A call today; “Did Jeremy change his surname?”
“No mum, he’s [X]”
Funny question maybe but originally Jeremy, when he changed his name, used my surname – Jeremy Foster had an ace ring to it. For so many people your name is a gift from your parents, it may change when you get married but fundamentally so many of us start with a first name not long after birth and never change it in any radical way. Both my children have my surname as one of their first names and have always been told that it is their choice to use it if they want or need to.
But it got me thinking about the process in deciding to change a name when changing gender. Jeremy made a pretty bold decision and changed totally from his previous name. I asked him about it, his first name started with “k” and apparently the “k” names that he looked into didn’t fit. From the middle of grade seven he contemplated “James” then settled on “Jeremy” leading up to telling people that he was transgender. He says that the “Dean” just seemed to fit. In choosing his own name he has taken steps in defining who he is the new gender, an empowering step for anyone I suspect.
Jeremy has friends who live gender neutrally and either have gender neutral names like “Ashley” or use initials to identify themselves. Then I thought about that other category of transgender people, those who have a name that they have chosen but for a myriad of reasons they are unable to say that name to their world.
I have had a realisation recently that Jeremy was blessed in one way, he made that bold declaration that came either from great trust or that supreme confidence that teenagers have in parents to make it all better. Either way he took a leap of faith and the majority of his world followed suit and accepted him. He has said that using male pronouns and the name Jeremy felt so comfortable and right like coming home. It saddens me that in 2014 there are people who could not accept when someone close to them trusts them enough to disclose that they feel they are living in the wrong body. It is a the sad reality that many people may never meet anyone who is transgender and so the announcement that someone close to them believes that they are the wrong gender is confronting and scary. The reactions from family could be angry, aggressive and hurtful. Or worse, understanding in private yet requiring the transgender person to live a double life to maintain external “normality”.
When I consider all these aspects I keep coming back to the relief that Jeremy expressed when he was allowed to live as a boy. That relief on his part was all the convincing that I needed. But I am a parent, not a partner or child. I had faith in a family open in love. I have a community who is open to alternatives. I am blessed.
I wish I had the means to provide a safe haven for any and all who are struggling with transgender issues. I want to hug you and tell you that you know who you are and I will help you tell the world. Because the only thing worse than anger fear and rejection, which belong to others, is not being true to yourself. I want to help you come home.