In April of 1999 I was born with a name that is no longer mine. Everything I own still has that name on it, except for the things that I create. As a kid I was confused by my name because I had never met anyone else with the same name. Waiters and waitresses always mispronounced my name, sending five year old me into an internal temper tantrum. All I wanted as a child was to be called by my birth name and to find it on a keychain in a gift shop. The later never happened.

As I grew older I began to resent my name. I resent the fact that I could never find it in others, on stupid gift shop items, but especially in myself.

I've always had a nickname that comes from my birth name. My family uses it sometimes and as a child I was okay with that. In my mind, you had to be close to me in order to have the privilege of using my nickname. If we weren't close, you better call me by my birth name or I was going to correct you. For me, it was a bond- a sign that I was close enough to that person so they earned the right to call me by my nickname. Well, I'm 19 now and that has completely changed. There is only one person I'm okay with calling me by my birth name and that is my best friend.

My best friend uses my birth name and my nickname interchangeably and I'm perfectly fine with it for some reason. I think the only reason I'm okay with her calling me by my birth name and my nickname is because she also has a birth name and nickname and only lets certain people call her by her birth name. Usually, she only gets called by her birth name when she's in trouble with her parents. However, if I throw her birth name at her she glares at me and laughs. Other than that, it makes my skin crawl to hear the extra four letters added on to my name.

I'm not the same person I was born as. I was born as an 8 pound something ounce baby and now I am totally different. I am a queer person who has found themself and is still working to figure themself out. My name is a big part of my identity. If I could, I would change my entire name. My mom knows this and it hurts her because I'm her kid and I'm her *insert birth name here*. The thought of me changing my name somehow removes myself from my life in my family's opinion and in the eyes of others. My last name is attached to a part of my life I don't want to and am not involved in anymore, as is my middle name. As for my given first name, well, that just isn't who I am.

There are three people in my life who know the name that I want to use. The name that I have given myself. I'm still torn on my name because there is still the issue of my last name. The last name issue won't be solved for awhile though, not until I get married. As I sit here typing this I know that I won't give you the satisfaction of telling you my birth name, unless you know me before I became myself; but I also don't know if I can tell the world my name.

When you have a dead name, it's so easy to be pained by hearing it. It's so easy to feel like you're not you when those around you use those letters to call you something you aren't. It's just like pronouns. You have no right to call me by a name that isn't mine, just like you have no right to use pronouns that don't match my gender. To find the courage to get rid of a dead name is easy, but to find the courage to tell the world your name is hard. It's terrifying because the people who were there when you took your first breath might not agree with you. The people that matter most to you might not "come around" to the new you when it's been you all along. You've always been you.

When you first call your mom "mom", she's always been your mom. Just because she didn't have that name before you said it for the first time doesn't make her any less of a mom. Some of us were born with names that aren't ours and just because we do something to become a little bit more ourselves doesn't mean that we aren't still children, students, employees, partners, etc..

You don't have to change your name to be yourself. If you do need to change your name to be yourself, do it. If someone around you has a dead name, acknowledge it. Don't call them by their dead name. Respect people and who they are. They are still the same person that you love and care about.

In time my name may change again but right now my name is Casper Landyn, but you can call me Cas.