Saturday, September 30, 2006

Two Peculiar Conversations about My Name

My name is Davey. When I introduce myself over the phone to someone who hasn't met me, they almost always hear it as "Daisy." Contrary to some people's opinions, this was not funny the first time, and it was far less funny the fiftieth time. I stopped counting a while ago, but this one seemed notably ridiculous, so here it is:

Me: Hi, my name is Davey and I'm calling from [my office].
Her: Hi Daisy, how are you today?
Me: No not Daisy, Davey. Rhymes with wavy.
Her: That's what I said. Daisy.
Me: No, Davey with a V. As if it's short for David.
Her: Right, so if someone's name was David, I would call them Dave, and then you get Davey. So I can call you Daisy.
Me: No, my name is Davey, like short for David.
Her: What does it rhyme with again?
Me: [Taking a slow, deep breath and struggling to remain polite.] Wavy. With a V.
Her: Z as in Zoo?
Me: No, V as in Victor.
Her: Oh, I'm sorry!
Me: [Not meaning it.] It's okay, really. People often hear my name as Daisy on the phone. [Lying.] I'm not sure what that's about.
Her: Well it's because I can't see your lips move.
Me: [Ready to move on now.] Uh-huh.
Her: That's why you always have to say "D-as-in-David, A-as-in-Apple, V-as-in-Victor".
Me: Right.
Her: So what were you calling about, anyway?

Despite what I said while playing stupid for "Her" on the phone, I do know what this is about. It's about gender. Surprise! Many things are about gender. But seriously, what else could it be? My diction just is not that bad, and Davey is a perfectly pronouncable, English-language name. The only reason people could mis-hear it so consistently (and so persistently) is that they can't handle the combination of an obviously female voice with an obviously male name. They don't want me to be named Davey, so they go out of their way to hear it as anything else.

I know that people's mishearing my name is not really about my gender. It's about their own gender training. But I have gender training too, and this stuff is so deeply internalized it's not easy to get rid of. So when I say "My name's Davey," and someone says to me, "Oh, hi Daisy," what I hear is something like, "No it's not. Your name's not Davey and you're not a boy, no matter what you call yourself."

I don't like feeling that way, and I know I can't blame my reaction on the other person. It's just my more-or-less automatic reaction to being called Daisy, especially for the fourth or fifth time in a day. Lately I've taken to defending myself against this feeling by giving all my pronunciation guidelines even before someone has a chance to mess up. I conlclude voice mail messages with, "So again, my name is Davey, Davey with a V. It rhymes with wavy and it is not a flower." It helps with some people. Not all of them.

As I've alluded to at least once, trans people are not immune from gender stupidity. Last week I had the refreshing experience of having a misunderstanding about my name with someone who had no doubt I was boy, and which did not involve the word "daisy." But still, it was weird. This one takes place in a doctor's waiting room.

Nurse's Aid: Is [horrible mispronuciation of my legal name] here?
Me: [Didn't hear.]
Nurse's Aid: [Tries two or three more pronunciations of my first and last names, all incorrect.]
Me: [Finally recognizing my name, standing up.] It's Davey, but that's me.
Nurse's Aid: Davey?
Me: Yeah, Davey.
Nurse's Aid: [Indicating clip board.] That name is Davey?
Me: No, that's my legal name. I don't use it.
Nurse's Aid: Oh, okay. That's your old name. I totally understand. I'm the opposite.
Me: Your name used to be Davey?
Nurse's Aid: Uh . . .

Well no, of course her name did not used to be Davey. It used to be Edward. She just meant that she's MtF. Silly me.

I guess I should be thrilled to have been recognized by another trans person in a healthcare situation. I'd never had a tranny girl take my blood pressure before. But even though we could empathize about the name/gender thing, her response was still wrong. By telling me that she was "the opposite," the Nurse's Aid implied that we are making parallel journeys in opposite directions. I'm picturing a rickety suspension bridge, like in Indiana Jones, over a deep chasm between two cliffs. All the girls are on one side and all the boys are on the other, and somehow we'd pass in the middle and each end up where the other started.

Not so. I don't see myself as going from F to M or anything else. I'm not into the two binary gender camps, and I'm not into a dangerous one-way journey. I think gender is bunk. I think my options are infinite, every day. I am trying to make a comfortable way for myself within a fcked up system, without compromising the integrity of my experience of myself. I truly hope that nobody is doing the opposite of that.

But, what with all the "daisy" stuff, I have to wonder. Seems like some people are more invested in the integrity of their camps than the integrity of their own selves. That has to change. Not just for the comfort of trans people, but for the true-ness of all people.

I know I can't force anyone to think creatively about their gender, even though sometimes it's tempting. For now all I'm asking is that y'all not get in my way of me being creative with mine.

And again, it's Davey. It rhymes with wavy, and it is not a flower.


Obstructing Reality said...

Forgive me for laughing while reading this (well, at least the second part).

In another weird thing with your name is from time to time, my grandmother will remember that I've mentioned you in conversation and ask why on earth a grown man would still be called Davey, and I think that's kind of an interesting thing. Do you ever get asked why you don't go by David or Dave?

In other words, if people read your gender that readily on the phone, do they also read your age?

ElliotManning said...

I must admit, I laughed a bit at the second part, as well. Especially the very last bit -- the reaffirming bit about your name and how it rhymes with wavy and is not a flower.

I've never had that problem with my name, for reasons that I don't care to expand on or feel that I have to.