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I’m a woman, and my name is Tommie Christopher. People have always assumed I was lying about my name.

Person wearing white shirt with name tags bearing the name Thomas, Tommie, and Christopher.Tommie Christopher Brown was bullied for her name while growing up.

Courtesy Tommie Christopher Brown

  • I was given a hand-me-down name from my dad and his best friend.
  • Throughout my life, people teased me for my name or assumed I was lying about it.
  • As an adult, I see my name as a sign of strength and family history.

Being a girl with “Tommie” as a first name is one thing — but having “Christopher” as a middle name turned quirky into confusing. My name is a hand-me-down that came from my dad, Thomas/Tommy, and his late best friend, Christopher.

Despite what countless have asked, no, my parents did not expect nor want a son. This was going to be my name regardless of my sex, and as fate would have it, the pendulum swung in the direction that made my name more unorthodox. This has led to questioning of my honesty (like being told at the DMV if I wasn’t going to “cooperate” with them over my name, I was breaking a law), my parents’ sanity, even by my own family who broke out in disapproving screaming matches before my birth, and even my gender.

Growing up, my name caused issues for me

People have become more liberal with names over the last decade or so and no longer adhere so tightly to gendered expectations the way they did when I was growing up in the ’90s and early 2000s. Having a name that sounded so distinctly ‘male’ caused problems for me.

Once, when my mom and I went to get my card at the Social Security office, staff tried to force her to undress me to prove my sex before they’d agree to mark ‘female.’ Now, people are realizing that when it comes to questions surrounding pronouns and gender, a respectful approach is better than one of attack, but I was not afforded much respect while growing up.

It goes without saying that I got bullied. And while you might think the taunts came from the playground, adults were often the most cruel. I got kicked out of classrooms by teachers who thought I was pulling a fast one on them by insisting I was, in fact, myself during roll call. Some would purposefully call me different versions of my name, like “Tammy” or “Tomasina,” despite my pleas for them not to.

When meeting new people, I was often faced with intrusive questions or comments about my gender, sex, and whether or not I was simply “confused” about my own identity. On multiple occasions, men had told me I was “too pretty to think I was a boy.” An elementary school nurse once read my name and jokingly told me we would have to “go to the bathroom and see about that.” From a young age, I was forced to advocate for my own body and privacy, and stood firm in my refusal to allow adults to rewrite my identity.

My name comes with family history

Alongside societal pushback, my name came with baggage. The best names come with history, and my history was of two rowdy fighters who made the streets and concert halls their home. One lost to gang violence, the other absent due to alcoholism and his own past, I had to decide at an extremely young age whether I was going to bring strength and pride to my name or get dragged down by it.

As Johnny Cash’s “A Boy Named Sue” predicted, the world wasn’t going to give me many other options aside from either crumbling beneath their rejection of both my name and namesakes or coming out swinging on the defense in confidence. Suffice it to say, I swung.

A name is the starting ground for identity. Through our names, we tell the world how to see us. And unique names are conversation starters and often storytellers of our past. I have added to the history of my familial name in a way I am proud of, changing the legacy of the men who came before me. And while my flight tickets often get changed to “Mr. Brown” (leaving me in a frenzy in an airport in France), and pharmacists accuse me of picking up someone else’s prescriptions, there is no other name that could fit who I am or where I came from.

I am grateful to my parents for not only giving me no choice but to challenge social constructs and everyone I encounter. Thanks to them, my favorite part of any day is introducing myself.

Read the original article on Business Insider
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