When I was about 12 or 13, I decided I did not like my given name (Anna). To make matters worse, being from the U.S. South, I was called by both my first and middle names (Anna Lynn). (This phenomenon was prevalent at that time where I grew up; many of my female peers had double names like Ellie Jo or Mary Beth or Maggie Jean).
At the time, I wasn’t exactly able to articulate why I didn’t like my name. The best I could come up with was that it felt too “girly” somehow…it just didn’t feel right.
And that wasn’t the only thing going wrong for me at the time either. I was distressed with the changes in my body; specifically, I didn’t feel comfortable with my new curves, primarily because I felt I wasn’t running or swimming as fast as before. I felt awkward, off-kilter, out-of-sorts, and just plain wrong in ways that I couldn’t fully explain in words. And I still have trouble explaining it in words.
So I upped my exercise to minimize curves, while I secretly fantasized about finding a new name for myself. My parents had considered naming me Jodie after my father, and I steadfastly wished they had. Other contenders were my middle name (Lynn), Bennett (a distant family name and my current writing pseudonym), and Alex (because it seemed suitably androgynous).
I didn’t mention any of this angst to my parents. I didn’t want to hurt their feelings. A lot of thought had gone into my name, and I had been named after a beloved relative, so I didn’t want to offend by admitting I was unhappy with my name.
So I kept my feelings to myself, something I was extraordinarily good at. Any feelings I had were sublimated through daily runs, bicycle riding, hiking, swimming, and tree climbing. My basketball coach always jokingly called me “Bo” anyway (teasing me as if I had a “bow leg”, referring to the knee “brace” I had to wear to run suicide drills), and even that felt more right than my real name. (Side note: It’s apparently no longer politically correct to call those exercises “suicide drills” because everybody is apparently such a tender, delicate, oh-so-precious little snowflake now. Oh, well, that is what they were called at the time so that’s what I’m going with. Sigh.).
My point is: As a young Lesbian, I felt uncomfortable in a way that I didn’t have words for (and I still struggle to explain, even now) about having a (so-called) “feminine” name, even though I am what I’ve seen referred to as a “feminine-presenting lesbian” (although, ironically, certainly not as “feminine” as many people seem to expect me to be — see my previous post, Not Femme Enough…?).
The nebulous feeling that I am struggling to articulate relates directly to what I was trying to describe in my previous post, Lesbians Are Different.
Ever since I was a child, I always had straight female friends as well as male friends, and I always knew I was different than both in fundamental ways.
While I never experienced what I would consider to be true or severe dysphoria, I did, and still do, feel significant discomfort and a certain cognitive dissonance when I have tried to “dress up” and act “feminine”.
After talking to many other Lesbians over the years, who universally reported similar feelings to varying degrees, I now believe that all Lesbians experience some form of dysphoria, ranging from mild to severe, which stems from being inherently different in a heterocentric world.
We will likely write on this topic later.