Auto-ethnography of an Asterisk
I’ve applied to change my name by deed poll. That meant a special appointment at ‘births, deaths and marriages’... and a degree of anxiety as I filled in the small box that requests 'justification'.
I wrote that. as a gender-neutral name, the change reflects my understanding of myself.
At the desk I explained that I wanted the symbol of an asterisk (rather than the word) as my middle name. The very polite young woman explained she’d 'have to check' and it might be a while because the office of her superior was on another floor. She said she'd been working there for 9 years and in the last 3 months staff have seen more legislative reform than in all the time previous.
I took these photos while I waited ... public servants have such power!
She eventually came back and confirmed what I had suspected - that they 'can’t do' symbols. Only apostrophes, as in ‘d’Angelo’. I chuckled internally.
Out loud I said ‘Would it break the computer-algorithms?’. She didn’t smile.
I asked if I could see the actual wording of the policy and she helpfully printed up the legal statute and regulations. Of course they only refer to the parameters of what is possible in curating your own identity.
It actually makes Facebook’s terms seem reasonable!
Asterisk is a kind of gender-identity for me.
The symbol is used in computer science as a wildcard character or to denote repetition or multiplication. In chat rooms it can be used to correct a mistake or tone down an expletive In MUDS and MOOs there is a gender called ‘splat’ represented by the asterisk. In feudal times the star indicated date of birth in a family tree.
All of these things are me. I’ve made a series of wildcard choices in my life, taken some risks. I often a experience these as footnotes – important asides to the main narrative, significant to full understanding.
This latest adventure in gender is a choice and a path that I feel I am rolling out in front of me. Some of the people I’d like to take with me on the journey are struggling a bit.
As my voice changes, so does my manner. I feel that I’m perhaps more direct but I’m told that I come off as rude, even angry. I don’t feel that I’m cross, perhaps more assertive in taking up public space. Some of that is psych-somatic confidence surely rather than something that can be clocked up to higher levels of T?
As my body changes incrementally I see the kids look at me differently from time to time, just checking.
Now I decide when to smooth the chin hairs with a razor rather than tweezers. I enjoy the feeling of my muscles stretching and growing and I feel a buzz of excitement as I glimpse other ‘unexpected’ changes in the mirror. Each new discovery is a thing… and it’s thrilling, but it comes at some cost. How far do I want to go? I’d love to 'be read' as boy but don’t know if I want to give up some traces of femininity.
I tried on a baggy shift dress that I wore a couple of Christmas’ ago, it’s always been comfortable. It was Ok, it still looked alright on me and my body felt good, naked, underneath. But the glimpse in the mirror was just slightly discordant.
I revert to shorts and t-shirt for the day.
I am a teacher and a learner and an activist and an artist and a parent.