Tawny Tidwell is a white genderfluid queer reprojustice activist living in Houston, TX. She hopes to someday start posting more stuff to her blog, Boyvoice, but generally is too wrapped up in bikes, climbing, and being gross with Asher Aaron to get around to it.
Tawny Tidwell Thinks These Are The Wrong Questions
There are a lot of things that are part of the canon of moderate, reasonable feminist thought that I reject, and can do so because I am in a position where rejection of those thoughts is possible.
I grew up masculine because I was raised by a mother who (for the most part) didn’t tell me not to do something if it wasn’t actually harmful. For most of my childhood, I refused to acknowledge that there was something different about me from my boy best friend, even though I was definitely absorbing some latent cultural messages to the contrary.
I do not know what it is like to be at peace with being feminine, or for that matter, to have your physical sex and mental gender match up. I don’t know what it is like to imagine your future wedding because I’ve never cared about that, and I don’t know what it is like to come up with names for future children because I have never wanted any.
I do know what it is like to feel constantly out of place and in opposition to the world around you. I do know what it is like to have been raised in heteronormativity and lose the opportunities and peace that would have come with growing up in a queer world. I do know how it feels to have had constant anxiety about being too much: too loud, too strong, too rowdy, too brash, too short-haired, too androgynous.
I also have the unique perspective of having grown up inundated in superheroes, in a world of popping colors and dynamic typefaces. Early homemade gifts were caricatures of me and my sister drawn by our dad, with our names comic style above; early bedtime stories were Mario and Luigi excitedly grabbing the next issue of The Adventures of Tawny and Tori off the shelf.
My name has been a constant comfort to me. Tawny Tidwell is weird. Tawny Tidwell is someone you don’t soon forget. Tawny Tidwell is TOTALLY A WITCH LESBIAN. Tawny Tidwell laughs at rumors. Tawny Tidwell is genderless; Tawny Tidwell is surely the name of an alter ego. Tawny Tidwell has to pull out her driver’s license to prove her name to straight white guys, who are understandably jealous existing as John Smith and Chad Whatever.
And it’s only natural that Tawny Tidwell would meet Aaron Asher. And it only makes sense that both would hate the entire idea of combining identities.
And it would make sense that Aaron Asher would not be comfortable with the gender people applied to him, that Aaron Asher would prefer Asher Aaron, snagging some ambiguity for himself so that he can elide masculinity.
We do not fit into a heteronormative, establishment-supporting world. We don’t want a “traditional marriage;” hell, we don’t even want the piece of paper that we’re getting so that Asher Aaron can have health insurance. We just want a committed relationship we define on our own terms.
So when you bring me the question, “Should women change their names?” my kneejerk answer is “HELL NO,” because I don’t understand the world the question comes from, and I’m privileged enough to not have to deal with immigration law, with questions of the legitimacy of my relationship, with a slew of issues that I may not even realize intersect this issue because I am actually fairly oblivious having been white, American, and insulated my whole life.
But then I think: That’s not a question; that’s neoliberalism playing tricks on us, getting us to treat individual choices as made in a vacuum as Rational Actors free to do whatever we please without repercussion. It is an irrelevant distraction that attacks straight cis women for no reason other than that they are a far easier target than a racist, sexist, heteronormative, xenophobic, and violent state.
It’s far easier for us to snark about what we would do in an individual situation than it is for us to admit that marriage is probably not a salvageable institution, or that we should be trying to create space in the world for already existing family structures that currently have no cultural or legal legitimacy into one that is actively failing us (leaving many families out to dry, like single parents or polyamorous folks).
The real question isn’t “Should women change their names?” it’s “Why are we letting our discourse exist in such narrow, pointless terms?”
A quick note about images in this series: each essay will include an image of a place that holds personal meaning for the author.
Let’s Talk About Names: Ali, hooks, Lee Boggs is the previous post in the series.
Let’s Talk About Names: Mattie is the next post in the series.
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