It is in my experience that trans people are fucking great at naming things, and the worst people for naming things are white cis boys.
I first noticed this phenomena when I was, at the time, many moons ago, god, before I started University, browsing Doug Walker’s website, ‘Channel Awesome’ looking for a video I’d seen. This was made challenging because I didn’t remember exactly who I was looking for, and that website was laid out terribly. One of the ways it was laid out terribly was that videos were attributed to the creators of those videos.
This meant to browse you often had to look at the arrangement of people who were Making Media in that space, at that time you could reasonably split these producers into two camps:
- People with an interesting name that at least asked a question of ‘what does that mean?’ like Diamanda Hagan and Obscurus Lupa, and
- The most boring fucking names that told you nothing, including famously That Guy With The Glasses, That Chick With The Goggles, The Sci-Fi Guy, That Dude In The Suede, Some Guys I Know, multiple Matts, Chrises and Brians, and the one that made me finally notice this, Some Jerk With A Camera
Now this is no criticism of any of these people. They’ve worked with, or are, Doug Walker, and therefore have experienced or are an awful situation I have no wish to add to with my complaining, except Doug Walker, who seems to exist in a hell of his own devising where he has to wake up every day and be Doug Walker, but he won’t notice how terrible that is, because he is Doug Walker. But there was a common trend where a lot of guys like him had, when presented with the question of ‘what is your work about and who is it for’ could offer no response that presented them with any distinguishing characteristics.
Now, a lot of these folk have moved on to other names, and good for them, and a number of them turned out to Not Be Dudes At All, and I don’t mean to complain overmuch about them as they are now or how they were then — it was after all, a nascent time for video production, with a variety of people just trying out ‘identities’ for the first time on the internet.
Then there’s Youtube where the algorithm periodically notices that I like a type of video or I watch a few things of a type and suddenly I have recommendations from a variety of Maxes, Ethans, Drews, Chads, and Guses, and then if I check those videos I get to see recommendations for how those Chaxes and Methans and Grews are cancelled, or maybe not-cancelled. What’s really noteworthy though is that they’re all a swirling mass of incredibly generic stuff, where a lot of these very interchangeable white Youtubesmen have for all of their millions of followers and subscribers and their relevance to their audiences, no identity to leave an impression on someone.
They are… white guys.
They are white guys and they use their names and their faces and that’s it.
One of these white guys writes really good frantically paced comedy skits that often rely on him playing all the roles in them and he’s got hair pushed back from his face and a beard and mustache and he refers to ‘the adstronaut’ in his ad reads and I still have no earthly clue what his name is. I like the guy! I like his work! I don’t think he’s selling monkey jpgs!
I brand my work under Talen Lee, a name that is a real name (because I have it) and a real name (because it’s a name made out of two common names, one of which just happens to be mostly common in Taiwan) and even then I still brand my writing not as ‘Talen Lee’s Blog’ but rather as press.exe, which is a reference to a cyborg AI that ran in a character’s head, but also neatly ties into a common platform people use for this (wordpress) and which also invokes the idea of a press release and also my own ancient roots playing videogames, where on DOS games, you’d have to usually find a .exe file to run (or, you know, a .bat or a .com). Further my work is branded with Invincible Ink, a brand that is a tiny bit tricky to google (since Google often thinks I mean invisible ink, thanks, fuck you), but which still at least has iconography and branding. And I don’t think my presentation is particularly amazing, but then I see people who presented themselves – for years and made money doing it – with titles like The Angry Guy – and nah, mine is really good by comparison to that.
Now why do I bring this up?
This is not, I need to stress, a serious and academic thought. It is at best, playful. Playing around with thoughts is a way we get to handle them, but we have to recognise, when we are doing it, that these playful thoughts may sometimes be just meaningless distractions. It is not necessary that every idea has some inherent value, but that looking at two things with relationships may lead one to consider how they both let you express the same idea.
Because every trans person I know, even the people who only toyed with The Genders for a bit and may be even returned to the place they started their journey, has put a lot more thought into who they are, what their name is, than these Firstname Surname types. There’s effort in things like avatars and banners and even the deliberately intentionally low effort presentation is done with something mindful about it. Because of course trans people, who have to contend with a daily experience of being mindful of their presentation, are going to have a different experience of it than people who have been able to assume and assert that they are The Default. It’s obvious. Why bring it up?
I guess what I’m saying is dudes, make some trans friends and watch how they express themselves. You’ll learn something about how to communicate about yourself, and that may be something you’ve never meaningfully considered.