In January, I decided I wanted to be someone else. This choice was partly because I’ve never liked my name, even though I used it professionally for a decade. So I chose a name and informed the world of my decision, intending to test run it for a few months before going through the legal processes using the wonderful world of social media.
I was raised to believe names were given, not chosen. This is bullshit. There’s no legal barrier, even if there is a social one, and I can call myself whatever I like. I, as it happens, like Asha.
Two-parter names are also the fashion in my family (my brother, father, uncles, Beloved Niece and Growing Nephew) all have a first and a middle name. Except theirs can all be shortened to something manageable, mine can’t and it’s yet another reason I hate it. Worse, I have the extra guilt because I was named for a relative who died decades before I came into the world and a parent (which strikes me as nearly as bad as those American kids named X Y Junior/III). Changing my name … it’s an affront but it also doesn’t matter. Everyone who knew the person whose name I bore is dead. Oh and no one knows my middle name because it is spoken of with derision that when my GP uses it, I glare at her.
I’m also doing it as a way to heal and this is the important bit.
I chose Asha (which means ‘truth’) and Bardon (a reference to being a storyteller; thanks Kim for suggesting it) because they had meaning and there was a nice balance on the tongue. I wanted a single name and a surname (it’ll stand out better than my previous one, as well as looking better on anthology covers). They flow nicely and I feel like Asha. I now answer to it and most, though not all, of my friends have quite gotten used to the change.
I figure an official certificate, a passport and whatnot will help with this.
Oddly, I found precious little on the internet about the process except for warnings about using fake ‘official’ services who charge. Technically you can do your deed poll for free but as I want a proper legal document, I’m going to do this the right way (which involves giving the Courts of Justice money and announcing things officially in the London Gazette. Oh and paying a notary.). I don’t have to do this, but it will make things easier as I’m a homeowner and want to change my bank accounts/get a fresh passport/Blue Badge/Bus Pass (all of which seem to be due renewal).
I also want to be Asha, completely, not just calling myself another name.
My friends have all been awesome about it. Most understand the desire for a change or have changed names themselves (though it’s usually been via marriage rather than a personal choice). I can’t disappear completely but I don’t intend to tell my family (and have my social feeds locked down enough that none of them will know until the deed is done). I’m going to be 40 in a couple of years and this, well, it feels like an early birthday present for that milestone plus if my family must know, eventually finding out, I’d rather Growing Nephew know me as ‘Aunt Asha’ than ‘Auntie Lesley’.
Lesley was a survivor, of life, of shedloads of abuse, of discrimination, of so much bullshit and bad relationships. She attracted the wrong people, she moved mountains for strangers who didn’t deserve that loyalty and made so many bad choices it could be recited as a litany. She was manic, uncontrolled, she let herself be treated badly, talked down to like a ten-year-old and treated, even unto adulthood, as if she was mentally incompetent.
I do know, though, if my family find out, they’ll take it personally, as a grave insult. But it’s my life not theirs and if I do tell them, it’ll be afterwards, once all the forms are signed and sealed. I don’t care: I see it as a new start because Asha is different. Okay, she still has PTSD, she still has GED and bipolar, she still has OCD, but changing my name was never about denying any of that. I am all those things and fuckloads more.
Asha is a short story writer, she writes novels. She’s more confrontational and will not accept bullshit from idiots. She loves her friends and their dogs, she bakes, she shoots arrows (though never at people) and is trying so hard to be teetotal. She’s smart, she can code (a bit), she understands that sometimes you need help and it’s okay to ask for it. She’s the me I wish I’d met earlier, before realising I had to live my life for myself and not how other people wanted me too.
So I wanted to blog about the process, hopefully as an educational thing. In theory, all I need to do is make an appointment with a notary (who will make the documents as well as helping on the witness front; I don’t have anyone I’ve known for a decade who I’m still speaking to). The price is reasonable, given their services and it’s not exorbitant. Then it’s just a matter of writing a cheque under my old name (ironically) and sending all the documents off to the Royal Courts of Justice. Once it’s processed and I have the shiny certificate, I can apply for a passport and notify all the important folks (banks, the NHS, the DWP, my utility companies etc) of the name change. Actual photo ID and the change of name declaration, it should be (in theory) easy to update everything.
Then I can do the stuff I’ve been putting off like redoing my will, sorting my finances, kickstarting another book and whatnot. The adulting that my illness has forced me to put on one side. Taking control, of which the name change is the final step, is going to help me survive in a world that really doesn’t like me.
Wish me luck.