Initial Reflections on Changing My Name
Jennifer Angelina Petro
Today I got word the courts approved my name change. I am officially Jennifer Angelina Petro. I am challenged to put into words just how happy this makes me feel, but you know I’m going to try.
Imagine being misgendered for 47 years. Imagine the dissonance caused by not knowing who I really was, and that not knowing boiling subterranean in my consciousness–simmering like molten metal for decades before I knew what was going on. The dissonance permeated all areas of my life and I didn’t know what it was about. The only thing I knew was that something was wrong. What that something was however, was a mystery.
When the molten metal finally spilled over into my conscious life and sent my armor melting to bits I realized the truth: I am a woman. Always have been. No matter what the doctors said, no matter what my name said, no matter what my place in life as a parent and spouse said—I am a woman. I have spoken many times about the euphoria that came with the realization—the centeredness, the completeness, the sheer joy and utter amazement. And despite my life circumstances being rather in shambles, that certainty and joy about knowing who I am remains.
And now the courts have given their blessing on my name change. And while the happiness at this news is great—beyond great—it is tinged with melancholy. Joseph has been gradually fading more and more off stage since Spring 2015. And he has done so with class and grace. I have also written before about how much I love and respect Joseph for keeping me safe all those years. He wants me center stage. He wants living this one, wild, and tender life.
And yet as I watch him go I realize in a very real sense he was never there—not in fullness and in truth. Joseph lived a ghost-life, a phantom life—dissociating everywhere he went. And he did so to distract the world from me in order to keep me safe until the time was right and ripe for my arrival into the conscious reality of who I am as Jennifer.
So, in truth I was never male, no matter what my body looked like and the things it did. I have always and ever been female. I have always and ever been Jennifer. Joseph was a cloak. Jennifer the soul and spirit—and yes, she is the cloak too. No matter what was in my pants or what I thought I was or the world thought I was—Jennifer is the one and only reality of who I am. And it is my hope your love, acceptance, friendship, and desire to be in relationship with me isn’t conditional based upon what was or is in my pants, or what was or is my name, gender marker, gender identify, or sexual preference.
Esoteric thoughts aside, I am moved to tears as I embrace fully this next stage of my journey. Jennifer Angelina Petro can now be announced to the world. Oh, sure there is much paper work to do and forms to fill out and I am sure there will be a fair share of hassles and rigmarole, but it’s OK. I know who I am. And little by little, as all the paper work gets finished, my name—my chosen name to represent ME will become more and more accepted in the wider world.
I am grateful for the legal department at the Mazzoni Center, and in particular, Barri Friedland. She was the shepherdess who helped guide this lost soul to her true name. In a very real sense I can plug in the words “I once was Joseph, but now am Jennifer,” to the tune of Amazing Grace. Yes, I know, I have always been Jennifer, but the point is I was lost as Joseph and didn’t even know it. Barri, and the legal team at the Mazzoni Center, worked pro-bono to be sure Jennifer was found and embraced by the whole world. I am so grateful.
Thank you for loving me and sticking with me all these years.