One of the milestones in my daughter’s life will be the day she changed her name.
Although she’ll never speak of it, and I’m guessing it would take Will years before he tries to discuss it with his sister, her name remains with us. Years ago, soon after she changed it, we’d hear the name as we moved through the world and you could feel the collective wince. All of our faces frozen as if the longer we remained motionless and silent, the quicker the hurt would simply blow away, like a stray balloon from a party where no one showed up.
Some of her friends already had gender neutral names, and therefore, didn’t need to change their names. I’m not even sure if having a gender neutral name helps necessarily, considering the grand scheme of things, but you know what they say about the grass looking greener.
Above all, I know nothing comes without a price. If a child keeps their birth name, there are ramifications. If they don’t, there are a whole new set of challenges. I’m past thinking there is any free ride along this road so we are where we are.
My path’s roadblock takes form in a more permanent-ish decision – a legal name change. Part of me put it off for a while because I thought Hope should be older and have a bigger say in the matter. Part of me wanted to get it done sooner rather than later to protect her, and her privacy. Today I feel like I’m sitting on a fence just observing. Maybe I’ve hung out here for a while.
In the meantime Will wanted to leave the country as a special treat around his birthday. I knew this couldn’t happen because a passport would have to be in Hope’s new legal name, and that would require me to get off my precious perch and put the legal wheels in motion.
I couldn’t do it. The timing didn’t feel right. I could name a dozen reasons that it couldn’t happen, and so I dashed his dreams using bureaucracy as an excuse. My guilt no doubt met my confusion and the joined forces quickly invaded my conscience.
I needed to make a plan. This observing thing went on too long. I’m a do-er, a fixer, a planner, a cleaner. Some days I feel like the character in the mobster movies who glides in and “takes care of things” as a last resort. I’m responsible for the trash no one has the stomach to take out. That’s me.
If it were as simple as a mess, I could handle it. This whole name change is more like a game of chess, a delicate dance of strategy, positioning and timing, and even though I’ve made several grand attempts over the years, I’ve never been disciplined enough to learn. I know ultimately it’s not my life that’s at stake so how do I make the first move?
I know what Hope says she wants, but she’s still young, and sees her future in terms of spring break and summer. How do I put that responsibility on a child her age?
Ultimately what am I afraid of? Am I waiting to see if things change? Do I think that’s possible? Probable? Could she feel differently down the line or feel that I forced or pigeonholed her into a gender doesn’t feel genuine? I never wanted to be that parent that pushed their child to define their gender or assumed that it was my job as a parent. Up till now I have stood in my truth and followed her lead.
Somehow my modus operandi doesn’t seem to apply when faced with gender identity within the legal system. Things are changing. As she gets older she needs real identification that speaks to her truth. So why do I fear this step? Why do I hesitate? All these questions feel like my internal playlist that someone accidentally left on repeat.
Where is my crystal ball?