What’s in a name; what’s in a titleTrans Progressive Thursday, September 6th, 2012
Commentary: Trans Progressive
I surrendered use of my name given at birth, Stephen Mark Sandeen, in 2003 because that name no longer fit me. At age 44 I finally embraced what I first knew about my sex and gender at age fourteen – yet at 14 I was not able to fully accept that personal truth, in large part because of what I was taught in the Pentecostal Church, I was raised in, regarding transsexual people. I didn’t understand what the Bible had to say about variant sex and gender in Isaiah 56:3-5 and Matthew 19:12; I didn’t understand how 1 Samuel 16:7b applied to me:
“God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
My heart was female even though I was born male-bodied.
My parents were very spiritual people who very much embraced their Christian faith. My parents gave me the first name of Stephen, named after the Christian faith’s first recorded martyr. The name Stephen means “crowned,” which is in direct reference to the laurel wreath crown placed on the head of winning Olympians in ancient Greek Olympic Games.
I was also named after the Apostle Mark. Mark being the apostle traditionally credited with writing the second Gospel of the New Testament. The meaning of the name Mark is “consecrated to the god Mars.” It’s also interpreted to me as “warring” or “warlike.” It’s an interesting middle name given my 20-years of service in the Navy.
I legally changed my name to Autumn Violet Sandeen in 2003 when I began my transition. I picked that name for several reasons. My name reflects all of the colors of the changing leaves of autumn. Also, after the first two seasons of spring and summer comes the third season, autumn. At 44 I was entering into what I saw as the third season of my life. And, as I’ve come to understand the name Autumn as I’ve grown older, it’s a name that reflects the season of harvest – reaping what one sows in an earlier season.
Violet is a name that carries through that embrace of vibrant color.
In the life I led under the name Stephen, I had three children. Each of them was named with a “bird” middle name, and on my back is the only tattoo I have on my body, and in that tattoo are three herons that represent those three children. Those herons reflect I’m a parent.
What comes in a name; what comes in a title … well, I don’t hold the titles of mom or mother, but instead hold the titles of dad and father. Those titles reflect my personal history, and it’s a history of living and presenting to the world as male before transitioning in 2003. It’s also a personal history that I fully embrace, so there are masculine titles that are connected to the woman I am now because of that history.
I accept the contradiction of being a female dad because my love for my children is as unconditional as I humanly make it. For their sake I embrace a title and role that with just a hint of pain misgenders me. It is what it is.
So even though there’s a hint of pain in the titles of dad and father, I’m not my children’s mother – they already have a mother and it’s not me.
With us in life we carry names and titles, and many of us embrace identities that on some level define us. Mine include Autumn, father, military veteran, transsexual, transgender and LGBT community member. As much as some of us would like to do away with titles, in the brick-and-mortar world we carry these with us – for better or worse. I like to think mine are for the better. v
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