It was a big change, going from minister to lay person. In retiring, everyone who knew me as their pastor wanted to keep calling me Pastor. It was done from love. It felt good. While I encouraged people to begin calling me by my first name, if they wanted to call me Pastor I was fine with that.
When, last August, I changed my name from Greg to Gina, many made the switch without incidence. Many did not. I understood the challenge involved with this. I was patient. Now, I was not only leaving the ministry, I was leaving behind my birth name.
Revealing that one has gender dysphoria is hard enough for some. Revealing that one is transitioning from male to female is a much greater leap. Changing names makes it all so real. The person who is transitioning needs to be as patient with his loved ones, friends, and peers as he or she wants from them.
I received several communications, for several months, in which the writer wrote, “Dear Greg,” and then made the case for the insistence on my birth name. In each case, the writer was a Christian, some of them were ministers, and they stressed that Greg is the name in which I was baptized, and then they urged me to take seriously the arguments they laid out.
I have not been addressed as Greg in so long that I cannot recall when it last was. Now, I am experiencing something else, and this one hurts me even more because there is no explanation accompanying it.
In the past two weeks, I received several messages and emails which were addressed to no one. There was no salutation. The people simply began with their first paragraph.
Often, in online communications, especially short ones and those following immediately on the heals of another, one does not include or continue to write a salutation. These communications are not those. These are longer, more formal messages and emails, some with folks whom I don’t know. Definitely the type where “Dear Gina” would be appropriate.
I want you to know: As much as you struggle with my dramatic change, I feel like a non-person when you don’t use my name.
In some cases, I have been the one initiating the conversation. Each time, I used “Dear So-and-So,” and concluded with my standard closing, “Peace, Gina.” When the reply came, the person closed with his or her standard closing, say, “Regards, Mary,” but did not begin the note with a salutation.
Two times, I deliberately wrote replies with a salutation, where I often would cease with that, and included my standard closing to demonstrate the formality of the communication, to test the waters. Both times, the reply came with no salutation but with the person’s standard sign-off.
Many years ago, a teacher pointed out how a political opponent never used the name of his foe. The other guy was “my opponent” or “the senator from Indiana” or whatever worked in the context, but never the man’s name. To say his name, my teacher pointed out, would legitimize him, and the politician did not want to do that.
I feel illegitimate when people refuse to use my name.
Please know how terribly hard on me has been transitioning. I have written plenty on it. I have done that to educate, so that all might know that this is not undertaken lightly. It’s not a whim. It is the stuff of life’s greatest struggles.
I continue to have my struggles. They are easing, but they are not done. I take things to heart perhaps as deeply as anyone. I long to be accepted. I’ve always longed to be liked. My name is as important to me as your name is to you.
It’s a Golden Rule thing. Even when something is hard for us, even when we have our objections, our job is to treat others as we want them to treat us. I have made this the aim of my life, and have practiced it in the toughest spots, treating the other person with respect even when I did not respect the person because of his behavior.
You might not respect my transitioning. I understand that it is very hard for many. I will continue to educate.
In the mean time, I respectfully ask you to use my name. My name is Gina.
I do not despise my birth name. If I did not have this tremendously challenging situation, I would still be happy to be called Greg. It’s a good name. I am pleased to possess it.
But, for now, Gina is my name. In fact, it’s my legal name.
Please, use my name.
Finally, kindly take note that in my relationship with you I show you the three things to which I committed myself when I became a pastor: to be friendly, to show respect, and to demonstrate loving concern to all people, no matter what.
To close on a lighter note and demonstrate that all is not “woe is me,” and even to show that my sense of humor is as dorky as ever, I present the meme that my friend, Jan, created for me soon after I posted this essay on Facebook. If you know Stewie, you know that compliance is the only course of action! 🙂