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Why I Don't Capitalize My Name

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My name is joshua. My pronouns are they/them/theirs and joshua.

I am neuro-queer and gender-vague.

I also have no name; or pronouns; or neuro-type; or gender; and i am no-one.

Having a break-down woke me up to the understanding that my identity has been largely shaped by external sources.

“My” given birth-name is Joshua, and “my” given nick-name is Josh.

“My” given pronouns are he/him, and “my” given “sex/gender” is male/man.

And so on.

I didn’t choose these things as fundamental parts of my identity. I agreed to them.

This realization spiraled until every aspect of my life had been erratically analyzed for instances of external identity-molding.

It’s difficult for me to put into words the internal experience i underwent during this break-down (to be frank, i’m fairly unsure of whether or not i’m still experiencing it), but the most salient nugget of wisdom i’ve garnered is that i have to-date put little-to-no conscious effort into taking charge of my identity, instead continually allowing it to be projected onto me by others. In the end i realized i was basically (read: in my most basic state) no-one.

And in that moment i finally understood what Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay) meant when he wrote:

“Don’t say that i will depart tomorrow —
even today i am still arriving.”

What Viktor Frankl meant when he quoted from a dying woman within a Nazi concentration camp:

“This tree here is the only friend i have in my loneliness. . .
I often talk to this tree. . .
It said to me, ‘I am here-I am here-I am life, eternal life.’”

What Eckhart Tolle meant when he wrote:

“I am not my thoughts, emotions, sense perceptions, and experiences. I am not the content of my life.”

What Chögyam Trungpa meant when he wrote:

“When you take the attitude that the toothbrush does not exist and the brusher does not exist, you can brush your teeth much more easily.”

What i finally understood — what i understand — is that i have been influenced to believe that i “have” (inherently) a certain identity (in the strict sense of ‘identity’ that i am referring to here) and that this identity is inherently meaningful, when in reality i don’t, and it isn’t.

In shedding and re-evaluating this identity — as Trungpa notes — my life has actually become easier.

Hence, joshua.

The de-capitalization of my name is both a reclamation of my identity (i.e., don’t call me Josh) as well as a move towards a lack of one (i.e., the lower-case stylization represents my name’s insignificance).

Hence, they/them.

Identifying with novel pronouns is both a reclamation of my identity (i.e., don’t refer to me as he/him) as well as a move towards a lack of one (i.e., the agender application of “they/them” represents my gender’s insignificance).

Hence, neuro-queer.

Recognizing the queerness of my neurology — my queering of neurology — is both a reclamation of my identity (i.e., don’t call me neuro-diverse) as well as a move towards a lack of one (i.e., queerness [as a verb] is a vehicle for me to demonstrate my stance on the insignificance of “neuro-types”).

And so on.

I am choosing these things as fundamental components of my identity. I am agreeing with them. And also, i’m not.

Much like Thay, i am still arriving. My identity is constantly in flux.

If you mis-name/gender me, i may correct you (and be appreciative if some-one else does), or i may not. I really don’t care a whole lot.

I care less about how you refer to me and more about challenging your perception and (mis)understanding of (my) “identity.”

So call me by my name/s. Call me Joshua; Josh; joshua; he; or they. Call me what you will, because they are all me. And none of them are.

And when you are corrected, and you continue to mis-name/gender me, your perception will be challenged as you make the choice to value your own version of me over mine, and my identity will have performed its function.

Photo by gryffyn m on Unsplash

Originally published: March 4, 2021
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