What's In A Name?
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Politics and Activism

What's In A Name?

Why preferred names are not just a fashion trend and you should respect them.

What's In A Name?
Leenda Maraldi

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet."

Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

My name is Leenda, or at least, that's what I'd tell you if you asked me. That's what I go by, that's what I like to be called. If you happened to take a look at my ID, or anything official concerning me, however, you would find a different name. Is that a secret? No, I just don't think it's important. There's a lot more to me than my name.

One of the most important people in my life, who's been around for a while, only found out that Leenda is not my birth name a week ago. He was surprised, sure, but he understood. And never mentioned it again.

There are lots of reason why I don't use my birth name, but I'm not going to discuss them here. Why? Because you don't need to know them in order to respect my choice.

Preferred names are important. They are more than just nicknames, they are more than a way of being "different" or "cool". They are important because the wrong name can hurt. People who use my birth name in any context that does not require it (anything other than documents or official reports) hurt me in a way that is hard to understand for who hasn't been there, but that is not impossible to grasp if one is willing to make an effort.

Preferred names are important because you can never know why someone is unwilling to use their birth name. It may have to do with trauma, abuse, gender identity and many other different things. By using someone's birth name when that is not the name they go by, you could potentially be triggering anxiety, panic, or general discomfort. How can you avoid that? You just don't do it.

There are three possible cases: these work with me, but they can work with any other person who doesn't use their birth name.

Do you know what my birth name is? The odds are you will never need that piece of information in your life, so you might as well forget about it. Don't bring it up. I'm Leenda. That doesn't change the moment you know what my birth name is.

Were you in my life when I still went by my birth name? Thank you for sticking around, I appreciate it. I understand it's hard to suddenly start addressing me in a different way than what you're used to, and you might struggle with it at first, but please, at least try. I would really appreciate the effort.

Did you just find out I don't go by my birth name? Nothing changes. I understand you might be curious now, but please, try not to bring it up. I'm still Leenda. It doesn't matter if my documents say otherwise.

Please, be a decent human being and respect other people's decisions. This one is one of the most personal decisions I have ever made, and nobody gets a say in this but myself. We may not get to choose our name when we are born, but we can choose to change it if it makes us uncomfortable, and that's great. It's even greater if other people respect it: be one of those people.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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