Thursday, August 31, 2006

What's in a name?

During my series of transgender posts, one of the comments was from Kelly. Kelly is undergoing the transition from female to male and is keeping a blog at Kelly Speaks.

What I like about the blog is the complete honesty about the process and thoughts going on in Kelly's mind, particularly about letting go of "Greg."

A close friend of mine at work was trying to tell me how sad and upset she was about me leaving. While she clearly supports what I am doing and only wants the best, the thing is, she's sad about losing me, or at least the me she knows from work. Now I've gone through all of that with my family and friends and for the most part we've moved past that stage. Yes, they are all sad that Greg is going to cease to exist, even I'm sad about that, but they're also excited about getting to know Kelly.

I'm sure this isn't a unique experience. Nevertheless, it got me thinking about how we define other people and what's behind a name. I've never met Greg or Kelly. So, from the outside looking in, it seems to me Greg is really nothing more than Kelly with male features and a male name. It's hard for me to see the struggle.

But imagine if you were Greg or Kelly. It might be akin to feeling like you actually had two people inside you -- the real "you" and someone you've coexisted with your whole life.

What makes a person? There's the physical aspect for sure. But that's not necessarily what connects us to that person. I don't recall ever thinking about my friends and why I like them in terms of their gender. I'll use the name Rhonda to make my point. My friend Rhonda makes me laugh sometimes. We joke about our cats and we talk about politics and culture. If Rhonda came to me and said, "I'm going to be Reuben the next time you see me," would I believe that Rhonda would be gone and I'd have to reintroduce myself to Reuben? No.

What makes Rhonda special to me is the same thing that would make Reuben special to me. Because the bonds of friendship have nothing to do with someone's physical appearance, the color of their skin, their gender, who they love, or their name. Although I'll confess to having a jolt anytime a woman marries and gives up her name for her husband's. That requires an adjustment for me.

Yet, it's interesting to explore the other side: What would I feel I was losing, or killing off, during a gender transition? And how much of that internal struggle is based on other people's difficulty in dealing with my transition?

Kelly continues:

As much as I want this, and I really do, I can't deny that it is more than a bit sad. So many people know or knew me only as Greg and it's hard for them to give that up. Even though Greg has really been nothing more than a shell for Kelly, the truth is actually a bit more complicated. I've let it be known that I never did hate Greg and actually quite liked him. He was a really great guy and I hope that he made a really great impact on those around him.

Go read Kelly's blog entry. It's quite moving. Maybe, just maybe, the aspects of Greg's personality that attracted friends were the truer feminine characteristics, and once the transition is complete, those who question it will realize nothing was lost.

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