Ten Years in Transition: Living Up to My Name
This Wednesday, August 23 is a special day for me: The tenth anniversary of my Nameday. Ten years ago, I announced my new name and non-binary gender identity to the world. Legal and medical milestones in my transition would come later, but from that day forward, I was Pax Ahimsa Gethen.
While many trans people choose a feminine or masculine variant of their first name and keep their last name — which is a perfectly valid choice — I wanted an entirely new identity. I chose my name to represent my values of peace (Pax, from Latin), nonviolence (Ahimsa, from Sanskrit) and gender neutrality (Gethen, from The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin).
I named myself after peace and nonviolence as a constant reminder that I should strive to embody those values. I sometimes joke that this reminder keeps me from slapping someone upside the head when I get irritated with them. And whether as a side effect of testosterone therapy, menopause, or just existing as a Black trans person in the U.S., I do get irritable quite often.
But the truth is, I have never been a physically violent person. This wasn’t merely because of so-called female socialization. While attending a large, urban middle school in Pittsburgh in the mid 1980s, I witnessed vicious girl-on-girl fights on a daily basis. I stayed out of the way. A fellow student once “playfully” punched me on the arm, hard, to see if I would respond. It hurt, but I did not retaliate, fearing that doing so would only make things worse for both of us. Fortunately, she left me alone after that.
Physically attacking other humans is only one form of violence, however. Soon after I began my gender transition, I became more committed to promoting veganism and animal rights. I had already been vegan for several years, but now came to view the production and consumption of animal products as intrinsically non-consensual and unacceptably harmful.