Possible trigger warning: Slight talk of cutting sobriety.
In searching to find stories from others who have changed their names — and blogged about it — I found an article that really resonates with me.
I think a lot of people think my desire to change my name is a phase, and I finally feel I can articulate my reasoning for a name change, even if it’s only a draft for until I can better explain it.
Many people believe names shape identities, whereas others don’t. I’ve lived in Combine/Crandall, Seagoville, San Antonio, Pflugerville, Austin, Round Rock, Forney, Wills Point, Euless, and Garland — I’ve moved at least fourteen times and have lived in Texas my entire life. I’ve been to Oklahoma and to Kansas; in Texas, I’ve been to Houston, Galveston, Las Colinas, Canton, Terrell, South Padre Island… I have met a lot of people.
Every “Cody” I have met has been similar.
Every “Justin” I have met has been similar.
Every “Amanda” I have met has been similar.
Every “Katie” I have met has been similar.
Every “Sarah” I have met has been similar — except me.
People can call my name, but I don’t always respond. I haven’t always responded. It never felt like my name.
Every time I hear someone call me “Sarah”, I feel like I am instantly out of control. I didn’t have choices growing up — I’m quite aware may accuse me of playing the “oh-poor-me” card, but I’m serious. I had everything chosen for me. Time after time, I wanted to go by “Lizzie” or “Liz”. I even tried “Elizabeth”.
Each and every time, lard would give me crap about how “Lizzie” sounds like “Lezzy” and “Liz” sounds like “Lez”, and said people would make fun of me for it. “Do you want to be a lesbian?” he asked. I didn’t even know what that was — I was in fourth grade, for crying out loud. I tried again in sixth grade, then in seventh… In eighth grade, my BFF S finally awarded me “Bearah” and literally used that as my name. For the first time, I felt such a relief.
Dissociation and dysphoria
I remember going into Walmart in the fall of 2011 thinking, “This is it. This is my chance at having an actual second chance. I’m going to go by ‘Liz’,” for my interview. I was asked what I preferred to be called, but my name tag wound up being “Sarah”. I still have it. It makes me cringe.
When I took classes at TVCC in the spring of 2011, I realized Dylan[1. My cousin Shane’s next door neighbor and ex-best friend… also my ex-major crush. We were in love… at least, I was pretty sure he was in love with me. It’s embarrassing. Moving on.] was in my maths and English class; my communications teacher “knew” me, as well as my mom and lard… and she didn’t let me forget it. After emailing my maths and English teachers for the first time, they began to correct my name to “Liz Lawson”. I used my current Google email to contact them, and it has always displayed “Liz Lawson” for my name. It was sweet, to be honest.
In 2012, I had this really, really bad feeling. I have felt like I had split personalities, and I told my therapist about it when I was able to see her.
The name tag saying “Sarah” makes me cringe, because it doesn’t feel like it’s mine. “Sarah” feels like this person whose name is tattooed onto my body, but I personally do not feel like my name is “Sarah” — yet, people call me “Sarah”, and no matter how hard I try, I cannot figure out who this person is. I feel like I’m living a lie, and I’m just really exhausted with it all. I feel like I’m pretending to be something/someone I’m not — I feel like I’m weak and inadequate and out of control because I am in this body that doesn’t belong to me and can’t get out.
So I cut. I cut a lot, and it’s been about ten months since I last slit my skin — since I decided, “I have to change my name. I need to figure out how to check to see what debts I have[2. Still need help on this, by the way!], find a lawyer who can help me petition the court since I don’t always articulate well and literally will need a walk-through/extreme help[3. Severe law enforcement and courtroom anxiety, you guys. ‘Tis triggering.], and actually have the money to be able to hire a lawyer.” It is what has kept me going.
Figuring it out
I tried to explain my feelings to the counselor I saw circa 2007, but all he[4. Another reason it didn’t work.] merely wanted to ask me ridiculously stupid, irrelevant, redundant questions pertaining to [extremely] situational hypothetical situations that were idiotic beyond reason:
- Your daughter wakes up one day and decides she doesn’t want to be a Christian anymore. What do you do?
- Your son decides he’s gay. What do you do?
- Your daughter arrives home one day and tells you she’s pregnant, met a girl who turned her into a lesbian, and she is going to move in with that girl. What do you do?
- Really? You would love your children, even if they were gay?
- Why didn’t you mention your husband in any of those?
- You haven’t brought up religion in a while… why is that?
- [After sharing] And why do you think that is?
I wanted to talk about not feeling like myself, the sixteen-year-old teenager who he had been appointed to “help”, whatever the hell that was supposed to mean. And when I would share, he’d reply, “Wow! Sarah, I am so impressed! I can’t believe you turned out so well!”
I need it. Lard purchased seekliza.me and posted some half-assed, unofficial supposed “Cease and Desist” letter with “SARAH ELIZABETH LAWSON” in all caps, and you know what? He didn’t lose his job because of me specifically — I reported to ICANN that it was purchased out of ill faith, whom I assume contacted his workplace… and then I reported it to the infamous GoDaddy, who told me they would look into it.
Prior to him purchasing the domain name, I had to contact Google because lard deleted my comments requesting he remove my name on the YouTube video including my name, closed comments, obviously didn’t reply to my YouTube message… So I reported it to Google for an infringement on a) my intellectual rights and b) an invasion of my privacy. And the next thing I knew, the video had been removed and had that typical notice from YouTube.
And family told me to “ignore it” — to just deal with it — but my entire life, “just deal with it” is the advice I have taken, and neither progress nor change happens when people “just deal with” things. Things stay the same, problems remain… and I don’t want that life for me or for my future children. It makes me unhappy when I have to conform to things because that is just the way they are.
I’ve never accepted “that’s life” or “that’s the way it is” statements, because I have always believed change is possible. Society has evolved because of change, so… it has to be possible.
I want/need control. I am in control of my own life. I don’t want the name my mother gave me. I understand it wasn’t my mom specifically that named me, but nevertheless…
It just isn’t my name.
My dad wanted to name me Portia Alexis, as he loved (and still does) cars, and even those names feel better than “Sarah”.
And I’m not happy.
I cry over it. I’m actually crying as I write these last few lines; I’ve written this post in one sitting, listening to the theme song of Reign, and forcing myself to believe it’s all worth it and I will soon receive my peace and escape the prison that is whomever “Sarah” is supposed to be.
Family tells me, “I know you as ‘Sarah’; you’ll have to forgive me.” I don’t understand how hard it is to at least call me “Liz” for now. I don’t have to forgive you. You can change my name in your address book and make sure you get that it’s fucking “LIZ”, because I’m mentally tearing myself apart on the inside because people are calling me “Sarah”.
I feel like an elephant who accidentally got assigned to the penguin house, and it’s so obvious that I’m an elephant, but people keep coming up to me with a clipboard and saying, “According to this, you’re actually a penguin.”[5. From Finding Carter, “The Birds”.]
It’s not a phase.
It’s not a phase. If I could do it today, I would do it today. I just don’t have the money to pay off any current debts, to pay the fee, and to hire a lawyer. That is all that is stopping me, but I’m going to do it before 2017.
My given name is not my name.
February 2018 edit: Legally changing my name is harder than I thought. I have policophobia and am terrified of courtrooms, but I know changing my legal name is what I need to do. To do it, I’m going to need a lawyer to help me do it right. The whole process in and of itself is a complex mess, but I am still on the road to it. I have dissociative identity disorder, but not one part of me as a person identifies with “Sarah”. I became Sarah as a means of survival; to me, the identity of Sarah is a ruthless child who had to fight to live in a world that not only denied her existence, but was raised by guardians who threatened her with death on a daily basis. When I became Sarah, I became darkness.