I have an unusual first name. It’s not only unusual, but misleading—it’s not pronounced the way it is spelled (to most Americans) and it doesn’t signify female (to quite a lot of the world). There are other Americans out there with the same first name, and my middle and last names are quite common, but nevertheless, there is only one of me on the internet. For all of these reasons, I prefer not to use my real name online, and professionally, I often use my middle name to signal gender.

Anyhow, let me tell you.

Scenario #1
I send in a conference pre-registration. The people sorting it look at my name, and think “wow, that’s a weird name.” Which is fine. But then, instead of thinking, “hey, learn something new every day”, they apparently think “boy, this educated, literate, professor must not know how to fill out a simple form, even though every other professor got it right. He put the name in backward. Well, we’ll fix that for him.”

I arrive at the conference. “Sorry, no Laughters registered.” I sigh. “Look under Prone?”

Yep, there it is.

Not an isolated incident.

Scenario #2
It’s really fascinating to watch this happen. I hand over ID, or a check, or something, with all three names, which I often use, as noted above. People will look at the name, look at the first name—and I can see the wheels turning—and think to themselves “well, that can’t be a name, even though it’s in the right place and where a name would be and there’s nothing else it can be”, look up at me, and say “To?”.

NO.

Again, multiple times.

Scenario #3
This was a new one on me. Just came up recently. The tech people had to set me up with a special account for reading applications electronically. All they were given was my first and last name. So they looked at the first name, said, “well, that can’t be a name,” and fucking changed it. Just dropped a letter to make it into something they recognized as a word.

What drives people to think they know my name better than I do? American privilege? Generic cultural privilege? Hell if I know, but I am tired of it.

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