The seventh in a fifteen-part short series, Meet the Writer. These posts were originally written as part of a #meetthewriter challenge facilitated by author Beth Kempton.
The names I go by have been the subject of much thought for most of my life.
It’s always been clear that my name breaks the mold of what the system around me expects and accepts. My first name is anglicized compared to my Chinese name, but if I had a dollar for every non-racialized person who, upon my telling them my name, thought they had the right to ask if they could call me something else…
There have been times I’ve thought about what it might be like to have a pen name. And I recognize the advantages. After all, we’ve all read about the studies showing that racialized candidates, using an identical job application, received far more interview invitations if they replaced their own name with an anglicized name.
Whether someone changes the name they were given in infancy to reflect their gender, or uses a pen name to be taken seriously (George Eliot/Mary Ann Evans), or chooses a married surname with intentionality, or creates a pen name that allows them to feel deeply aligned with their genre or craft, there is great power in how someone engages with their name.
However you go about engaging with your name can be an act of emancipation, political resistance or just plain savvy.
Personally, I see using my name – especially my first name – as an act of defiance, as being true to myself, and insisting on its use as just plain appropriate.
Author Nancy Hendrickson shared a post about the history of witches and asked the readers whether we consider ourselves witches. As I commented, I do not identify as a witch, but I bet my assertiveness, critical thinking, and professional advocacy for systems change and anti-oppressive leadership mean that others may consider me to be one!
On that note, if I were to pick a pseudonym, I would be sure to choose the name of a real or mythological femme from history who was seen as “difficult”. Perhaps Boadicea or Lady Fuhao.