Interesting piece in the NYT by a porn star about the disctinction between public and private. She says some interesting things that reflect my own experience having a pen name very, very well.
Maybe it would be easier to navigate the dissolving boundaries between public and private spaces if we all had a variety of names with which to signal the aspects of ourselves currently on display.
The strangers who call me Jessica at publicity appearances lean in far too close. They hiss it as if they have top-secret information. All they’re doing is letting me know that they had 30 seconds to spend on Google and no sense of propriety — which may sound funny coming from a woman who flagrantly disregards it herself.
My stage name is less about withholding parts of myself or maintaining privacy than it is a symbol of the idea that I am more than just my job or any other isolated slice of my identity.
The whole kerfuffle doesn’t need to be as dramatic as people seem to think. For me, choosing a stage name felt less like concealing my identity (especially since I’d just turned over my Social Security number to strangers) and more like deciding on a user name for any Internet service or website.
In my case having a pen name which is not the same as my legal name has done one additional thing: gives me something in common with the community I work for. I am regularly asked (1) what my “real name” is – it’s the one I just told you when I introduced myself, thanks, or I would have said something else – which trans people get all the time and which is rude no matter who is asking, or why. Similarly, I hear (2) “were you embarrassed that everyone knows so much about you?” – um, yeah, no, but like every other human being, I do prefer talking about myself over having other people talk about me in negative, gossipy ways, which is part of the huge reason trans people don’t tell you their former name, because they don’t want you going off and gossiping about it to someone else, or worse yet, using it like they’re “in” and then, finally, (3) “does anyone still call you G?” and yes, some do, but until or unless I ask you to, please call me the name I introduced myself to you with, or, See #1.
Helen’s my real name. It happens to be my legal middle name. I am not “hiding” anything but instead trying to have a tiny bit of personal life and am not, always, The Helen Boyd Show. I’m sure both me and Stoya occasionally like to be at home, eating a can of soup, wondering when we’re going to get around to doing our taxes.