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The Power of Names — Asher/Pen

A Tale of Two Ashers

Hey Friends,

So, in a conversation with a friend (in the past few days), the idea of (my) names came up.  Just to give a broader context, this idea of names has been pretty explicitly tied to my feelings of agency in owning my body, my voice, and the way others read me.  With this in mind, it’s been so important for me to feel like my name matches who I am…and the way I interact with others.  This is also tied to my preference of having folks refer to me using masculine pronouns (he/him/his) as a way of validating some of the ways I want to be read (as someone who is trans-masculine and gender queer, among other things).

A brief history on the time line of my name(s):

I’ve gone from never really identifying with, but feeling forced into using my birth name….to using a shortened nickname, then for a year or so I primarily used my drag persona name…which then led back to an even more gender-fluid and shortened version of my birth name.  Throughout this whole time, any time people asked about my “real” name, it made me feel really trapped.

As much as my names have been adapted and switched at different times in my life, I’ve never wanted to feel judged…like my real name somehow meant that I was stuck with a name my parents gave me at birth.  What makes that name any more real than the names I’ve so strongly identified with throughout different periods of my life?  My sense of identity and person hood were never connected to my birth name — rather, that very feminine and foreign name always seemed to keep me trapped in a trajectory that I never felt like I could follow.

So when people have asked about my “real” name, I didn’t want to have to go into  how that question actually made me feel like my agency in choosing a path/identity that better fits who I am is being challenged and that it has the effect of implying that my chosen name is not “real” enough for them.  Instead, my friends helped me figure out ways to take on new meanings with the name, Pen.  Rather than it being traced back to its longer version (and the painful reminders of that name being used to force me into gender roles/identities that never fit), I re-invented the meaning of my name.  I started responding to questions about my name by saying that Pen was a chosen nick name that could be a shortened version of so many amazing options… including:

  • Pencil (thanks to my friends, Marker and Jo!)
  • Penguin
  • Penberton
  • Penjamin
  • Penultimate

So while Pen became a really great nickname, it always felt like more of a placeholder than a replacement for my birth name on all my official forms or with people to whom I introduce myself.

So what’s with me signing my posts as Asher?

Well, there’s actually a longer (funny) story about my affinity for the name, Asher.  I’ll just say that my cat had to suffer the consequences of having her name changed a number of times to accommodate my wishes to use the name I originally gave to her (Asher).  Although, she ended up with the most flamboyantly fabulous name of “Prince Fluffers” (thanks to my good buddy, Jac!), so I don’t think she’s too upset about it all.  After all, she is quite the prince/diva/fierce femme!

Okay, back to the name, Asher.  Well, the short version of the story is that I spent some time thinking of an alternative name to the one I was given at birth.  In this time, I used Pen as a placeholder nickname cause it worked for folks who had always known me as a form of Pen…and it worked as a way of giving a gender-fluid name to new folks I’ve been meeting.  But now that I have initiated a really amazing physical journey in reclaiming my body, I wanted to also move forward with adapting a name that feels right for me.

So from this point forward, I’ll be working on officially changing my name to Asher.  Super exciting, right?  🙂

However, since I know it’s a process to adapt to new names for folks…and cause I still want to use Pen as a nickname, I’m totally happy for folks to keep calling me Pen, or to interchange Pen with Asher, or to call me Asher.

Along with all this, I also really like the idea of everyone having the ability to choose names/pronouns/and other identifiers that work for them rather than folks feeling forced into the standards that our societies, communities, and families may set for us.  We should all have the opportunity to think about what works best for us…and we should also make space to allow others the time/space to declare what works for them.

Whether or not someone is trans, genderqueer, queer, etc., I dig the idea of deliberately making this space and giving folks opportunities to claim agency in any/all forms of declaring/exploring identities.

Sending ❤



About Queerly Asher

I'm a genderqueer, trans-masculine Jew. I grew up/went to school in the Midwest (UW-Madison) and recently re-located to Boston (Jamaica Plain, MA) to work as a Community Organizer with a LGBT & Queer Jewish organization. I started this wordpress to document my experiences and journey of my own psychological, emotional, and physical form of transition. We'll see where it goes!


4 thoughts on “The Power of Names — Asher/Pen

  1. So I guess calling you princess fluffers is off the table?

    Posted by carly | April 7, 2011, 1:21 am
  2. Er, prince. Respect to your cat’s gender identity.

    Posted by carly | April 7, 2011, 1:22 am
  3. great. we use the same name on web! lol

    Posted by Asher | June 15, 2011, 11:42 pm

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