I call my sweetie Lina, but her chosen name is Selina. That’s her legal name and also what her family and friends in the Netherlands call her by. Meanwhile, friends and co-workers in the U.S. use Lina, thanks to my use of it.
The thing is, she really prefers Selina, and I’ve kind of dismissed that – but I’m coming around. As much as I appear all cool with everything transgender (though I’ve certainly professed and confessed my various fears, prejudices, judgments, etc.), I have stubbornly stuck to Lina. It’s not that Selina dislikes Lina, but she chose Selina for a reason. Her male name was Wessel, an uncommon Dutch name. Before anyone knew about her upcoming transition, we first used Wesselina as a little joke between us, which is about as old-fashioned a name in the Netherlands as Bertha or Winifred are in the U.S. So when it came time to pick a name, to honor “Wesselina” but to also update it, she chose Selina.
I remember when she told me that would be her name. My heart sunk. To me, it sounded like a stripper or a Latin American pop star. Those are my prejudices, of course. But it went beyond that. If others felt the same way, they might mock her and in turn, by association, me. So it’s really all about me. The name also tapped into the stereotype of transgender women taking girlie names, like Tiffany, Angelica, Victoria. You get the idea. But shouldn’t everyone get to choose their own name? Of course. In fact, if I had disliked the name my parents gave me, I could have changed it, or asked people to call me something else, and they would have.
I’m ashamed that I didn’t honor her by using Selina in the first place and for being embarrassed about it. (I’m human too, so I’m not totally flagellating myself here, but I am acknowledging my weakness.) It’s akin to, but not quite as bad as, friends and family of transgender men and women who refuse to use the opposite-gender name at all after a transition.
Luckily for me, my sweet Se/Lina allows me my humanness. Perhaps when we live in the Netherlands, as planned, I will slowly and naturally switch over. Meanwhile, I’m starting to mix it up a little. Feel free to join me!