nom de whatev

you get a name when you’re born, and usually you stick with it.

i was born joseph james kaiser on november 25, 1986. when i was in preschool, my mom went to my classroom to tell my teacher that i was joe, not first two AOL usernames were JOE167 and Bigjoekaiz. i got confirmed by the catholic church as anthony (as in ‘of padua’). as a preteen, i hung out on forums as “marko,” and played MMOs in high school with pseudojapanese bullshit names like yumi oe and mai li hakori and raissa. when i started crossdressing, i lifted the name ‘madison cheyenne’ from the song ‘capital’ off the carmen sandiego soundtrack.

a couple years ago my mom mentioned that when i was still a girl, before i was born, i was gonna be elizabeth. i came out as joe. when it was time to start presenting female full time, i split the difference between my actual and hypothetical birth names and went with EJ.

i have over twenty derby names, three or four of which have been ‘official.’ and a few more that made it onto a jersey.

joe and rude gus are both boring, comfortable names. they’re familiar and beloved, and i don’t care to let either of them go, but they carry the significant baggage of coding male. my female identity is perhaps my most valuable emotional commodity.

a chosen name is a valuable bridge between how you see you and how the world sees you. that’s why i’m, honestly, amidst an identity crisis. what i want out of my gender often defies words, and finding a new label on my identity that i like as much as other chosen names has proven a challenge.

i’m not apologizing, and this isn’t just a case of me needing to “just be myself” because transitioning is a trial and error process of finding what “myself” is. i can’t speak for all transitions, but mine is not causal. it’s not “i want to wear that dress. okay, now i am wearing that dress and i am happy.” it’s mustering up the energy to experiment until something feels right. it’s not living without labels, it’s finding a label that makes me happier. it’s not “by any other name,” it’s by one or two specific names that are going to bring me a little more contentment for the rest of my life. i don’t get to be female, i choose to, and it’s really important to me that i find something in my gender that settles my spirit and makes my gender identity secondary in my life to something more valuable.

the thing that did a great deal of spirit settling, in fact, was roller derby, because it became the difference between being female and being female with a purpose. but that’s not the end of it by a long shot.

i might change my name again, derby or government. i’m not crazy about it, and i hope i get it right this time, but i might not. maybe you’re not super comfortable not knowing what to call me. i’m not either. that sucks for both of us, but i can’t make you comfortable until i am. i deflect by saying call me what you want, but that doesn’t mean i don’t care. it means i don’t know. there’s a lot about myself i don’t know. and that’s fine. i’m busy and it’s hard.