Faith is not my legal name; although it will be when I can finally afford to. I never liked my name, and long before I started on my gender identity journey, I was on an overall who am I journey. During that time I was writing about my past, the traumas that I faced, and was told to choose a name to protect my identity. I was taking a class that focused on writing about love and loss, and my professor was going to include my essays in his textbook. I spoke about self-harm, child abuse, suicide attempts, and overall depression. To keep all of his students safe, my professor asked for pseudonyms. Faith was born then. Faith, an ideology that was broken within me. Faith, a concept that I was trying to regain in my life. Faith, one of my favorite characters on TV in a show the resonated around the world. The name became my own.
Broken, drowning, lost and feeling so disconnected from the world around me, Faith rose up within me as I navigated my world through essays, reflections and prose. Taryn Davies came later, through gentle musings and a need to feel complete. My given name is still used, out of legality, out of disrespect and out of confusion. But that girl is gone. She is gone with the gender roles and deep secrets that always held her back.
Faith is the person standing in the smoke and rubble that has been my life up to this point. Seems dramatic, but being Faith, having Faith, is what led me out of the darkest, most troubling times in my history. Becoming Faith became more than just protecting my identity. Being Faith became a state of being. A steadfast footing amongst thundering storms and rising dawns. Each step forward in my life has been a step towards this state of being; of being more than the world around me. Of being more than what that scared, hurt child the grew into a lost, untrusting and hopeless adult.
I answer to Faith. I prefer Faith. In Harry Potter, Dumbledore once said that he believed they sorted the houses too early. I believe we are named to early. Someone choses for you. Places an identity on you, many times before you even take your first breath of this world. It infuriates me. It infuriates me like gender roles, heteronormativity, assuming, and ignorance infuriates me. Identity isn’t a choice, and shouldn’t be forced onto those in which it doesn’t fit. There is no free will when something choses you. I may have chosen a name, but who I am in that name isn’t a choice, and knowing that freedom is more empowering than anything I’ve ever dreamed of.
Choice is such an easily misunderstood concept. I don’t choose to be pansexual. I choose to tell you about it. I don’t choose to be androgyne, I choose to tell you.
“So what do you want to be called?”
I know I’ve been rambling, but that question led me down a philosophical and theoretical quandary because that is how my mind works. I don’t choose to look deeper into myself. I choose to allow myself the opportunity to look deeper. I choose to go down the rabbit hole, to eat the cake, but I don’t choose the result, just the opportunity for change. I’m rambling again.
I’ve been opening up regarding my gender identity, both here and in my daily life. I’ve been out in the LGBTQ+ community since I was 15, but have been dealing with identity within the community since I was 12. I understand the struggle to figure out yourself. I know this journey. I’ve taken so many unknown roads that the woods around me have changed from yellow, to green, to brown, to open fields. I’m lucky enough to have people around me who want to make sure that they are respecting my journey, so I get asked about pronouns, for further explication, for help so they can help me. It’s beautiful; it’s love in a time of hatred.
I’m a non-binary person. There isn’t a mold I fit. I will, and have, made people feel uncomfortable just by being myself and that is okay. I’ve been uncomfortable majority of my life because of other people and have survived. It comes down to respect. Don’t demand of those what you aren’t willing to give yourself. My ex came to me a few weeks back and told me that he felt that he was always a male, that he had begun his transition, and that he wanted to be called by his chosen name. I didn’t hesitate. I changed his name in my phone immediately. I used he with the same ease I used his societal assigned pronoun, because I love him. I see him. Because it wasn’t about me.
I have a confession to make. I didn’t understand what a pronoun was until I was in high school. A product of the United States education system, I didn’t understand grammar until I had a teacher who took the time to…you know…teach. Like so many, I also had a binary understanding of pronouns. Recent education has broken me of that binary thinking, but grammatically, and consciously, I struggled with my options. It was easier to adjust for other people, but I struggled with myself, because I don’t live in the black and white of life. I am grey. I am a state of being. I didn’t even know I had options for myself, and that was reflected in other’s almost obstinate refusal to navigate the unknown with me. I felt so much pressure to find terms so others weren’t uncomfortable with me. I needed words that can be used by others to reference me…a wordsmith with no words is terrifying.
Because, as I learned, my name wasn’t enough. The most powerful and identifying aspect of my life, of my overall identity, wasn’t enough. So the first time I was asked about my pronouns I panicked. I said I would answer to both he or she because my initial reaction was to make it easier for the person asking me; to make her more comfortable in figuring out what to call me. But that was the wrong decision, and it’s been bothering me for the last 2 weeks. It’s been bothering me to the point that I’ve stayed awake, letting music fill my room as I stare at my ceiling trying to figure out what it meant to be comfortable for myself.
This is where I get to stick it to my ex-wife’s judgmental opinions about my reading habits, because it was actually a well-written fan fiction that explored different gender scenarios amongst characters in a recent television show that gave me an option about pronouns that I hadn’t thought of (my ex would admittedly judge me for reading fanfiction, but I don’t give a crap. It’s a place for writers to just be, to write and nerd out, and I am not going to judge anyone for it…even if the grammar gods are violated regularly. Who gives a damn? I love it.)
In this story, the main character identified non-binary, and their friends used them, they, their to refer to the character. They…them…their. Talk about a light switch moment. My heart was pounding.
Personal pronouns in the American English language indicate a number and a person: I, you= a singular, non-gendered person. He/She= singular, gendered identified person. We/They= multiple, non-gendered people. We use pronouns to indicate subject and objects. Personal subject pronouns are used as the subject of a clause, while personal object pronouns are used in others positions, like after a preposition or a verb (confused yet?) But this, this is just the tip of the iceberg of a giant grammar lesson that I don’t want to fall into (damn rabbit holes.)
What I am getting at, is that the pronoun they/them/their/they’re is used to identify specific groups of people/objects etc, and indicate that groups possession and so on and so forth. But they is a plural, third person pronoun that is non-gendered. Have you made the connection yet? Can you make that leap with me?
Can understand my reaction to seeing they used in reference to a non-binary person? I was amazed, and nervous, and excited, and feeling a bit of academic rebellion. A person who either represents as both or neither genders, they is the perfect pronoun. Plural in traditional sense, but in this case used to identify a singular person outside of societal constructs that represents more than one, or no gender altogether. Me. I live almost every aspect of my life on a spectrum. The more I read, then the more I researched, the more I realized that there I was. This is what I could give others that not only satisfied my own needs, but also allowed me to give others a tool to help them navigate who I was better. So they could love me better.
I told one of my oldest friends this the other day. I was still nervous. I still said I would respond to he/she, which is not okay. It is not okay, because I don’t want to be called he or she. Mainly, I don’t want to be called she. That isn’t who I am. I have spent my whole life holding myself back from who I was, who I wanted to be, because of what others either wanted from me, or perceived me to be. So many decisions were taken out of my hands because I let others hold such dominance over me, all the while hearing them tell me how dominant I am. I was torn apart by this. My identity was torn apart by this.
It’s a human trait, to focus on what makes you happy and comfortable. For me, it’s a trait to make others happy and comfortable, even if it means I sacrifice parts of myself and that has to stop. I deserve better. I deserve better from myself and I should have told my friend, when she rejected my chosen pronoun, that it wasn’t about her perspective or opinion. This was about me. I was telling her an irrefutable truth about myself, and I should have said that it hurt feeling unheard. To feel judged. To feel unaccepted, even knowing it wasn’t being done maliciously.
That is hurts to feel alone on this journey. That those whom I have known the longest, who I love deeply, who I want to be with me on this journey, just pass it off like it’s nothing. That is diminishes what I’m going through by saying it makes sense, but that they will decide what to call me, how to deal with me, instead of allowing me to be a part of it, to own my name. That it’s still, somehow, not about me, but them. That I’m just being selfish for not taking into consideration what they feel. That asking me for my pronoun, asking me what I want to be called, and then feeling hurt and invalidated when my voice is unheard, isn’t something I’m allowed because in reality asking me what I want to be called wasn’t really about me.
I don’t believe my friends are heartless or selfish. I feel invisible in front of them. That my life isn’t about me, but what they get from me.
But it is about me. It’s about all aspects of my existence. Faith. Androgyne. They. Gender Dysphoria. Human…human. All the insecurity and late night soul-searching desperately looking for anyone who understands where I am coming from. Finding the closest comfort in fictional characters that represent a dream that one day someone will just see me. Who will accept me without placing their own existence on my shoulders. To be seen as a real person. A breathing, laughing, glued/stitched/stapled together, mind-bogglingly exhausting I know, but overall good person who deserves to just been seen. To be loved.
So…what to call me?
My name is Faith. They, and the derivatives of they, are the pronouns that I choose. I chose them because they represent me so wholly, and I smile. I smile when I read that character experiencing acceptance and love. Read their friends and family’s love for them. Read their love and acceptance of who they are. Smile when I look in the mirror and I see me. See them. See hope. My smile is in my eyes.
Maybe the question shouldn’t be what do you want to be called. Maybe, the question should be what should I call you? What can I call you? What can I do to show you that I love you? How can I love you better? How can I help you love you better?
Or maybe there shouldn’t be a question at all. Maybe the words spoken should be “let me show you how I love you.”