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Naming Names

By Lee Lynch


Lee Lynch
Photo: E. Mulligan

In the midst of naming a new president I realized that naming is a big deal to most people. Isn't that a part of how we legitimize the gay liaisons we so desperately want the right to legalize? We want to be able to take one another's names, to declare our unions proudly to the world with a title or a hyphen or easy document signing.

We have named the president and almost every country on earth seemed to breathe a sigh of relief. Gay couples in Connecticut have joined those in Massachusetts who are now sharing names. My sweetheart would like to be able to take my family name, but Florida voted that option down with propagandizing, maligning signs that read: YES ON 2; PROTECT OUR CHILDREN.

Our presidential intended may or may not work miracles in the White House, but he's not going to bat to insure that my intended can share my name. Sure, we can go down to the courthouse and legally change names as individuals, but what does that signify?

I did, however, go to the courthouse last winter and get rid of the very unbutch name my poor mother gave me. For some time after she died I had been talking about doing it. What finally motivated me was our impending declaration of domestic partnership. It was important to me that my lesbian name appears on the certificate. I call it a lesbian name because my first girlfriend, when I graduated from high school (a big deal to her as she dropped out), bestowed the name Lee on me, saying that I'd earned it. Lee is a part of my inappropriate birth name. I wanted my sweetheart to be proud of who she was domesticating and I wanted to make the statement I am the lesbian "Lee Lynch" to my core.

The stickler was deciding on a middle name. I bugged my friends for months to help me come up with a good one. What I wanted to do was honor all the women on both sides of my family named Josephine, but the name Josephine didn't fit me. One day while watching the Stellar Jays stuff themselves with peanuts I'd put out on the deck, it came to me: Jay. I love the birds and the initial "J" would represent the Josephines. So I paid the fees and posted my notice of name change like a marriage bann. No one came forward to object. I am rid of that albatross of an appellation on my driver's license, my passport and, most important, my library card.

Naming may carry with it great significance, but it's also great fun for me. When I get sleepy driving I sometimes wake myself up by coming up with cute names for kittens. As I barrel down the highway at 65 mph I imagine a little spiky-tailed fur ball. I once decided Tunafish would be an awesome name and I kind of liked Dogfood too, though I would never use it. Chiquita and Banana became kitty names in my book The Swashbuckler. That always gives me a chuckle.

The past few weeks I have been stuck without a name for a town in my forthcoming book Beggar of Love. I'd had a working name, but discovered it was already in use for a tiny hamlet in the state where the book is partially set. I've been lulling myself to sleep nights trying on town names: Binion Pope (Sweetheart read "bunion"); Dover (there already is one); Kingfisher Landing (reminiscent of the racially insulting "Amos and Andy" show). A couple of days ago I decided to use the county name for the town: Dutchess. My research has not turned up a duplicate and the word has significance for me. Not only was there a lesbian bar of that name in Manhattan, it was a popular lover's nickname in post World War II lesbian circles, though why, I don't know.

Now that the naming of the president is out of the way, I need to identify the main character of the next book I started. At 4:00 a.m. this morning I was wide awake, tossing and turning. I didn't want to disturb my sweetheart so I flopped on the living room couch where I thought and leafed through the New York Times. In the light of the next morning, I was pretty amused to see words like these among the more sober monikers: Romany, Spain, Cove, Saxby, Chorale, Charade, Church and Zola. More realistic were: Greta, Beatrice, Jean, Lindsey, Lisen, Liselle and Nancy, but of course I don't like a one of them today. Let's hope "President Obama" continues to sound like music to my ears a lot longer than that.

Or should I name her Hillary?
© Lee Lynch 2008
Lee Lynch, Author of Sweet Creek from Bold Strokes Books

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