratic lineup has anyone ever really called me Joseph. I can’t recall my Mom or any other authority figure from my youth ever calling me Joseph. Technically though it’s still my name.

For now anyway, until I can get up the gumption to fill out the paperwork, and go get all the little things done, like fingerprints taken. All very daunting, as I sometimes still feel like someone or something is going to force me to stop my transition. My Dreams don’t get to come true... le Sigh. 

Doubt is definitely a demon that is hard to shake. I feel really comfortable being Josie, though, and friends seem to have taken to it quickly. It’s not so far off from Joe, and I grok that it’s the name I need to have to be the female me. I have only had a few epiphany moments so far in my transition. The biggest one was the happening upon Josie as the name to use if I was really going to DO IT. 

I had used the name as a teen, in my winning the lotto-like fantasies of magically one morning waking up a girl, who everyone already knew and accepted as such, an alternate universe, where I should have been born, was my comic book inspired daydream. An Earth 2 Girl trapped in an Earth 1 boy body was how I rationalized it all, being the nerd I was. I used it all through university, and after (often in art bits, some of which I’ve posted here, already) ... until I came out to my mom and a few others back in 1993.

At that time I was leaning towards a wholly different name, something in the Emily, Emma, Daphne camp perhaps? But eventually after scouring all the name dictionaries at the old downtown Vancouver library that used to be my internet, I came upon the name Zoë, which means “life” and that really spoke to me at the time, liking the idea of using a name like that, that in 1994-5, was really uncommon, at least in my circles. 

So when in 1995 I first came out for good to friends and family, and dipped my toes in the transition waters, being on Spironolactone for several months, and then realizing that I was not strong enough to break my mom’s (and thus my own) heart, with her having lost a daughter, and a granddaughter, just a couple of years earlier. It was just too hard to really even contemplate at that time. 

Zoë, though stayed the name I used in my sporadic “cross-dressing era” which lasted  from 1996-2002. As time wore on though, the name became a bit more ubiquitous and the novelty of it wasn’t there anymore, also I saw Zoë as my failure to transition, much more than I saw her as an attempt to be myself.

Last February or so when I had finally committed myself to Transition, I tried to sign my name a few times using different lady names that I like, including: Zoë, Veronica, Ursula, Emily, Ann, Anna, and a few others, but when I wrote: “Josie Boyce”... I stopped, I may even have gasped. I wrote Josie Ann Boyce, then Josie Boyce again, so effortless it was, actually easier to write than the Joe Boyce Burgess, that I have become so practiced at, as my professional/writer’s voice/name.

This brings me to the actual changing of the name on my ID, my credit cards, my SIN card, all the things I need to do, it’s so daunting. I feel like there must still be that doubting part of myself that is holding me back. It’s hard for me to grasp sometimes that I’m actually doing what I’m doing. I definitely can’t see myself returning to trying to be Joe everyday. that was far too stressful, and I could probably (especially if I never opt for surgery, but find a comfortable “in between” the binary genders place) get away with being Josie Boyce, as a diminutive form of Joseph Boyce Burgess, but that feels somehow dishonest to me. 

I need to break free from my fears of being stopped in my tracks doing this by some big immovable force. It’s an irrational fear, but it’s there swinging at me, I keep ducking, at least recently, but I feel like one day it’s going to connect and knock me down. Is there such a thing as Bureaucra-phobia? I feel like a longtime sufferer of this. 

Maybe I’ll print out those forms and go down to the office on Hastings this week, maybe. My doctor gave me letters that supposedly will help waive some of the costs. It’s something we talked about when I saw her last month, and I guess will again when I see her this week. I also have been putting off getting rid of my male named email account(s) and changing my name for good on Facebook, which interestingly you can only do once. Not fans of divorce, or name change at FB, I guess. 

I’ve had Josie Boyce as display name since April, but the address is still Joeboyceburgess. My goal has been to change the FB thing, once I got the paperwork started on the real life name change. Maybe I’ll start digitally and work my way to the analog world of bureaucrats and fingerprints?

Part of my reluctance also sadly, I guess comes from my seemingly inexhaustible laziness, and “put--it-off-’til the last minute-ness,” something that seems to be a gender neutral part of my personality. It seems almost a vestige of some trauma, that it often takes me until the last possible second to do things that need to get done. I’m not a planner, I’m quite often a doer, but it’s almost always off the cuff, unrehearsed, whatever it is I’m up to. Not that I don’t make life plans or to do lists, I do, quite a bit, but they are never glanced at whilst I’m doing whatever those things are.

A concrete example of this would be the essays I used to write in University, often the night before being due (or more likely the day before my two week extension, that I’d begged from the Prof.)... I think they were decent, but never were they edited much other than in my thoughts, in the weeks beforehand. 

Or more recently, the manner in which I have DM’d (ran an RPG of the Dungeons & Dragons variety) my various D&D campaigns. I create a bunch of Non Player Characters, which is what I most enjoy, out of the whole thing, possibly, and give them vague backstories, and motivations, then I throw some fairly random situations at my players involving these characters, and let the story tell itself. Pretty much every game veers off from my original plan, quite a bit. I also only consult the rulebooks, if there’s something that we can’t role play past. I admit my lack of planning sometimes makes the fighting/dungeonneering be a bit too freeform, and I’m not sure the players ever feel in jeopardy of “being killed.” 


I guess where I’m going with this is that I really am starting to feel the need to be a bit of a better planner of transition. I am flailing a bit these days. I need some starker goals perhaps, or just to participate more in the community, and maybe set some more concrete goals as to possible “wheres” (alt.Universes) that my transition is taking me.  The one thing i’m not afraid of is that i’m doing the wrong thing. Transition is my thing. I am unsure of the pacing, and don’t know if my lifetime of winging it, and being a chameleon, and a phoenix, reinventing myself, and/or disappearing into a/the crowd.

It’s hard not to feel like you are doing “enough” sometimes, I am coming to understand. “Patience,” is what I keep telling myself. “You haven’t been doing this very long, why the rush?”

Well, like I say above, I often feel like I’ve left things to the last minute. Have I done that with transition? Maybe... but whatchagonnado? Really, I do feel like for the most part I’m doing everything at a pace that does work for me. 

Also something that has come to me while I’m writing this is feeling like I’ve come far enough in my presentation that doing the legal name change seems even more the right thing. I’m still vocally, definitely, and I think interpersonally still a bit of a dude. I haven’t been trying super hard at working my voice to a more “female” tone and conversational style, though I have been called “Hon, sweetie, babe” a bit more often lately, and have actually stifled myself from being all Honey, Darling, sweetie with people, as I am afeared of coming off as too affected. That said, I feel like eventually, I’ll be one of those ladies who uses those kind of diminutives all the time.

It may or may not be silly to think that I don’t talk girly enough to be allowed to change my name on ID, gender on ID, but there it is after 1600+ words. That’s kind of what it comes down to. 

I’m learning how to divvy up my time a bit better as I transition. I’m beginning to realize that I do have time to get all these things done I want to do. Since starting transition, I’ve written more than the previous ten years, and reached more people with that writing than I ever have with my poetry readings, or self published book sales. I’ve become far more tidy in my upkeep of my house, and more regular in my morning routines, and been slowly working my way back to having an actual social life, and becoming part of a community, of both trans and CIS gendered women. 

I feel like the life I’ve always wanted is actually in my view now, despite ever only allowing myself fragmentary visions of what that might be, over the years. What I can see now, rather is the world that is laying itself out before me. It’s a tough road, but for once I’m not just sitting at the crossroads, I’m taking a fork and seeing what kind of spaghetti it leads to. 

Hopefully I’ll have some valid ID when I get wherever it is I’m going.

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