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Identity Issues

While contemplating a couple of projects that are important to me, I suddenly realized that if either of them make it to fruition, they will be presented to the public under names other than the legal name by which I am known in my daily life.

That stopped me cold.

What does it mean that a significant portion (although by no means all) of the work that is closet to my heart feels like something from which I need to distance myself? Not because of shame, but because the voices that rise up inside me insist that there would be unpleasant consequences otherwise.

One of those projects involves erotic writing, and there are issues there that touch the privacy of more than one former partner. But the other project, which involves my work as an underworld priestess, doesn't have those types of constraints. Although yes, there are sexual elements there as well. The underworld path has a great deal to do with sex and death, two loaded and usually unpopular topics for "polite society."

I know the other names which I would put on these projects, alternate names. . . Names that are feeling more and more like my real self than the name which I have carried for more than forty years.

I think that I've mentioned recently that I've been doing a lot of journaling to deal with inner obstacles to my goals that have been powerful but indistinct. I think journaling on this topic will be helpful as well. Those internal voices that are so worried about my reputation -- professional and otherwise -- probably need to be engaged directly, and their fears dealt with head-on. I've been deferring to those fears all my life, accepting that they know better than I do about how to be successful in society. I should stop giving them that power.


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 19th, 2009 05:22 am (UTC)
This was a huge struggle for me as well last year, when my poetry book came out.

Since then, I've adopted a policy of putting my legal (and professional) name on all things I write having to do with anything Celtic, no matter if it is a high-academic treatise or a fluff piece in a Llewellyn book; and for most Graeco-Roman-Egyptian things of a practical religious nature, and queer pagan stuff, I'll use my Ekklesía name.

For a long time, I was very resistant to having "two personalities," and thought that if I didn't have the courage or integrity to sign my own name to anything I felt ought to be published, it shouldn't be published. Then I realized that's just stupid, and that there are people out there who would very much like to judge us because of what we do or with whom we are affiliated, even if they are in organizations that say they don't do that or can't legally do so. I talked with someone at Kalamazoo about it, and she was fully in support of me using a non-legal name. I will only do so until I either get a full-time position somewhere, or until certain work I'd like to do under my actual legal name is done and established before I link the two personae thereafter in an official capacity.

So, yes, I'd agree: don't give the voices power in the sense that they limit your options as far as inflated notions of idealized integrity and such go. It's not stupid or cowardly to not jump out in front of trains, and while I wouldn't say it would be "professional suicide" to not write under a different name, I can't be certain that's not one of the reasons I've not had full-time teaching employment up to this point (due to some things I published early on before I realized that other names were viable to use)...So, perhaps I'm too biased to be offering any sort of useful opinion on this matter...!?!
Aug. 19th, 2009 03:17 pm (UTC)
No, not biased at all! I appreciate that you're sharing from your direct experience of this issue and its complications.
Aug. 19th, 2009 07:12 am (UTC)
Not using your name for the erotic book makes sense on several levels, but why would you not use your name on the underworld book? These days, in the PNW, there really isn't any reason not to write a pagan book under your own name.
Aug. 19th, 2009 03:16 pm (UTC)
I guess it's because the Ereshkigal devotional will touch a lot of very personal areas for me, areas which don't get publically exposed. If it were simply an academic or general book, that would be one thing, but it's not.

On the other hand, since the book is an anthology I suppose I could publish the book itself under my name and attribute the more personal, intimate contributions to one of my psuedonyms. . .
Aug. 19th, 2009 03:04 pm (UTC)
Reading this and the post after it together really resonates with me. I got some stuff from my dad especially that bears some similarity to all this. I'm definitely leaning more these days toward defining integrity for myself, and allowing multiple personas to flourish, if that's opens me further to more authenticity. We all contain multitudes, after all, and I believe that there are benefits to multiple public personas besides just protection and confidentiality. But it's definitely a set of decisions to make on a very personal level.

I'm just now catching up on your posts of the last week or two. I'm not finished yet; I especially want to fix an audio problem this afternoon so I can watch the B5 clip. But I don't know when your vigil is, and I wanted to be sure I checked in before then. I see you diving deeply into some amazing, rich work and I hope that translates to a sense of fruitfulness for you very soon. Blessings on your vigil, and I hope it's everything it can be.
Aug. 19th, 2009 03:13 pm (UTC)
Thank you. . .

It's been very interesting that the weight of the comments on this issue -- both now and in the past, on LJ and off -- is the same: that it's normal, even wise, to have multiple personnas for public interaction and discourse, and not (necessarily) an issue of personal integrity or a failure of courage. And that, of course, raises a new set of questions for me about why I'm taking this to heart to the degree that I am.

The vigil is tonight, with a purification and other rituals tomorrow morning. I'll try to post something of substance later today about my intentions.

Aug. 19th, 2009 03:23 pm (UTC)
Well, I definitely think it's possible to have a healthy set of personas. But I don't think it automatically follows that it's always the best step for any given individual to have those separations. There have been times in my life where, for example, my keeping of separate online journals reflected a lack of connection within me that I wasn't happy with. I merged them to do the work I wanted to do then. I now have very separate identities once again, but only after being convinced that I'd connected what I wanted to connect internally. The separate identities are more about 1) safety and keeping options open, and 2) staying clearly in particular roles with others, to facilitate the relationships I want to have.

There are certainly options for you. And it may well still be that integration into one persona is what's best for you now.

I look forward to hearing whatever you feel drawn to share about the vigil.
Aug. 19th, 2009 06:08 pm (UTC)
Thank you for sharing those insights.

Your concept of being "internally connected" is important. I do think I've done a lot of successful work around that over the past few years, especially as I've finally found a spiritual path which addresses the breadth of my being in a way no other has.

I feel much more internally integrated now than at other times in my life -- and maybe that's what's driving some of the urgency in my external life? Before I took the external divisions for granted, because they mirrored my internal life. Now my inner life is integrated, so it feels on some level that the outer "should" be as well. . .
Aug. 19th, 2009 04:49 pm (UTC)
IMHO, I think trying to define your identity under one name is as restricting, if not more so, than using other names. You are not trying to disown the work you do under a different name. You may be doing it for reasons of protection, but there is something powerful about creating your own identity. It is not creating something that is fake to hide behind. It's allowing another part of yourself to shine through, and I don't believe that this self has to be identified under your given name. I believe, and I'm just going on intuition at the moment, that the name you use for X spiritual purposes can be, could be, the name of your Shadow self, and then there is you, and they are both you, and learning to accept them both as equally valid parts of you allows you to decide how much of that you really want to give to the rest of the world. Not everyone deserve every part of you. Some only deserve a small part of you and just aren't worthy of knowing you as anything else.

Edited at 2009-08-19 04:49 pm (UTC)
Aug. 19th, 2009 05:56 pm (UTC)
Thank you for a really insightful, paradigm shifting, observation. . . .
Aug. 19th, 2009 06:11 pm (UTC)
I aim to please :)
Aug. 19th, 2009 09:37 pm (UTC)
This really seems to be a topic that each person needs to decide for themselves, based on a multitude of factors. Personally, I have never hidden my legal name, even though I often use "pseudonyms" in the sense of alternate religious names - they are always easy to connect back to me, and I use them to express different aspects of myself and/or separate my involvement in various pursuits/communities, rather than to conceal my identity in any way. I have never felt that just one name defined me, so it makes sense to have several.

But I also have no spouse or children who might be affected by this. My parents are totally okay with who and what I am. I am not pursuing a "career" of any sort that would require me to maintain appearances of normalcy (although truthfully, I would never pursue something that forced me to hide what is most important to me). So I have the luxury of being open.

I have never actually had any problems as a result of this - I've always been open at my jobs, in my family, in my community (I tend to live in progressive places anyway) - although I realize it's a possibility. But it's one I'm willing to risk, because I don't feel like having to worry about my various identities and who knows what about me. And I have to keep so much of myself set aside in my normal daily interactions (since people wouldn't care or understand) - that seems like enough work just to please the general populace.

That all being said, your circumstances are different in several ways. I think it's just a matter of assessing the potential risks and benefits of each scenario.

Good luck!
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )


Queen of Swords

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