Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Right Name

by knox daley

It's not a big deal, I told myself. It's my mom, she loves me no matter what, she has always told me so.
Did she bat an eye when I told her I was gay? Nope. She hugged me.
Did she care when I told her I wasn't gay but was maybe bisexual after all and furthermore was dating a guy? Maybe a little confused but she said she just wanted me to be happy.
What about a few years after that when I told her I was gay after all? Or most recently when I said I was pansexual? She said she was happy I told her and that she always wants to know how I'm doing; that she's happy for me. When I tell my mama I'm dating someone new she used to say "a guy or a girl?" - now she says "tell me about this person" instead.

I took a deep breath. I looked at the snow-covered tree outside the picture window of my parents' living room.
"Hey mom," I looked at my hands, "remember that stuff we talked about .. like.. genderqueer stuff?"
My mom looked at me and I met her eye, saw the twinkle of recognition in it. I realized that my mom is so used to my coming out speeches by now that she knows it's happening already. I couldn't help but laugh.
Ok, I thought, this is fine. Just have to get it out now.
I told my mom about my gender feelings. About how I feel like I belong to neither the category of woman nor the category of man; and that I don't particularly want to belong. Nothing shocking to her. She told me about the womens' liberation movement of the 60's and 70's. She told me about her own gender transgressions.
She told me she was proud of me for finding my own spirit, my own identity, my own way to be. "You keep teaching me what unique really means," she said.

I felt more confident. Time to go for the big part.
"I want to be called Knox now. I mean.. I'm going by Knox. As my name" I told her, lifting my chin and firming my shoulders as I said it.
She raised an eyebrow.
"Knox?" mom asked, unconvinced, "I'm sorry, but you have been Phil for like ever, and I'm supposed to call you Knox now? I like Phil. What's wrong with Phil, sweetie?"
and I laughed.
Phil is not my birth name. Phil is the name my family has called me since I was very young instead of my feminine birth name. And I realized how wonderful and lucky it is to have a family who knows who I am, who supports me, who recognizes my gender-weirdness and to whom it's not really a big deal. My mom knows that I am a complex and shifting being - she knows because she helped to make me that way.

Ok, mom. You can still call me Phil.

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