Updated: Mar 23, 2020
Social scientists have long argued that language holds enormous power. The words we use, especially those that hold emotional significance, orient us to the world around us. Social constructionists, post-modernists, and esoteric scholars alike hold that words construct worlds. Therefore, our names play a significant role in how others perceive and relate to us. Our names also play a fundamental role in how we relate to ourselves. For many queer persons, for example, the reality of familial rejection and estrangement is still very real.
Long after they have been estranged from their families of origin, they carry a reminder of that very family through the name they carry. For trans folks, especially, names are ever more important because their given names do not reflect who they are and or becoming. When someone is dead named, they are rendered invisible and unintelligible. Names carry a person's essence whilst communicating that same essence to others. For a moment, consider what your name means to you? Or others? How do others relate to your name based on their past experiences with someone with the same or similar name? How do you feel? What do you notice?
It wasn't until I began the process of legally changing my name that I realized the history my previous name carried, and the possibility and potential my new name offered. The opportunity to choose how you're languaged into the world brings you into contact with just how powerful names are. When I use my previous name, I have particular feelings and bodily sensations that are markedly different from those I feel when I quietly whisper to myself the name I have chosen.