How I Chose My Name
In the beginning of transitioning, my doctor gave me some of the best wisdom. She said that some things about my transition would be easier than I thought, and some would be harder. I didn’t think choosing my own name would be difficult, but once I sat down to it, I found it to be a struggle, and I discovered something about my personal philosophy in those moments.
I believe, deep down, that names are something we are given, and not something we chose for ourselves. We can create a name for ourselves, but that’ s not the same thing. I enjoy having nick names, even if they are seemingly silly and insulting, such as Small Fry or Short Stuff. It matters that I belong to a group, and that they have given me a name–honored me with one. Unfortunately, when it came down to it, I had to choose Ben Brock myself, but I was born Bethany Ann Lilley*, and that name still means something to me.
History is written by the victors, and I supposed I felt as if I were a disgruntled loser when I heard my mother telling one of our longtime friends over dinner how I chose my name, with her apparently helping me in her version of the tale. That inspired a bit of rebellion on my end, and for the official record, I’d like to reveal to you the process of how I actually chose my name.
All I knew when I started was that I wanted to keep my initials. It would make things simpler (every career I’ve had has involved copious initial signing), and having parameters such as this made it seem as if I wasn’t picking my name all willy nilly, which was important to me on a philosophical level. My brother is Brian, so that was out. I toyed with ideas such as Blake and Benedict, but one friend said Blake was a forty-year old tennis player’s name, which was fine, but ultimately the name wasn’t sticking, and Benedict make me think of eggs or Cumberbatch. So I reached out to my family.
The only time my mom and I really talk is when we run, and on one of our runs I asked her what boy’s name she was going to give me if I’d been identified at birth as male. I seemed to recall her telling me when I was sixteen or so, but I could barely remember the conversation.
She ignored me. She changed the subject. She was still struggling with my transition, and I think her brain was simply on overload.
I could understand that, so I wracked my own memory, and the name I believed she was going to give me was Benjamin. It was a weak memory, and I hated the name Benjamin (if you ask me why, I’ll sing you a song). Despite that, some part of me held onto the name Ben.
When you take T your dick gets bigger–that’s just a fact–and considering no one in my life before I’d taken T had ever been able to find my “button of pleasure”, I was very much pleased with the results. But my growth in that area was also the impetus for many dick jokes in the Brock household.
Me: Why does my dick get hard whenever I take a shower?
Husbear: Oh. Mine did that too… when I was twelve! *laughs hysterically*
Me: *rude gesture*
And so on.
One fateful night of messing around, the husbear smiled at me, stroked my leg, and asked how I was feeling.
The first words out of my mouth were, “Big Ben’s feeling fiiiiiiine.”
His hand stopped. “Big Ben?”
I was a bit taken aback too, but I shrugged it off. “Sure. And I’m Little Ben.”
“Okay. You do realize that Big Ben is actually the bell, right, and not the clock tower?”
I pointed to my crotch. “And this is my bellend.”
His hand continued up my leg. “Big Ben it is.”
And Ben it was. I ultimately chose Bennett because it was less offensive to me than Benjamin, but I’m not one of those people who needs a perfect name. Truth is, the letter B is my least favorite letter in the alphabet. I hate writing it and saying it. Blech!
Later my mother confirmed–to our friends–that she was going to name me Benjamin if I had been identified at birth as a boy, but she also insisted, her face shining with drunken maternal pride, that she had helped me pick my name.
I’m sure my parents at times feel bad about the way they raised me, and her fudging a bit on details for storytelling purposes is fine, but the way she completely erased my struggle and made herself look good bothered me. Admittedly, a small part of me wanted to hold onto her version of events, because in her shining eyes I saw a piece of my ideal world, a piece of the mother she could have been to me. But that’s not what actually happened, and now you have the real story.
My dick chose my name.
Photo: My signature now is almost identical to my signature after I got married. Note the angry B’s! *wink*
*Sometimes I like to use my old names when I blog, as a tool of storytelling, but please don’t take that as permission to deadname me.
Featured in Queerdeer Media: