pen names

Came across this yesterday on the Barge Press site. Just read it more fully, and wanted to answer a few of dudeface’s questions about the point and meaning behind pen names.

I will answer the ones that I consider most necessary to address.

1) Is your own name embarrassing to you?

No, honey. I’m trans- I picked it myself.

2) Do you think that a cooler sounding name will make you more marketable/famous?

No. I think that the separation between my name as it appears on my child’s birth certificate and the name connected to my writing protects my family from further threats of and/or further attempts at violence.

3) Are you hiding something from somebody?

Yes. Some people have to do this to protect the privacy of their children, to keep their children out of foster care, and to keep the phobic rednecks at bay.

4) Did your dad beat you for being a gay writer?

No. Actually international media picked up my writing and we got death threats the world over. People began to “visit” us at night.

5) Is the person writing the work of literature a different person from yourself?

I think about this often. I posit that every time we sit down to write, we speak from a different character, a different voice, all of whom are aspects of us, none of whom are all of us.

6) Who is the person writing? Is it your brother, sister, mother?

Sometimes.

7) Did they beat you?

You are so fixated on this. Lemme make some assumptions– you are a white, straight, middle class, cisgendered, temporarily able-bodied male, and you’ve never feared violence from anyone. Your privilege is so invisible to you that you consider the effects of trauma laughable. Conversely, you may just be an asshole.

8) Are you afraid?

Sometimes.

9) Do you want to ignore everything you were?

No. I want to speak it fully and safely.

10) Who deserves the attention, you or your name?

I prefer my work receive it.

11) Does your name change your work?

Yes. I write differently when I know that it does not put my child at further risk.

12) How long has it been since you gave a shit?

Sometime on Friday. We don’t eat well at the homeless shelter.

13) How have you survived being so powerless?

Right here, I’ve decided to withdraw my submission.

14) Does your name have power over you? Over others?

Yes. So does yours. A name carries gendered meaning, ethnic and racial connotations, class and cultural affiliations. Names have power.

15) Would you tell your parents their name wasn’t good enough for you?

I did that four years ago when I legally changed my name.

Goodbye, Barge Press.

Can anyone tell me of innovative, creative presses or journals that aren’t a bunch of arrogant straight men?

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