The Identity Challenge!

“Unapologetic”

When I was a child, my mother’s best friend changed her name from Ginny to Gina. Born as Virginia, she had outgrown the innocent nickname, which then felt too small, too girlish for this feminist fully grown woman.

It took me a long time to adjust, and I secretly resented the change. Where was the lady I had known in my ten years of life?! Who was GEE-NAH anyway? I corrected myself with misgivings for a good year. Yet, today, I barely recall “Ginny” at all. Gina is stronger, and more sophisticated, which she had always been in my memory. Changing her name to Gina was brave, and she must have known her worth. She understood that our discomfort was not her problem.

Then I changed my last name, due to four marriages and divorces, exactly eight times, back and forth, back and forth, until many people would ask, “What is it now? I can’t keep up!” Sometimes, when an old last name is still on old business accounts, I cringe a bit. Sometimes an old student will call out an old name, and my internal response is a direct read on how much peace I have gained. I have learned to graciously correct them, and keep my humor about it. What can I say? I am willing to change; there is no shame in it.

At the end of my teaching career, I began to correct kids on the use of MRS. when I had been Ms. all along. I guess Gina wore off on me. My marital status is no big secret, but if men can hold their autonomy, so can I.

The LGBTQQIP2SAA Community seems to have sprung a leak on the dams of gender identity, but more power to them. This is quite the learning curve for me. Yet, I work to understand and respect that these people are serious about the image they promote. It is important that what may seem simple to me, is simply not. Apparently, my ignorance is once again challenged.

Additionally, I sat in court a few years ago as a witness to the name change of my old friend Nate, who became En. When a mutual acquaintance made a public joke of En’s new name, I could see that the man had little regard for the depth of En’s new identity. It made me sad and also angry.

I noticed in the last year that my choice to change my name to Isa Glade, from the blandness of Kim Pauline Thompson, has brought a new wave of discomfort. I hope to keep my legal name, but promote the affection I feel when people say, EYE-SAH! It has never been easy to share Kim with 50 million others, both first and last and gender neutral as well. Nothing unique is happening. I treasure Pauline after my great-grandmother who was a writer like me, a woman I loved and admired. Thompson bears a link to a father I barely knew, so the link was something of a reminder that he did in fact matter.

Nonetheless, Isa Glade came from the origins of my spiritual path, one that transformed me into the Celtic Witch, artist and woman I am today. Spirituality is indeed the most important part of my life. Even the word “witch” is powerfully misunderstood, as it was a perceived threat to certain domains, and it took me a while to come out of the broom closet and truly own it. I am the 11th child of my father’s 14 offspring, and Isa is the 11th of the ancient runes. It has the icy quality of stillness, and the capacity to melt into springs of renewal. Glade is a middle name given to many of my family members, and the forest opening seems fitting for the warm solitude I have grown to enjoy. Isa tells the world that my identity has changed, and I really like the way it feels when a new friend has no idea that any other name exists. They see me more as who I am now than what others maintain, some version of how they once knew me.

A lot of people still call me Kim, mostly because I have not demanded they recognize my new identity. Sometimes I think they feel affection for how they already knew me. I love that younger person, Kim, and all she had endured. I love her because she is a part of me. Yet, it is entirely true, I prefer Isa. Isa is how I see myself. And who wouldn’t want to be seen as such? I suppose I will have to find a way to declare to the world how I wish to be addressed. People tend to rise to the expectations set before them.

Say It to My Face

There are many ways to leave, and among the most heartbreaking and cruel is the scenario of one person slipping away without a word. You know the story: someone comes home and their loved one has taken all their belongings, and simply vanished. Listeners claim there must have been signs along the way, but isn’t that just putting the blame where it doesn’t belong?

This form of abandonment is not just in love affairs or marriage. It can happen with a best friend, suddenly behaving as if you never existed. It can happen to children who lose a living parent without explanation. It can happen at work, when one slowly realizes they have been excluded, uninvited to the regular gatherings of their peers.

Some people do the slow fade for damage control, constantly excusing themselves from your efforts, or canceling plans at the last minute. Some people never reply to your texts or answer your calls. Some people play nice, even hugging you when you unexpectedly show up somewhere. They politely ask if you are well, but then they slink away as soon as they are able.

We, the exiled, are first confused, even deny that it is happening. Then we ask, “What is happening? Why have you moved away from me?” It is a bitter taste when they refuse to discuss it, or worse, lie to your face in an effort to avoid getting real.

I am not sure why people do this thing, but I know it feels absolutely unnecessary, and much like a giant punch to the throat. The word coward comes to mind. Self-serving. Perhaps self-righteous. Even neglect. Yet, these words are too small to match the harm of such an irresponsible act; this is a choice of dishonesty and chaos and lingering regrets for all parties.

Wait! Am I just too scary to confront? I have been told this is true. So I double down and determine to always be calm, humble enough to hear the difficult truths, and capable of a dignified conversation. I make damn sure I am safe and approachable. I prepare for whatever it is. Please, I beg of you, just tell me.

There is little we can do, though, when we are not given the chance to hear it. And we will spend great spans of time wondering how we became unlovable. Somehow, this person you called friend, this person you trusted, decided you were unworthy of an explanation, and you have been robbed of any opportunity to fix it, or even understand at all.

This is why I promise the people I love that they will never have to wonder. I promise to tell them swiftly and directly what has left me disappointed or angry or hopeless regarding our relationship. I honor people enough to say the difficult things, hopefully with grace and compassion in my voice, but at least some honesty, absolutely looking them straight in the eye.

In order to respect myself, I must respect others. Even those who have done some really bad things, or those I must leave for any reason at all. Especially those who don’t even know what they have done, or if they even did anything. Telling someone in person why you wish to pull away is an act of integrity and courage. Life is not fair, I know. But where is your soul?

Today, I seek champions who feel the way I do. I watch to see how they treat those they leave. I watch to see how they behave when they are left as well.

Perhaps people who leave without explanation are merely weak and undignified. I guess I’ll never know.