I Never Thought Choosing My Name Would Bring Me Trauma
December 10, 2018
From Elliott Orrin Hinkle
As I write this, trying to get clarity if I’m picking the topic I really want to write about, I’m thinking of what I am feeling right now. For me, as a trans person in our current political and social climate, every day comes with a new, interesting, and often enough, traumatic stressor. I’m also trying to be sure that what I share might be helpful for you to walk away and think just a little differently about the world from the lens of one trans person . . .
More Hoops, More Questions
So, as I sit here, I’m honestly stressing what I need to come to terms with soon in my life because it will literally be something for the rest of my life. One piece of a continuously traumatic process. What is that? That every time I fill out any background check or credit check, I will always have to go through more hoops, answer more questions, or preemptively share more about myself than I might like to insure I’m not ruled out simply for having changed my name, twice. I first changed my birth name because I got married in March of 2016. It just meant changing my last name and generally this is a change that is well received, celebrated even. In no time at all people took on my last name like it was never anything else. Updating records, banks, HR documents, etc. is so easy when you get married, turns out.
But then, in April of 2017, I was ready to openly share that my gender was not, in fact, aligned with my sex assigned at birth: female. I was ready to share with my framily (what some may call chosen family) that I was changing my name again, that my gender was actually trans masculine nonbinary, and my name would now be Elliott Orrin Hinkle. A name that was such a beautiful experience to get to pick for myself. What I was not prepared for was every document, phone call, reintroduction, and so very many questions about this change.
New Job . . . Background Check
My stress tonight is that I was just offered this amazing job I’m so excited to start and the last hurdle is the background check. A background check even simpler than my last job that worked directly with young people in foster care. I filled out the form with full transparency that I have three names to look back on and the simple details that the two name changes came from a marriage and then transitioning my gender. This leaves little to no room for misinterpretation—at least that is always my hope.
But as I expected, my background check, unlike my cisgender colleague, will take some time to process. My colleague? Went through the same day. This is no fault of my colleague at all. I say this to get to the larger and albeit traumatic experience I have every time I do anything going forward in my life that requires me to verify who I am. I don’t get to come to work as Elliott Orrin Hinkle. I don’t get to come to a new housing situation as Elliott Orrin Hinkle. I don’t get to apply for a loan as Elliott Orrin Hinkle. I have to bring all of my history with me, which, I’m not afraid or upset by others knowing my deadname . . . I just never could have expected how much labor goes into existing in a world that actively is trying to make sure it is not simple to do so. That every time also means “outing” myself as trans, a choice that feels both preventative and terrifying.
I have no criminal history and eventually this background check will come through and reaffirm that three names and all, I’m still who I say I am, no background to be concerned about. I just hope someday I can reach a point where this isn’t such a traumatic process but more so I hope we reach a place where we dismantle the systems we put in place with only a dominate group of people in mind, leaving some of us to navigate the system we weren’t supposed to exist in.
I want to leave you with a resource because, if there is anything I need to get through these kinds of headaches and stressful time periods, its allies who step up and when its right, stand along side me, or make room and then step back. I can’t thank my framily enough for the times they have not just said they have my back but have shown me.