Food for thought, Oak.
I have some additional perspective on this subject because the legal change to Abigail Imogen Drake was not my first rodeo. I’d changed my (‘male’) name several years earlier for reasons entirely unrelated to transition. So I was already used to dealing with a name that I now longer used but that would come up to bite me on the ass from time to time. I was never tempted to consider my birth name a ‘deadname’ despite its use being assuredly six feet under.
That first name change did teach me a lesson or two though. The first is that there truly is power in names. That change, whatever provokes it, brings with it the gift of reinvention. You necessarily ask the question ‘Who is this person? What kind of heavy lifting is going to be required of this name?’ A change of name is a perfect time to become more fully oneself.
With that in mind I found that over time (bear in mind it’s six years since my first name change) I’d undergone an attitudinal change. My first name change was to distance myself FROM aspects of my past. But it was definitely a move TOWARD too. With my most recent and final name change that attitudinal change is complete. My previous names are not deadnames, they’re wrong names.
Abigail Imogen Drake, as unlikely as it ever was, is my true name, the right name, the correct name for me. And for the record as sure as I was about my first revision that didn’t feel as fixed as this name. That’s not to say ‘Chris Drake’ was a placeholder. It wasn’t. It was right for that period of my life. Abbie Drake is WHO I AM.
You’re right to resist the dogma of the ‘deadname’. For many it’s a matter of survival, a calculation of damage control. But for those of us who are prepared to own it it’s surely much healthier to strive away from such loaded and negative terms.
Thanks for another thought-provoking piece, Oak. As ever.