Ditching “Sarah Elizabeth Lawson”

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.

In MTV’s Finding Carter, Lori Stevens said to Carter, “We give her a new name, she will have a whole different life,” in ‘Throw Momma From the Train’.

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.

I have wanted my desired name since Summer 2012. I have wanted to drop my first name since 2010, but people told me it wasn’t possible, so I believed them.

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.

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Just stopping by to poke around and saw this. It reminded me of a chapter I read in The Power of Myth, which argues that although there is more to a person than a name, and ceremonies (like marriages) are ceremonies, names and ceremonies mean something. Names do reflect identity, and ceremonies cement change that had already started. Getting a new name will feel like a new identity. For me, I think simply being promoted to black belt made me a bit more resilient in my daily life, ’cause a voice in my head will always yell “You’re a fucking black belt. You can do a bit better.” when I’m frustrated.

Your post also reminded me of how I made a ruckus when my black belt came back embroidered with incorrect, but similar looking Chinese characters a few months ago… (a much more trivial issue than you and your name!) Anyhow, although there are times where “dealing with it” is the right answer (eg. when you’re sitting next to an annoying person you’re never going to see ever again on an airplane), for things that come up all the time (like what name you’re called), demanding respect and demanding that things are done right most of the time becomes the correct answer. (I was going to be wearing my black belt at least twice a week. No way I’m going to put up looking at the wrong characters that often! Luckily, the other karate practitioners agreed with me.)

Also, if you have wanted to change your name for this long, it is very much not a phase. If you had told me out of the blue that you all of a sudden wanted to change your name, I’d tell you to hang in there and keep an open mind for the next few months to really make sure you wanted to do it because name-changing is hard. But this is not a new issue – I remember you blogging about this years ago. (OMG, I can’t believe it’s been about five years since we met on the Internet!)

One thing to keep in mind is that many lawyers will do a certain amount of “pro bono” (literally, work for free) for people who cannot afford a lawyer. As someone who’s seen government paperwork before (my parents’ naturalization papers…), I strongly advise you to talk to a lawyer if you’re not familiar with the legal process of changing your name (and adding your dad to your birth certificate). If I lived in Texas, I’d help you with the process and paperwork myself, since I’ve done a fair amount of government paperwork before. But maybe your dad knows someone?

(By the way, if you decide to start without a lawyer and have trouble with some legalese, shoot me an email, and a friend of mine who does legal work will probably be happy to decode it. :P)

It is 1000000% your right to change your name if you want too, and anyone who wants to object to it, can go jump. O.O

While I understand the legal difficulties of changing your name, it seems to me you’ve already done it in your heart. When you can, do it legally, but in the meantime, introduce yourself as Liz or whatever and don’t let your family or even places you work dictate what name you go by. You can always say “Yes, Sarah is my legal name, but I choose to go by Liz. That’s the name I prefer to be called.” If someone calls you Sarah, either don’t answer or remind them your name is Liz.

I visited here for a long time to know the strength you’ve shown in finding your way out of your family’s web. You are getting stronger and stronger each day as you distance yourself from them. Sometimes it’s bound to feel like slogging through mud, but you are making progress in distancing yourself — just working out the way to change your name shows that.

Whenever I read a post about Lard, I am always floored and appalled by how he could say things like that to A CHILD! And the fact that he purchased a domain name to further make your life hell? Your anger is more than justified…though you don’t need me to tell you that. I think that people who are ignorant are always going to have a “problem” with things like naming. I don’t see how YOUR NAME affects anyone else…but sometimes people just have to put their two cents in. I might have missed this somewhere, but can you legally change your name without anyone’s permission? Have you done that yet? Why do you need a lawyer? Is it a age thing? I’m sorry for the questions, but I know you’re 24…so I’m confused as to how anyone can keep you from going to Social Security. E-mail me if I’m missing something! 🙂 *hugs*

It’s okay!

To change my name, I have to do so in the county I have lived for the past year. To do this, I have to petition the court—a two-page packet of papers explaining my name change and that it is not being changed to commit fraud (e.g. avoid debt collectors, etc.). As an Aspie, I feel like having a lawyer experienced with this would be much easier/smoother an experience. I couldn’t go to jury duty because I have a severe phobia/trigger regarding courtrooms and government workers, stemming from back when I lived with my mom and her husband—and he does work for the government sometimes, and I would feel safer with a lawyer present, in the event that anything does happen. I also don’t understand things like this, even if I have seen every episode of Law & Order: Special Victim’s Unit, and a lawyer experienced with these sorts of things can explain to me all the possible occurrences so I can be prepared—and help me make sure I send a copy of the name change grant document(s) to the necessary projects in time, etc.

If this were New Mexico, I would have to publish it in the county newspaper (so like an ad, basically) and wait 2 weeks to see if someone declined my desire to change my name, which… I think that’s horrendous, if only because I’m pretty sure my former guardians would be all over that and for all the wrong reasons.

As for L, yeah. I think it’s because I wasn’t his kid? And at one point, he wanted to adopt me. “I tried to adopt you, but your Mimi and your dad didn’t allow it.” Like, why would my dad allow it?! Speaking of my father and the abuser who wanted to adopt me, my dad isn’t even on my birth certificate. My mom didn’t add him to it out of her own selfishness, and I… after the name change, that is Plan #2. There is supposedly a way I can have my mother summoned to the court, because both parents have to be present, in order to have him added… because I know she wouldn’t do it for me if I just asked nicely. It’s been three years, and she’s not reached out beyond hate mail even once. There’s also supposedly a way to add him without her consent—I think it’s through a paternity test—and… yeah. :>

It’s just a mess. My whole childhood was a mess, and I’m just working on fixing the wrongs that should have been made right a long, long time ago so I can live my life without having to feel like I’m not living my own life at all. ♥

(I hope that makes sense. XD)

Hang on – do you watch Finding Carter? Cos I know it’s nothing amazing on a like, Game of Thrones level, but holy shit I am so hooked on that show.

I know how you feel about your name, though. For so long I’ve hated my name and it never felt right, which is why for so many things & with so many people, my surname is where it’s at. Often time, I’ll find myself writing my name as it’s my name, but it doesn’t feel like that’s me, more just an identity code almost. Even though I’ve just come to deal with it, I do hope you’ll find a way to reconcile yourself, because I know how shitty it is.

Yes, I watch it! I actually adopted and maintain the Finding Carter Wikia. 🙂 I’m slacking currently, but I made ~200 edits in one day last week and am rather burnt out/overwhelmed with it at the moment. D; I’ll clean it up this weekend, though. c:

(I’ve also watched every episode at least thrice, save the episodes currently lacking a recap.)

Thanks. <3 I have a new name picked out (it’s just a first name change, anyway), and I’m excited and scared/nervous all at once.

((Hugs)) I can’t imagine how angry it makes you feel. I know how mad it makes ME feel when I hear people call you Sarah. Although the Porsche Alexis kind of made me giggle. Sounds like a stripper name. Hehe!! I’ll be there for you if you need anyone with you when you go to court!!

I could have been a stripper. 😛

Liz, I 100% understand how you feel about names. It’s a defining factor in your life, since it’s placed onto you at birth and seems permanent. People talk about how their baby “looks like” a certain name, yet they plan out names THEY like before the baby is born. It’s one of the ways that parents feel control over their children, I think, because it’s a name that they gave to the kid. It’s a label that they placed on it because they liked it.

I’m reminded now of the book Looking For Alaska and how Alaska’s parents let her re-name herself at a certain age. I thought it was a brilliant idea, and if I have children, I’d let them do the same, just like I’d let them /live their own freaking lives./

It seems like you’ve been surrounded by close-minded and bigoted people for most of your life–that councelor in particular, holy crap. I’m so sorry. I know it’s not my fault and I’ve had no part in it, but I feel so sorry that you got stuck with these people.

I sincerely hope that you’re successful in all of this. I really, really do.

PS: Congrats on 10 months sobriety!!! That stuff is hard to quit. Very proud of you. ♥