(Originally posted January 7, 2015, here.)
I have four names, three of which I have chosen for myself.
The oldest is Amergina, which I took for myself sometime in 1993 or 1994. It’s a derivative of Amergin, the ancient Irish poet-bard, whom I felt a great affinity for at that time in my life.
The youngest is Anna Zabo, my pen name. Anna is not so far removed from Ann, my legal first name. In fact, I was named after my great grandmother, Anna, so my pen name reclaims that. Zabo is a corruption of another family name.
I call my legal name that for a reason: All my names are real (including the legal one). I am Anna Zabo. I am Amergina. I am Ann. Bone and blood. Flesh and breath. Me.
I’m also an m/m author, which means I get labels automatically slapped onto me, because everyone knows the gender and sexuality of most m/m authors, right?
I am not who you think I am. Hell, turns out that I’m not always who I think I am, either because life is a process of discovery. Truth is that I’m 43 and I am still figuring myself out.
There’s nothing wrong with that, by the way. Some of this stuff is complicated.
I will say that I’m not straight. I haven’t particularly pinned a giant sign on me that says bisexual, but there you go. If you’d asked me if I was bi at 15, I would have said no, despite having a tremendous crush on an older girl in high school.
I had no idea that such an identity existed when I was 15. It was 1986 and I was just trying to survive high school. Tumblr hadn’t been invented yet.
If you’d asked me in college if I was straight, I’d have said yes, because I knew wasn’t gay (I like guys) and hadn’t yet realized that queer means a whole lot more than gay or straight. Yes, I had heard the term bisexual, but it was always couched in “just a phase” and “something that girls do to get guys.” So I figured my interest in women was…just a phase. Except I failed at that whole getting out of it part. Well, shit.
Later, I discovered the part of me that had always been there and finally was able to embrace it and name it and say “Hey! Me.”
I’m comfortable in my body for the most part (eh, weight), but no one has seen my tears when emailing with a friend and confessing that I want to buy a suit—an actual guy’s suit, not a woman’s suit—but I am too chicken shit to go to a men’s store because I’m afraid I’ll start crying when I actually get to put the damn thing on because the mere thought brings up a host of emotions I don’t understand.
I don’t know what that desire, that fear, those tears mean yet. What part of me is trying to express itself? Is it an identity thing? A gender thing? That I really like menswear? What?
Fuck if I know. Still working that out because, as I said, this shit? It’s complicated. I have to negotiate it in my own time and on my own terms and I still am unpacking and picking through all these thoughts and feelings and needs.
And in the end, it’s my personal business when I figure it out and with whom I share that revelation. I may never say anything again. Who knows?
I’m sharing all of this now because I am in a space where I can be fairly open about myself.
Other people aren’t.
If someone had labeled me straight even five years ago, I’d not have corrected them because I was not in a place where I could have corrected them, for various reasons.
I suppose the point of this is two-fold: Assumed names can be, and are often, very very real. Identity is a process of unfolding.
Make no assumptions. Even about yourself.