I don’t want to belabor the point of the Josh Lanyon reveal. My rant isn’t necessarily over Josh Lanyon or any particular person. I truly believe this sort of thing is a symptom of the bigger problem of sexism, which you can’t really hold one individual responsible for.
Along with apparently Josh Lanyon, I thought we all kind of knew. But as a gender queer/outlaw person, seeing the extreme reactions on both sides made me roll my eyes and think, “This is what all that gender essentialism gets you, bitches!” (Bitches in the Jesse Pinkman, non-gender specific kind of way, of course.)
Now, I think a heavy dose of side eye is appropriate. There were definitely times where the nom de plume crossed over into identity (this blog states it better than I will ), but to hear Josh tell it, in her own words , she made the choices that she did in as reasonable way as she could, and you know, she’s far from the first.
MTV has made a real meal out of Catfish, and if you watch it, you’ll see that a lot of people adopt online personas for a variety of reasons. What’s interesting to me has been the shift we’ve seen in the m/m community. There are a lot of writers who, as we’ve moved forward in this post-Tumblr age, realize maybe they aren’t what we old fashionedly called Tomboys, but that there’s a whole spectrum of gender. I believe a fair number of the demographic many try to dismissively call “straight Cis women” who land somewhere on that gender spectrum. Writing queer characters fulfills something deep in them that isn’t just the OMG FANTASY of guys doing it with each other.
I’ve attempted to articulate this before for myself in the past, sometimes better than others, but even reading my FB feed, I’m seeing women coming out as bisexual, discovering what genderqueer or genderfluid is, and realizing, “OMG that is ME!” And I don’t think it’s a coincidence or even a trend or put on, because the nature of what we write, what led many of us down this path, was bringing us all to this place where we see ourselves more clearly than we ever have. And suddenly it’s like, “Oh, so THAT’S why….”
I chose my name to be gender ambiguous, and I will point out that my first name is my legal surname. Part of why I’m thinking so hard on this is because I am planning on writing YA, and I need to choose a new name for that. I want to choose a new name, rather. If someone told me I had to, I’d probably shiv them and then keep my current name out of spite. That’s how I roll.
Josh’s tribulations weigh heavily on my thoughts, not because I had any designs on having an overtly male name or cultivating a male persona, but because what is in a name is very important.
In fandom, I was known as Charlotte, or to my familiars, Char. And to my familiars who speak typonese, Chair. It had been my initial intention to be Charlotte Clancy—an amalgam of the writer within me that I’d discovered under that name and my legal surname. At the last minute, I changed my mind.
When I got married, I didn’t take my husband’s surname. I had intended to, but I’m very sentimentally attached to the name Clancy, and I had tossed around the idea of legally changing my first name to Clancy–which my husband soundly rejected.
I don’t like my first name. I just don’t. For most of my life I tolerated it, then online, when I was able to give myself a new name, I jumped at it. Now that I’ve learned more about myself, being called the Spanish word for “lady” feels very, very odd.
Of course, what is a name but a marker to which you are associated—a brand which you are called, your unique identifier at least amongst your friends?
Okay, getting too pretentious. The point is, I’m wrestling with who I want to be, what I want as my avatar to go into this next life as YA author, so selfishly, this Josh Lanyon mess is interesting.
Back when I first read Harry Potter, I didn’t know what a JK Rowling was. I didn’t care. I rarely care that much about an author, usually. I have no recollection of how many of her books I’d read before someone told me she was a woman which made me feel… I don’t know. I read a lot of women authors and male authors, so I’m sure my response was something along the line of, “huh.”
I didn’t get cranky about it until I did read an interview where she was told by her publishers to use her initials. Ugh. Gross. But by the same token, here we are again, totally wrapped up in the gender of names and affirming that, for me, the most honest choice is an ambiguous name.
Because, look, it’s not that I want to pass for male or female. It’s that I want to pass for PERSON or WRITER. I don’t want someone to pick up my book like, “I am supporting authors who don’t have penises today!” I want someone to pick it up like, “This sounds interesting!” or “I have read other books by WRITER PERSON and I thought they were great and I am going to read this one, too!”
Because, as much as I want to believe it when the gushy, smushy, “It doesn’t matter to me your gender, I just love your books!” comes through on the FB feed for Josh, it’s a little like meeting your ex’s new significant other and laughing just a little too hard and a little too long because you don’t want it to matter.
But it does. Of course it does. It’s not a thing you can unknow. It doesn’t have to change someone’s buying habits or reading habits, but the fact of this all-singing, all-dancing, days-on-end revelation means that we’re all still kinda sexist. We all seem to feel the need to approve or disapprove and do so publicly.
If you didn’t care, you wouldn’t say anything.
I had some other things I wanted to say about Charlotte being derived from Charles, that in my search for gender neutral names I found out interesting things like that surnames that are used as first names are usually considered masculine. Because, you know, names are passed by patriarchal lines, so of course dudes get first crack at those names.
Also that names, once they start getting claimed by the ladies, fall out of favor with men. Like Leslie and Lindsey. Also that I apparently favor surnames as first names for my characters, so this gender neutral naming is something I just do.
And I could rant about some of the lack of feminism just in names we are even “allowed” to use without being considered male and thus claiming a male identity when that may or may not be our intention.
But I sit here, thinking on that first name I chose for myself as writer: Charlotte , what it means is, “Free.”
4 thoughts on “What’s in a name?”
I agree with this post. I think it is awesome. I think it says things that needed saying. Well done.
Fantastic post – and I completely agree that misogyny and gender biases are alive and well in the reading/publishing world. It’s funny, too – I also shifted away from using my given name (my given name is actually Jonathan, and for my childhood, everyone called me Jon, which never once felt right). When I was eighteen, I dropped the first two letters instead, and found that ‘Nathan suited me better – and when I looked it up to find out the meaning, it turned out it meant “gift.”
I really enjoyed your post. I’ve shared it with a lot of people. It nailed a lot of what I was thinking but failed to articulate so clearly.
It’s funny how the names we are given are expected to stick. Names someone chose for us before they even really knew us. But then, naming ourselves comes with its own set of challenges as we try to figure out who we are and how we want to present that.
Thanks for commenting!
Comments are closed.