What being deadnamed feels like

When someone calls me by my deadname, I feel like I’m riding down the large hill of the Titan roller coaster for the first time again.

My first “big kid” roller coaster, and I was scared I was going to die. The adrenaline hit me hard after, and I was jittery the remainder of the visit at Six Flags.

Sometimes, I have nightmares about it that jerk me awake — same with being called by my deadname.

In spaces where I must accept it — doctor’s offices, for instance — I spend days preparing myself for the appointment and days recovering from it altogether.

The old me died with the name

I don’t know how to explain this to people anymore than I already have, but the people who grew up with the version of me that associated with my birthname keep saying, “You’ll always be ____ to me.”

They remind me of that version of me and how “happy” I was, despite not being privy to anything I felt during that time because they pathologized emotions and anything I did that they themselves didn’t or wouldn’t.

I grew up feeling like an accessory to their persona — not myself, not them, but a doll. They didn’t treat me like a person.

The trauma associated with the old version of me will always remain, though I can heal and choose not to continue the cycle. I can choose not to use children as my therapist the way I was parentified.

Having DID complicates the basic “oh, I don’t associate with that name”. Even if people understood the name change, they don’t understand the DID.

They ask why I don’t just have my DID cured, take a magic pill to make me associate with who I am, and “get over [myself]”.

Even without the DID factor, they continue to say that I am and always will be [birthname] in their mind.

They literally say, “I’m not going to call you that because it’s not your real name. I’ve always known you as ____, and I can’t change it because [insert long-winded way of saying they don’t respect or care about me].”

I am ME even if I haven’t the privilege of legalizing it yet

Look. Changing your legal name is expensive and difficult.

In order to do it right, without being perceived as a literal scammer/fraud/debt evader, etc., you need a lawyer to ensure you’ve got all your ducks in a row.

You can change your name with debt, but it might be easier to do so without because that’s less people you have to update.

Never mind notifying the credit unions, insurance companies, doctors’ offices, pharmacies, workplace…

There’s also updating your license, car title and registration, bank account…waiting for a new debit/credit card.

Literally every single account your legal name gets attached to. You need it all.

My quote was $2500 for a 10-hour retainer. It will likely be greater when I request one again — about three years after my initial inquiry.

Changing your legal name is a PRIVILEGE that few have access to.

When people in my personal life deadname me

I know the difference by now between a genuine accident and deliberate.

Deliberate deadnaming is often so casual, with zero regard for my name preference. Attempts at correcting the behavior are dismissed in favor of the offender.

Sometimes, deliberate deadnaming is meant to harm — the speaker is upset, furious they can’t control me, and/or exacting revenge. Deadnaming with malicious intent is always a power play.

I stopped giving in years ago and reclaimed my power recently. (Sometimes I fall back into people-pleasing behavior.)

Boundaries & consequences

These days, I’ve boundaries to counteract deadnaming of all sorts.

If someone cannot respect my preferred/chosen name, regardless of what’s on my license, that tells me that they don’t value what’s important to me, and care more about their comfort and convenience.

I don’t want or need to spend time with people who refuse to put forth the effort to calling me by my preferred name without any sort of retaliation.

Retaliation looks like:

  • rolling their eyes when they hear/say it
  • only calling me by the name to my face and deadnaming me behind my back
  • refusing to honor my chosen name until it’s my legal name
  • insisting they can’t because of their age (dude, my 80yo grandmother was able to completely switch to calling me her new nickname for me, and she doesn’t agree with my name change at all)
  • snide comments when they self-correct in a critical tone (“[legal name] — sorry, Jane…🙄”)
  • insisting my name change is a phase (erm, do phases last 10+ years? no)

Letting people go becomes easier once you realize how differently they’d treat you if they genuinely cared about you.

The more boundaries I set and maintained, the more I realized they had a relationship with the power they held over me.

I realized how much they idolized the younger, smaller, compliant and traumatized version of me that never said “no”, lived solely for their approval per their wishes, and took responsibility for their feelings.

From there, the respect I had for them was gone. I realized I loved and wanted a relationship with the concept of the relationship and not them.

Because ultimately, surrounding myself by hypocritical, insecure people who seek to keep me below them so they feel better about themselves was going to be the death of me.

“Sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.”

~Fred Clark’s Law

At some point, ignorance becomes malice — as there’s no way to be so ignorant unless it is deliberate with malicious intent.

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