“devils refusing to call buckaroos by their name is such weird stand because it dosnt necessarily have anything to do with being trans its just a NAME CHANGE bud how do they get so worked up about EVERYTHING? heckin vin diesels name used to be mark are you upset about that too?” –Chuck Tingle
It was not my choice to get stuck with the nickname, but it didn’t particularly bug me, and I figured if everyone was going to call me Thumper, I might as well embrace it. Besides, I flag fuchsia on the left, so it fit right into my overall aesthetic.
A couple of things unfolded when I started actively using the name, the first being a big disparity in reaction based on whether I was being introduced by a third party, or if I was introducing myself.
Like, if I was out with friends, and somebody said, “This is Thumper,” people would go, “Hi, Thumper,” and that would be it. But if I made someone’s acquaintance individually and said, “I’m Thumper,” I’d often get hit with a variation of, “Thumper, huh? You seriously go by Thumper? Ha! That’s weird. You’re weird.”
I’m just saying it wouldn’t have killed anyone to hold off on judgement for the three seconds it would’ve taken to say, “Hi, Thumper. It’s nice to meet you.”
I very quickly learned to circumvent this exchange by going, “Hi, I’m [legal name], but everyone calls me Thumper,” which sort of granted people permission to call me either. Most of them went with Thumper, I guess because referring to someone by a nickname suggests at least a casual level of intimacy: It’s like, “My friends have their own name for me, and I’m giving you the option to count yourself among them.” Which is fine. New friends are great.
The other thing that happened was that a handful of frenemies just adamantly refused to call me Thumper. Like, in mixed company, they would jump in and introduce me before I had the chance to introduce myself, just to ensure that I was going by the “correct” name.
In a way, I understand what possessed them to act like this. The name started out as a joke, specifically at my expense: By claiming it and constructing a persona around it, I took away their ability to make fun of me. And they didn’t like that.
Unfortunately for them, nobody but me gets to make decisions about my identity, so the harder they tried to control the naming narrative, the more aggressively I promoted myself as Thumper, until they finally gave up and accepted that the joke was ultimately on them.
And now I get the biggest kick when, in a social situation, one of them is forced to go, “And this is… [long, begrudging pause] …Thumper.” I’m not really sure what cockles actually are, but mine are no less than toasty.
Again, though, it’s a just a nickname; a convenient pseudonym. If Eris suddenly appeared before me and was like, “I’m not going to let you publish a book on Discordianism, because your name is stupid…”
Oh. Wait. We’re talking about Eris.
“… because your name is not stupid enough,” I’d be happy to come up with something else.
My real name, on the other hand — my third cat-name, the one under which I neither blog nor notarize — isn’t going to change for anyone. I feel like it’s safe to say that the majority of Pagans who take magical names for themselves feel the same way about theirs. Regardless of how we found them or when we adopted them, those names are elements of who we are, or are meant to be.
So I’ve been thinking about this a lot, especially after a conversation I just had with a friend of mine, who I had always assumed to be a delightful person.
Him: “Ugh. I can’t stand Eloise.”
Him: “You know, Eloise.”
Me: “I… honestly don’t think I know anyone named Eloise.”
Him: “She hosts that Wiccan Cryptology podcast.”
Me: “Oh! You mean Chuchunya. Okay, I do know her.”
Him: “Yes! Eloise. I can’t stand her.”
And you know, technically, I still don’t know anyone named Eloise. That was actually one of the original purposes of Witch names: they protected the identities of the Witches themselves. Like, if some rabid God-botherer cornered me all, “Is Eloise a Witch?!” I would go, “No clue, dude. I have never practiced Witchcraft with anyone named Eloise.”
What’s so weird to me is that the friend in question is normally very protective of other Pagans, and, like, flamingly progressive. He is staunchly pro-LGBTQ+ and unilaterally supports reproductive rights and religious freedom. And yet… when someone who shares his values rubbed him the wrong way, he made it a point to refer to her in discussion by her (not commonly known) legal name instead of the Pagan name she uses in the public sphere.
It was a microaggression on his part: a subtle but deliberate attempt to deprive her of personal agency. And I’m left to wonder what would happen if he has a falling out with, say, one of his trans or non-binary friends. Will he resort to deadnaming or misgendering them to other people? Is he an ally across the board, or only as long as the marginalized people around him stay in line?
And I know it may seem like I’m reading a lot into this, but those few folks who hate calling me Thumper? They’re also really freaking loud when it comes to complaining about pronouns. And I just feel like that’s something to be aware of. Like, maybe the people who aren’t willing to respect something as fundamental as a name are not whom we should rely on whenever the Republicans decide it’s time to round up all the redheads and queers.
Or maybe those people will surprise me, and they’ll choose to contribute to a united front over engaging in horizontal hostility when the chips are truly down. That would be awesome, like the final battle in Avengers: Endgame. I choose to look forward to that day.
And in the meantime… Hi. My name is Thumper.
It’s nice to meet you, too.