Not long after I started to take the feeling of ‘not being a woman’ seriously, Noelle Stevenson (creator of NIMONA and showrunner of SHE-RA) started posting comics about being non-binary. And these comics have never failed to resonate with me.
This is a post about the first comic of their new series I’m Fine I’m Fine Just Understand, titled Name. You can read it here. The quotes below are quoting lines from it.
In Name, Stevenson explores the feeling of no names really fitting. Of not feeling cool enough for a ‘cool’ name, and of feeling tied to the name their parents gave them because of the works they created under that name.
These are absolutely emotions I relate to.
Those are people who could have been born instead of me. But they are not me.
Exploring alternative names, whether the other names my mother considered or less gendered versions of my own name, feels empty. Each name I consider feels utterly detached. I could never become those names, I feel. I am something different.
For me, this is partially because I feel not somewhere in-between man and woman, but outside of gender entirely. Gendervoid is the word I like to use for myself. Agender expresses it well, and might be a word you are more familiar with.
We attach so much gender to names. We shouldn’t, of course: they are just the words we use to identify each other. Something to shout to get our attention across a crowded room. But it doesn’t change the fact that my name, Victoria, is completely gendered. People hear it and automatically think ‘woman’, something I am trying very hard to stop happening.
I feel neutral about my name overall. But as I navigate the world as a trans person, I’m becoming increasingly aware of the practical need for a new, less gendered one
I never liked the nicknames offered for it. I was never a Vic or a Vicky. But I still weirdly attached to the name. Or at least, to the first letter of it. In video games I would increasingly give my characters names starting with V. These names would bear no resemblance to Victoria but I felt more ownership over them. I didn’t feel like I was trying out names for myself; I felt like these were already my names. V became a symbol, increasingly on its own as a display name or username, while my characters would have longer form names. The user is V and their character is Vendirrith. The user is V and their character is Vereyu, is Vee-Zeeth, is Varian.
I got up the courage to ask my friends to call me V. Most of them were good about it. Pretty much everyone calls me V, unless they call me Corva, which is a name I chose for myself and I love. I like being V. As a nickname, it is perfect.
But Victoria still hangs over me, heavy with assumptions.
at the end of the day, I don’t really feel like a person with a cool name
In Name, Stevenson talks about asking his friends to use different names, and that he has done this so many times he is embarassed to ask again. Just asking my friends to call me V met with some friction, honestly. People seem to be under the impression that you should have your name and nickname sorted out long before you’re approaching 30. I think this is a wildly cis-centric point of view, but I still feel awkward and ashamed to ask.
But for me, the hardest thing is that … I don’t really know what I want my name to be. I felt ownership over those fantasy names. Am I someone with a fantasy name though? I’m not sure I feel cool enough, though I envy other non-binary people who claim unusual names. A friend once asked me if I liked the name Viridian. I felt so shockingly seen in that moment. I carried the name inside me, gently, like it was a fragile thing of pinfeathers and twigbones and needed my warmth to survive. I never got up the courage to try it.
I don’t want to lose my connection to projects I’m still so proud of
Stevenson’s comic got me thinking about all this again. I have no more clarity of vision than I had before. I don’t suddenly have a solution. I have published my books under the name Victoria Corva. You are reading this on a website I built under that name. I could change them, I know. But it might take a toll on my career.
I still don’t know what the solution is for me, except that I want people to call me V, and that is working for me.
But when I brought up Stevenson’s comic to my partner and all these thoughts came tumbling out of me, they suggested they could call me a random V name they think I might like every time they address me. Just the smallest, safest bit of trying out new names.
For me, maybe that’s a good place to start.
If you haven’t already, I really encourage you to read Stevenson’s short comic Name.
And if you like this post, you might like my post about how my understanding of my gender changed my writing in Reconnecting With Another Writer: Past Me