With all the work I’ve done on myself to heal, I was reminded the other day that I still have a very obvious and simple task left to do. Reclaim my name. It seems so silly and so obvious.
I have theories of why I haven’t done it yet – could it be that I was just lazy? No, not at all considering how many other things I’ve achieved in my life. Looking deeper into it, I realised that it was an indicator to show people that not only was I different but that I’d been through a lot and was surviving. It was the hint of my troubled start in life, after all – who has multiple names on official documents that don’t match with each other?
I realise that I could have changed this at any time in my adult life. When I lived in Paris, France, I was unable to open a bank account for this very reason. It was very problematic for my employer at the time and we had to find a workaround so I could get paid. With every new job I have to explain the situation, and each time I’m filled with concern that there is no way that they will understand for in western cultures, you are given a birth certificate at the point of birth, that makes sense. That is logical. What’s not logical is that my birth certificate had to be created and bought when I was six. That they didn’t like my name and so chose one of a saint instead – Joan of Ark. What also doesn’t make sense is that the Belgian officials also decided at some point to get rid of my Rwanda surname Uwimana, further adding to the mismatch of my official documentation.
All of this clearly points to the need to officially change my name to make it inclusive of all my documents. I hadn’t done so prior as there seemed other more pressing issues at hand and I was also scared. To me, there must have been a reason why my adoptive parents hadn’t done so when I was in Europe. Being European, they understood the importance of documentation aligning and the problems of having a different name on my school records to my bank account they helped me open at thirteen to my passport and even birth certificate. I presumed it was tied to my bio-dad who had kidnapped me as a child. I came to the conclusion that I was safer officially being Jeanne than I was being Fifi. This was the wrong conclusion and my reasoning was misguided. It was just an oversight.
In not having my real name, the one given to me as a baby and having to adopt that of a white European saint, I’ve also had a constant reminder, again not a correct one, that I wasn’t enough. It ingrained in me the feeling of shame. Every time I had to use Jeanne as my first name, hand over my passport as ID I’m reminded of why I was given this alien name. My anger is renewed and my trauma surfaced.
However, because of the LGBTQA’s efforts for inclusion, I no longer have to justify why I have different names. It is just accepted. This is wonderful. For me though, I won’t be whole until I reclaim my name. I am and have always been Fifi! My name is part of me, it is who I am, I love it just as I have learnt to love all of me, including the parts I thought, were broken and unrepairable!
Let us celebrate ourselves for being is enough, it is all the world can demand.