Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field.
Like the beasts of the fields, I have been created anew with no given name, but have had to name myself — choosing my new first name, deciding whether to incorporate my old name, and reorganizing the names into a new identity — and this act of naming is a powerful and intimidating act of self-creation and self-acceptance.
But this power of naming isn’t reserved for me. My own children are still debating whether it’s safe to call me Daddy in public places, and are toying with Aunt Joyce and Joyce as more direct answers that don’t call attention to the trans*situation. Whatever they come up with is fine with me, because power of naming gives them control over their environment, perhaps even some sort of control over the helplessness they must certainly feel at seeing their father shimmer away like a summer mirage.
Naming power extends beyond immediate family. My sister Liz’s kids, Lynne and Tye Rhapsody, in discussing me and my situation, asked their mother a few simple questions: “If George is now Joyce, is he, er… she, still our uncle? Or she an aunt?”
“Well, she’s sort of both, I guess — George was always your uncle and always will be in some respects, but Joyce is also your Aunt.”
“What if we called her Ancle Joyce?”
And thus a new name was born, a portmanteau, a powerful combination of two existing and familial terms that sounds like the lowly ankle. I loved the idea when I first heard it, and I’ve grown to love it more and more, especially as I hear it used by my nephew Tye, my niece Lynne, and Lynne’s young child, Ryan, who doesn’t even use the Joyce part, so that for him I’m simply Ancle, pronounced ain-chel by this little 2-year-old …
…which sounds to my ears a little bit like angel, and that’s ok with me.