Deadname: why does it hurt? Also what’s in a name anyways?

One of the hardest things a trans person has to go through isn’t explaining to people how gender dysphoria works rather it’s getting people to sympathize with the mental anguish that comes from our past identities.

Oftentimes people will be dismissive of your new name whether it’s because they are intentionally disrespectful because they don’t believe in gender dysphoria or because they’re too emotionally attached to your past and they don’t recognize how selfish is there holding on to your old self is or how painful it is for you.

Have an interesting story behind my dead name. It’s kind of like it’s been a part of my life. Whenever I meet new people I always have had this interesting story or I could say factoid about my name. I have three first names that also work each as a last name. All three of my birth name’s my first name my middle name and my last name are common surnames. And so that was a good ice breaker. I won’t mention what those names are here it’s not important and I don’t say those words anymore out loud. What is interesting is that was I’m not disappointed I can no longer tell that story because I have a better story now.

Now I get to tell the story of how I discovered Stephanie and how that name just fit. My whole life even before I was honest with myself about my transgender identity I cringed every time I heard that name. And not just whenever people were talking about me or to me or in my direction. It was just a disgusting name it offended me so much I hated it so much even when I was watching TV shows if somebody had that name I didn’t automatically dismiss that character but I always wished that people would not say their name because I hated hearing it I hated hearing those words out loud. I hated my name so much that I shortened it to my initials which spell the word r a t therefore I was more comfortable being called rat or the rat as I reminded people to call me then I was the name my parents gave me at Birth. That alone should have been an indicator that the name I was given was wrong for me.

I never knew how wrong that name was for me until I tried on Stephanie. The first time somebody called me Stephanie instead of the other name I had a twinge of mixed feelings it was awkward first. But now it’s who I am it’s who I always was who I was always meant to be. I’m currently going to the process of Legally changing my name the sooner I can get my court order back the happier I will be. Trying to explain to someone who’s not trans how harmful that old name is has been very difficult. The only two people I permit call me by that name are my parents and honestly that’s only because I love them enough I’m not willing to tell them how much that name hurts me because I know it hurts them and I’m I’m giving them leeway because they are trying. Not every trans person has parents who give a shit. And some people have parents who were fully supportive. But I fully expect everyone else to respect my new name and never refer to me as my old identity.

When I first started transitioning I likened it to having a superhero identity in a way. There was the secret identity that was the real me or the public face I guess and then there was the superhero who went out and did good in the world. That analogy didn’t work though because it was the face I had to wear the mask in public that was the secret identity and the superhero or the person I wanted to be the good person that could do good in the world was at home in hiding. Now the roles are kind of reversed except in my mind he’s dead and that’s why we call it a dead name it’s not just symbolic of our new identities it is a metaphor of a new person a brand new person walking around this Earth completely replacing someone who died.

I celebrate March 18th as my coming out day. To me it has the same weight and meaning as my birthday. Because on that day Stephanie was born and got to enter the world for the first time has herself her true self. And I know there are people that don’t understand the significance of it but I just want to say I don’t care if you understand I’m just wanting you to be respectful it’s only about respect. Somebody recently told me in jest when talking about the current political climate that they themselves identify as a black person and wanted to know if they could get all the free things black people want. Now I know this was inherently a racist comment but it was also harmful to trans people because it’s dismissive of our struggle.

I’m not here to explain how self identity works. God knows I’m not qualified. And I’m sure as hell not here to educate people on what gender dysphoria is or what being transgender means to me. All I can do is tell you when I had to be living a lie I was miserable and now that I’m free to be me I’m happy truly happy in ways I can’t explain. Now happiness is not constant so when people see me have a bad day or whenever I show a bad mood they immediately point to that as proof I’m not as happy as I claim. The happiness is not a constant it’s more of peace of mind it’s more a state of mind if you will. But it’s that word peace that I want to focus on because being my authentic self has given me an inner peace I can’t explain and that to me is worth it it’s worth all the pain and suffering that being trans has inflicted upon me and will continue to inflict upon me because at the end of the day you only get to live once and it’s not worth living a fucking lie.

I write a lot about my past and even before I started transitioning this whole blog was obsessed with the 80s and 90s my childhood the things from my childhood. And I know part of me wants to get back to just writing about toys and comic books and video games and movies and not facing life’s problems or difficulties head on. But something else happened when I took on my new identity and buried my past self.

A lot of the things that I was connected to in my childhood that used to give me Comfort they’re tainted now and so my perspective has changed. Also my brain chemistry has changed I’ve been taking hormones for 7 months it’s not just the emotions that I can feel I feel everything different than I was then I’m used to and so I feel differently about things than that then I used to Then I then I am used to and so my interests have changed my passions have changed because the way I feel about things has changed my feelings have changed. And it’s not just about doing things that promote gender euphoria which is a concept I only recently discovered. But it’s also about distancing myself from those things that reinforce my past identity and for that reason I will not respond to my deadname kindly. It is also that reason that I can’t look at certain things the same way anymore.

I hope in time I will figure out who I am and once I do I hope that I will be able to share that with the world. it is true there are movies and video games that used to give me Comfort that today trigger my gender dysphoria and so I’m distancing myself from those things at this time. you know they say we’re creatures of habit and I guess that’s probably true I just have a lot of bad habits I want to break.

Transitioning is about discovering Who You Are. I’m discovering things I used to like don’t bring me joy anymore. I’m also discovering new things that do bring me joy a new ways. And every night when I go to bed when I’m internalizing my thoughts my inner voice refers to me as Stephanie and that gives me peace. The other guy is dead his life is in the past and I don’t want to be connected to it anymore than I have to.

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Stephanie Bri

A transgender writer who also does podcasts and videos.