This is a subject that comes up very frequently for me, as I’ve been using an “assumed” name now for quite a while and just hadn’t bothered to change it legally. I’ve wrestled with the implications for a long time now, in regards to how other people were going to handle it. I already know that a lot of people are simply going to call me whatever they want, regardless of what I want. I know that many people who have known me for 30+ years are simply not going to understand why I am changing my name. People who’ve known me a short time don’t understand why I haven’t already just done it. I thought that today would be a good day to tell everyone how I feel about it, what it means to me and maybe help some people understand what it is like to walk in my shoes.
Why Would I Want To Change My Name In The First Place?
Most of you grew-up with an image of yourself that was quite “set” in your mind as you were maturing. A boy knew he was a boy and a girl knew she was a girl. Boys knew that eventually they were going to go through puberty and things were going to change for them physically. Boys get stronger, grow facial hair and their voices deepen, among other things. Girls begin to develop hips, breasts and start having a period. Both sexes experience increased sexual urges brought on by puberty and changes in their raging hormones.
So what if you thought of yourself as more of a boy and you were trapped in a body that you didn’t identify with? How might this have changed your life and the way you viewed yourself? Let me say that I am not transexual and have no desire to be, but I am well aware that this was a conscious decision on my part; to not want to change my body. For one thing, I was able to adjust and come to terms with the body that I have. This is something that others cannot do and therefore they feel the need to transition. I do not feel the intense dysphoria that transexuals do, though I do honestly feel it from time to time. For me, having my breasts touched is intensely pleasurable. For a transexual, this will only remind them of how they dislike the body that they are in and often bring on a dysphoric reaction that can cause intense depression. I consider myself extremely lucky that I was able to learn to love myself.
Teenage years, on the other hand, were miserable for me. I felt like a boy but I had the body parts of a girl. As my body developed, I hated it. There are still days that I don’t feel entirely 100% comfortable in my skin…but I am still learning to love myself and accept that I am okay with me. During all this struggle that went on internally over my own identity, I also struggled with coming out of the closet and being openly gay. When I was 19, I came about as close to a nervous breakdown as I ever want to be. Everything felt out of control in my life and I really honestly hated myself. I wasn’t comfortable with “me” at all.
One Thing At A Time
I used to go to work by day and be something I wasn’t to friends and family. By night, I was out “cruising” gay bars, clubs and staying out all night. Slowly but surely, I was turning into an alcoholic and filling up with a rage inside for not being able to just “be” who I was and what I was. Getting drunk was the only thing that seemed to dull the sensations and bring me any laughter at all. When I looked in the mirror, I hated the person looking back at me. I loathed “her”. It was then that I decided that I had to come out of the closet and be openly gay. I was too miserable not to.
When I did come out, it was very difficult. I had friends stop speaking to me and my own parents actually didn’t talk to me, more than a few words at a time, for 2 full years. I hated God for putting me in a position of having to choose happiness or acceptance. I didn’t understand then that I could have both. It didn’t feel like I could and for many years, my plate was very full with just learning how to live with being gay. Unlike many gays and lesbians, I didn’t come out because I had a girlfriend at the time. I was quite alone and remained that way for another 4 years after I initially came out.
Evolving Into A Free Bird
I believe that human beings are constantly changing and growing. We learn new things, try new hobbies and realize as we grow older that there can be many facets to the most beautiful of stones. It took me a long time to get comfortable with who I was. I never realized I was butch until I was in my mid-thirties. This may come as a shock to some people, because I most likely always acted like I was. I just didn’t realize that this was a differentiating quality in me. As I have grown older, my hair has progressively gotten shorter and shorter. I have found that men’s clothes are what attract me and make me feel comfortable. The scent of men’s cologne is what draws me and makes me feel like I smell good. In allowing myself to enjoy these things and celebrate them, I have also been able to embrace and love the more feminine side of my nature. For example, I like cooking, cleaning and being very domestic. I’ve been lucky to be able to integrate all these parts of my personalities into someone that I often just refer to as “more masculine of center”.
What Stops Me In My Tracks
Moving on in my life and finding happiness in my own skin was hard. It took me so many years to achieve what some people already have by the time they are 20 and take for granted. Still, there has been one piece of the puzzle that didn’t quite fit. I could be going about my own business and doing my own thing, quite happily in fact, when someone would say my name. My name brought my mood straight down to the ground. My given name, Dawn Renee Greer, may as well be the name of a complete stranger to me. It’s a pretty name, but it isn’t the name for me. I don’t identify with this feminine name that holds no significance to me whatsoever. I have actually found the name nauseating for a number of years. When I hear the name, it causes my stomach to lurch and my nerves to get prickly. I DO have dysphoria when it comes to my given name.
In trying to move forward with my life and progress, I decided that I’d choose a name that was better for me. This is a mental process that has been ongoing now for approximately 28 years, but only two years ago I began using the name Jesse. It was a huge transformation for me. The very first time I asked someone to call me Jesse and they did, my body heard the name and I had a different reaction. I felt peaceful and instant relief. I knew I was on the right track.
Why “Jesse MacGregor-Jones“?
Recently someone said to me that they didn’t understand why I hadn’t made the name change legal yet and that me having two names was confusing. She stated that to her it was strange that I had just taken a name from out of the blue and decided to use it. I can understand that. What bothered me though, on a deeper level, was the comment that it seemed like I was running away from something or that I had something to hide. I’m going to address this because it occurs to me that if she thought it then others may think it and wonder too.
First of all, I am not running away from anything. I am running to me. I have nothing to hide and have been notorious my entire life for sharing too much information. Those of you who have known me for 30+ years feel free to jump in and comment on that point, because I know you want to. The stories you could tell about me would probably be pretty funny.
I chose the name I now use very carefully and for many reasons. While I didn’t feel connected to my first or middle names at all for my entire life, when my parents died I also felt a disconnect from my last name. My brothers and I stopped speaking and I didn’t feel any bonds to my family. Still, I feel a sense of gratitude to my parents for bringing me into this world. Therefore I chose MacGregor because it was the name that Greer evolved from. I’m very Scottish/Irish on my father’s side. My mother’s maiden name was Jones and I always felt it was sad women gave up their last names to marry. MacGregor-Jones is a tribute to my parents. They are here with me, in my heart, each and every day of my life. While they weren’t perfect in any way, I’ve forgiven them their faults and commend them for doing the best they could with a child like me, who should have come with a handbook.
For my first name, I wanted to have something that was more androgynous. I wanted something that “fit”. It was like trying on shoes and taking steps and saying, “Nope, not right.” One day, in working on my family tree, I realized that my grandmother’s name was Jessie and I really liked that. I made a slight change in spelling and suddenly, I had the perfect name. It has meaning to me. It feels like me. For the first time in my life, I smile when someone says my name. It tells a story in my heart and has a meaning that is deep and spiritual for me.
I admit that I’ve done a lot of wandering in my life. Perhaps for a long time I was searching for things that I never realized were inside of me the whole time? Still, one of my favorite expressions has become the quote, “not all who wander are lost” – author unknown. I’ve never felt that I was lost or hopeless … merely evolving. In my process of evolution, I am taking the next steps and embracing my new name in completeness. I’ll be filing the paperwork soon to request the legal name change. For a long time, I’ve been concerned with how others would accept it and I’ve been guilty of saying to people, “call me whatever you’re comfortable with.” To those people though, I’d really like to say that I know it is difficult to get used to, but I wish you’d give-up on calling me something that really doesn’t make me happy.
I know that I am far from finished with this journey we call life, but from here on out I’ll be living it as a person who feels whole and integrated. I hope that you can all understand. I hope that those of you who have traveled a similar journey find a reason to feel empowered enough to make your own choices for you. If you know someone who is GLBTQ and they have struggled with dysphoria of any sort, then I hope that this makes you think twice about judging them and that you try a little harder to understand that we are all human beings, we all walk our own path, shed our own tears and make our own way in this world. The thing that unites us is that we all seek to be accepted for who we are. Sometimes accepting ourselves is the hardest part of the journey?