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Monday, August 12, 2013

A Question of Names

Okay, so I admit, this post was mostly promoted by two things- many of the comments on this Saturday Spankings blog hop post and a comment in a Facebook sexy romance writers group I'm in on a promo for my "cleaning in The Queen's house" post. What it comes down to, whether the language used to make the point is polite or rude (and I've seen both), is someone has an issue with a "male named The Queen." Yes, "Vala's Story" as a whole is my "book baby"- my first love as far as my writing is concerned. And The Queen is a fictional character, albeit based on two men who've meant a ton in my life. But these don't really explain why I get so angry about people struggling with The Queen's name.

You see, a person's name is a very important thing in my real life, my offline life. I come to the conversation bringing 1st and 2nd hand experiences from multiple marginalized identities.

As a queer person (UUA's Queer 101 page provides more explanation of how I use the word), I long ago moved past understanding sexuality and gender issues in the male/female, heterosexual/homosexual binaries that are still too prevalent in this culture (if you're asking my opinion). "That's a girl's name," "that's a boy's name" are less relevant in my word. However, I am a cisgender (born that way and comfortable in that gender) female so I cannot speak directly to the transgender experience around name. I've seen transpeople decide on a post-transition name that's close to their birth name (like going from Michael to Michelle, as a male-to-female transgender person); as well, I've seen people, including close friends, pick names very far from their birth name (like moving from Sandra to John, as female-to-male transgender). Of course, within the transgender experience is also the question of pronouns- while I'm not perfect on it, I try to use a variety of "created pronouns" that I've seen transactivists use- like ze or hir. In a recent vent on someone being confused about The Queen's gender, I angrily typed at a friend- "I said HE. Repeatedly said fucking HE. His boy! Him!" To me, around issues of sexuality and gender, the only reasonable choice is respect what the person indicates. A transgender person asks to be called "he"- it DOES NOT matter what *you* think of his gender presentation- that person is male, is a he. Back to The Queen, I have conceived of him as a cisgender male who identifies as queer in the UUA's usage of the word. Yes, he has long hair that reaches down to the middle of his back and he has sex, makes love, engages in BDSM activities with people of varying genders (I say genders because I don't accept the societal construction of there being just 2) and sexual orientations. That does not mean someone else gets to say he's anything but male- he says he's male!

The next piece of naming for me is around BDSM. Now remember for me, BDSM is about identity, not something "I just do in bed." That's not to say that people who keep their BDSM just in the bedroom are necessarily less, but I find sometimes there's a very different outlook to someone like me. With BDSM, whatever your specific identity (top, bottom, sub, dom, Master/Mistress, slave, etc), there are multiple levels of risk to being open about "how you are." People have lost jobs, custody of minor children, housing, and more due to having a kink identity. I'm very involved in Leather and Grace UUs for BDSM Awareness because even amongst the "affirming & welcoming" Unitarian Universalist faith moment, often hard to have a kink-oriented identity. (Read here for our moderator's telling of a case of discrimination that recently came to us from a couple who have experienced horrendous discrimination in UU circles.) Beyond these worries around keeping anonymity to avoid discrimination, there is also the fact that for some (maybe even many) people, they come to BDSM bringing different pieces of themselves- they want a new, different name for this piece of themselves. So naming 2 reasons that people might use "scene names" as they are called, let us consider The Queen. Now do please notice the capitalized The. Every time. Both words. The Queen. That is how the name was given (by a loved one) to The Queen and that's how he chooses to use it. That started in part as his scene name, the name he used as a dominant just learning his trade. He chose it; it's *our* job to respect his choice.

Thinking on the ideas of "abuse/re-creating oneself," my first thought was about my friend Patricia Logan's character "Trick," in her "Master's Boys" series. Another character (variously called Ivan, Phoenix, or Master P, depending on who's speaking and the situation- names, see?) who I'll call by her character name of Phoenix works to give "Trick's" self-respect back by refusing to use that name and instead using the man's birth name of Wade. Summarizing his back story (without giving away too much, because you really should follow the link attached to Trick's name, buy the book, and getting to reading Ms. Logan's works because her books are among the small group of BDSM books I'll personally recommend)- as a teen, he's found in a sexual situation with another boy by closed minded parents who then throw him out, and he finds himself engaging in survival prostitution- so he names himself Trick. I've had friends who were thrown out for this reason (being non-heterosexual) and many more saddening reasons. I've known the archetypal "Trick"- the boy thrown to the street by uncaring parents. Throughout my "Vala's Story" series, The Queen's back story comes out- sometimes in drips, sometimes in floods, as in an early scene in "Gates of the Garden: Book Two." His was not a good childhood, a happy, a loving one. It was not a childhood to wish on any human being. The thing is, I've known people who've gone through similar crap to what The Queen's parents did to him. So he ran away; he escaped... and in escaping he went through different ways of calling himself until his dear friend Lady Audrey gave him his new name, The Queen. Far from the abused boy from Michigan, moving away from the street kid who ze found having been beaten up by a "john." In that moment thinking of the abuse back story I wrote for The Queen, thinking of people who I've known who've gone through that lack of love- how is someone who hasn't experienced any of that hell to see it's not his right to chose a name other than what his parents named him at birth?

Finally, there's nicknames. Sometimes they become even more important than a given name. My Master was given- I don't remember the details of who/how exactly- but by friends. For a long time, He's followed a shamanic spiritual path. So "Shaman." That's the first name I learned for Him as a person. I didn't know His given name, the childhood nickname (that His mom still uses and I fight giggles constantly at His slight irritation- "no one but my mom gets away with calling me that"- when she calls Him that nickname... these all took me time to learn. I still struggle to call Him His given name when for some reason I need to use it. He has chosen to often use that nickname of Shaman; it is "His name." Who am I to question it? Different people groups who've had shamans have allowed for people across the gender spectrum to be shamans- is that supposed to affect Shaman, the fact that there have been female shamans, and He's a cisgender male? And so we have The Queen. "Queen" is normally used for women, yes. Does that mean that people should question The Queen's choice as a cisgender male to call himself by a "feminine" nickname? I think not.

The Queen speaks:

Do you want me to pull down my jeans so you can check what's between my legs? Check if there's a cock or a pussy between my legs? Gender is more than what's between the legs- it's also about what's between the ears, what's in the heart. I am male! I interact with the world as a male, even with the complexity of what that means in this culture. My name is my own and you can go fuck yourself if you think I should change it to something regular.


  1. Fascinating post Joelle. I have often used varying names in my books and without exception in the Master's Boys series, all the boys with the exception of Kaden use other names. I did that intentionally in this world of submissives because each name means something to each boy. I think this is partly because in this series, each boy has lived through traumatic events and they prefer to identify as something other than what they were. Kaden was a bit different because he had loving parents who tried to support him as best they could, though he kept screwing up. Now I can't wait to start the Vala series and find all the complex sides to The Queen. Excellent post.

    1. thanks, Patricia. Most definitely, I've enjoyed coming to how each of the boys with name changes dealt with it- I love Stix's story on his name. And when Grit claimed his name? Beautiful. but yes, an mentioning Phoenix. I enjoy his multiple names too :)

      hehe and it's good to see you typed The Queen :D especially after he was so angry with me this morning. Can you suggest to Zack that he tells The Queen to cool it ? :D

    2. Yeah, Dom to Dom they would probably create a scene. LOL

    3. :D true and the 2 of us might end up in trouble hehe. Although, The Queen does have Vala, who beats Cassidy and I rolled together in bratting terms :D

  2. As I just shared with Patricia in chat and think it adds to this post, I had the thought:

    I was just thinking how Wade picked Trick not from a good place, so Phoenix in that case was right not to respect Wade's re-naming of himself- talking about the characters from Patricia's Master's Boys series