What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet
Act II, Scene II (The Balcony Scene)
Romeo and Juliet
by William Shakespeare
This is a quick epilogue to my post, “What’s in a Name” (link http://www.passingandfailinginparadise.wordpress.com/2014/05/07/whats-in-a-name/ ). It may be worth reading that post first.
Last week, I asked my father if he and mom would come up with a middle name for me. Dad’s first name, and the middle name I was given at birth, is William, a name that has been in the family for generations. A nice, good, Irish name.
Since my last name ends with me, and the middle name does too, I have felt quite a bit of guilt. Funny, transition is great, it is just the name thing that has proven difficult. Ok, lots of things have proven difficult. The name thing is one of them.
My father told me yesterday that he and mom had settled on my new middle name, Rose. It was my dad’s idea, he suggested it to mom, she slept on it, and really liked the name when she woke.
My father says he first thought of Rose Kennedy, a strong woman who overcame multiple tragedies, and lived an amazingly long life. Then, he did some research into the name and stumbled upon an article about the poet, Ranier Maria Rilke, who had a love of roses. One of Rilke’s poems in particular stuck out to my father.
rose, o pure contradiction, desire
to be no one’s sleep beneath so many lids.
Rilke’s mother raised him as a girl, until he started school, probably because she lost her daughter a year before his birth.
My dad says he wanted a name that had some sort of personal meaning and resonance to him and mom.
With all this information in tow, and due to other details I may never fully understand, my father suggested the name to my mother and she approved. Now, I have a new middle name.
I love it.
Now, the rest of the story.
The importance of being given a name from my family was a surprising part of transition I had never anticipated. It makes this real to me. Real in a new way. My self image has changed overnight. In my mind’s eye, I now keep seeing the woman I am becoming. That may be hard for some of you cisgendered folks to understand. With a full name, I can finally work on changing my ID, and start making this legal once and for all. The name hurdle has kept me from seeing myself as female. You all do not have to see me as female, but I am happy to see myself in that light, thank you very much.
It is also a sign of permanent acceptance from my father. My mom has not struggled with my new first name and pronouns like he has. I linked to the blog post where I discussed this situation at length, at the top of this post. That blog entry was called, “What’s in a Name?”. That was a reference to the line from, “Romeo and Juliet” I quoted at the top of this post. I know my dad read that post before picking my middle name and I wonder if it planted the Rose seed in his head.
I know the seed had already been planted in mine. In fact, I had discussed middle names with my wife before I asked my parents to pick one. The only two we both liked were Grace, which we would have named a daughter or… you guessed it, Rose. I haven’t yet told my dad this. I wonder if he spoke with my wife… I do not think he did.
So, not only was I pleased with the name, my wife was too… we were already leaning that way. Grace, while nice, seemed odd because it was stealing the name of the daughter I now will never have. Rose literally was at the top of a very short list.
Another funny thing? When I asked for them to pick my middle name, I said, “It doesn’t have to be anything flowery.” Thankfully, that advice was ignored.
Finally, Rilke. Remember, the poet who sealed the deal for my father’s name choice. I have never read his poetry, I never knew of his love for roses. What I did know? His book, “Letters for a Young Poet” was one of the most influential and inspirational books I, as a young artist, ever read. I have often suggested it as required reading for anyone I encounter who wants to pursue a life in the arts. He was a gentle, caring, passionate and extremely human mentor, both in life and on the page.
So, I am happy as a clam with my new middle name, although I do not know how you can determine a clam’s emotional state. Perhaps it is because clams never call depression hotlines…