Today was an explosion of ideas for writing, but I decided to go with the first idea that struck me – thanks mostly to a post over on Aedicula Antinoi.
Names and identifiers are a pretty big deal. While I’ve heard people high and low say that ‘labels don’t matter’, I can’t agree with that. Sure, breaking down barriers that labels and identifications can establish can be a good thing and create great, exciting, unexpected dialog – but what we call ourselves and what others call us is still important. Just be aware reading this that my premise is ‘names are important’.
I have three names that receive a lot of use in my life. The first is my birth name, used only by my family (anyone else who knows it and uses it in reference to me without permission has basically just ensured I will never speak to them again, as doing so is a violation of my self and any trust I have put in them). The second is Aine Llewellyn, the name I blog by and introduce myself as most often in Pagan and polytheist circles. The third is Eddward, which is what most of my friends outside of religious circles know me as.
Those are the names that receive the most use. There are names I use with spirits and with individual gods or in specific situations, names that spirits have given to me or urged me to take. All of those names are important. Just as the names I gave above show what situation I’m in, what names I’m using or being called in my spirit and devotional work tell me who I’m interacting with and how I should behave.
And there is nothing quite like having someone disregard your name.
I suspect most trans* and differently gendered people will understand that. It’s part of why I distrust people that natter on and on about putting your legal name on everything you do (on or offline) or else you’re ‘hiding’ or ‘being dishonest’. (I also have no love for pressuring people to come out, but that’ll have to wait until a different time.) My legal name is strictly used by my family. My friends know not to use it. It isn’t relevant to my spiritual life. I’m not, frankly, all that connected to it. And, ultimately, it is every individual’s choice whether to use a certain name in a situation, and pressuring them to do otherwise – or making that decision for them and using a name they haven’t agreed to let you use – is pretty awful behavior.
Names are important to our gods, usually. They have tons of names and titles, and we can call upon them by different names when we wish to reach or interact with different parts of them. It makes me a bit sad to see people put in so much effort to learn all the different names of their gods and then completely disregard a human’s name, a person who is standing in front of them and speaking their name, just because the name is ‘weird’ or ‘different’ or ‘not your REAL name’. (Putting quotes around someone’s name also falls under that, by the way.) It doesn’t matter if someone chose a name themselves or it was given to them, be respectful.
Be respectful of names and of boundaries. Our names are huge parts of ourselves, influence how the world perceives us and us the world, and trying to bully or harass someone because they don’t use a name you’re comfortable with (or one that is hard to pronounce) is not classy or cool.
After all that, it’s probably good to end with a Nicki Minaj quote: “You’re not gonna tell me who I am, Imma tell you who I am.”