Donald, the name my mother wants to give me when I am born. No, my father says, they'll call him Donald Duck.
Douglas, the name they settle on. Douglas Jay. Where they get the Douglas, I don't know.
Jay, perhaps after the son of close family friends. Shortly before I am born, three-year-old Jay and his parents pull out of their driveway near the Shady Rest Motel. Two teenage boys are using Highway 2 as a drag strip. Jay and his parents never knew what hit them.
Douglas Jay Marlow! The name I hear when I am in trouble with my mother.
Number One Son. I love it when my dad calls me this.
Dougie, my name at home until I start kindergarten. What my grandmother calls me into my teenage years.
The Ugly Dougling, a name I give myself in third grade trying to redeem the deep sense I carry of being flawed, different, awkward, wrong. I want to hope against hope I might someday look into a pond and see reflected in its depths a beautiful swan rather than a place to drown myself.
Jeezo, the school bully's derisive label for me. And Eeeeeee. I don't have a clue what it means except that it's always accompanied his hand under my chin, thrusting my head up and back, baring my neck.
Queer, as in the game we play in gym class, Smear the Queer? But my classmates don't say it in a playful rambunctious tone.
Fag. Faggot. Terms I look up in the dictionary, tell myself it's not so bad to be called a bundle of sticks.
Pud, a name I know to be jeering, won't know until years later it carries derogatory sexual connotations.
Disco, not because I am a dancer. Because I have the audacity to confront my Christian college floormates about violating school rules by practicing dance steps in their dorm room. The name sticks like glue for four years.
Jay, what I call myself when I withdraw from college, go to live in Alaska.
Dewi, Welsh for David. The name I give myself after studying abroad in Wales. The name I am using when I fall in love with a man. The name I am using when I run horrified from that relationship into marriage with a woman.
Doug, the name I switch back to in order to please my wife who has always disliked Dewi.
Greg, what strangers most often call me when they are certain they know me from somewhere.
Melizza, my online persona in a role playing game, who meets and falls head over heels for a man. She/me/we don't know what to make of the very real accompanying feelings.
Bryn, another Welsh name I am enamored of. The one I give my online lover when we share our "real" names.
Dirty homosexual. Child-molester. Monster. Judas. Betrayer. Liar. Cock-sucking fudge-packer. Lowlife shit. Scum of the earth. Dog turd.Some of the nicer names I hear when I come out as a gay man.
Selfish, selfish, selfish. That's all you are, Selfish. I hear this so many times it's not funny. Never was.
Deceived of Satan, my brother's title for me. It helps him make sense of what is happening to our perfect family.
Reprobate. Damned. Consigned to hell. Delivered to Satan. Your name struck from our roll. Shunned by this fellowship of believers. So my church weighs in on how to address me.
Plaintiff, the court's cold legal term for me in reams of documents in divorce proceedings, child custody hearings, a case brought before the state court of appeals.
Bryn, the name I am using when my sense of self coalesces. The name on my revised birth certificate. On my social security card.
In Tolkein's Lord of the Rings saga Treebeard harumphs at the hobbits' names, so soon said and done. "In my culture, our names tell our story," he says. I add 10 middle names to mine. Verbal touchstones. I include references to my children, father and grandfathers.
Rab, a name that has lived in me since childhood. Since I read Esther Forbes' novel Johnny Tremain. Rab, the older, dashing good friend who looks out for his young friend.
Rab, the new name I am now trying on, trying out, ever so slowly living into.
Beloved, the root meaning of the name David, of the name Dewi. Beloved. Be loved. My experience of living with a man whom I treasure, who affirms, supports and treasures me. Be-loved. At root, the name I have for all life, all beings, all creation, all in flux, all changing, all in their own way, time and place, loved.
This essay appeared in the January 2012 issue of The Community Letter