Fiction: A Gift of Naming

Cover of A Gift of Naming by K. A. Cook. Cover shows cartoon-style tall-trunked trees growing on a green mountain slope with a high green canopy before a blue and grey clouded sky. Brushes and small green shrubs grow at the base of the trees in the foreground. Text is written in a white, handdrawn, fantasy-style type.Even in the best of circumstances, it’s no easy thing to tell the parent who named you that your name no longer fits.

Setting: A village in the lower Crackenbush Ranges, on the border of Greenstone and Astreut, a few hundred years before Kit March. Please check the digital book editions if you require an explanation on the Marchverse’s handling of heartnames and shroudnames.

Content advisory: References to cissexism, particularly as it surrounds a change of name, both historically and from the protagonist’s great-grandfather.

Links: PDF | EPUB

Length: 1200 words / 4 PDF pages.

Note the first: Mountain ash (Eucalyptus regnans) is common in Victoria and Tasmania’s highlands, the world’s tallest flowering tree. By “fig” and “banyan” I mean the Moreton Bay fig (Ficus macrophylla), found in New South Wales and Queensland. I’ve seen both in the flesh, and, in my opinion, no human structure will ever match the awe inspired by the overwhelming immensity of these trees. There’s something intensely spiritual about walking under a path crowned by mountain ash that remains beyond my ability to describe or encapsulate.

Note the second: For Briar, chosen kin, who gave to me my own heartname.

If one’s parents provide a shirt that tears when tugged over their child’s shoulders, isn’t it cruelty to force the wearing, however well-intended the gift?

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The oppression of matching

I have a nine-letter legal first name.

It’s the kind of name that was once masculine but is now considered feminine in Western society. Even the abbreviated form, my use or preferred name (I don’t consider it an nickname because it is my name) is more feminine-leaning than masculine (‘Kim’ is technically gender-neutral but in practice a shade feminine-leaning). I have, in fact, been told by people (more than one) that I should change my name to something less feminine. While I’m all for people choosing whichever name makes them comfortable and happy, I’m morally opposed to the notion that a trans man must have a masculine name, a trans woman a feminine one, or a non-binary person a gender-neutral one. Names don’t have to match gender. We shouldn’t have to change our birth names to conform to some notion of what is and isn’t appropriately gendered if we’re happy with or have some connection to the name given us at birth. I don’t like my full name, but I do like its shortened form, and I don’t see why I should have to change it because it’s not gender-neutral enough.

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What’s in a name? Empowerment

You may or may not know that I’m a Professional Writing and Editing TAFE student studying … well, writing and editing. This also includes publication production and design, computer skills and structural editing, and a whole class where we spend three hours talking about symbols and how to use them in our fiction … in addition to the actual writing units. It’s hands-on. I’d seriously recommend the Cert. IV/Diploma route to Aussie writers: I’ve gotten to learn In Design, be published, write a play, and be paid to test links in e-books for Pearson Education. (This involved playing with Android tablets and iPads. It also involved swearing like I’ve never fucking sworn before at the refusal of the campus internet to download … well, anything.) It’s hard work and insane-making. It’s also the best damn thing I’ve ever done in a classroom.

Believe it or not, none of this has anything much to do with my intended topic. I just love the fact that I get to go to school and do all this four days a week.

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