Say My Name
I have recently started a two weeks intensive treatment program to deal with my 23 years of lived trauma, and generations worth of trans-generational trauma. I am told I will cry, and hate my medical team before the end of it, but things will never be the same for me. I can not wait.
During the first day, I was asked how do I pronounce my name. I laughed it off initially, saying I've been called a million different names and it really doesn't matter anymore. My team, of five practitioners told me No, that it mattered, and they wanted to get it right. So, I told them what I tell everyone "Aw-Med" is the way to pronounce it. For the rest of the three hours, this slightly bothered me, and I carried it with me into the evening and even the next morning.
The next day, deciding to start a new chapter in my life, I decided that they would say my name right. So, for the first five minutes or so we practiced to say Ah-mad, the way it was supposed to, in a way where it actually has a meaning and is not just another way for me to fit in in Western Society. I explained to them that my name had to change when I was twelve, when we moved to Canada, and no one could pronounce my name, and how wanting to be White, I kept up the American/Canadian version of the name, but it is not my name.
It should not be my responsibility to teach you how to say my name properly, but I will start correcting you if we're going to have an actual relationship. Even though hearing Akh-med is going to sting, I will continue to tell you I am wrong. If you don't want to put in some work to pronounce my name properly, then you probably won't put in any effort to make our relationship work.
It might seem like I am making a big deal out of nothing, but there's no belonging in a world that can't even pronounce your name. There are plenty of studies about how psychologically damaging constantly mispronouncing names can be. And it's so simple, just go to www.pronouncenames.com; even they pronounce my name right.
Recently, on my trip around the United States, as I was going through White Supremacist areas (most of the places I passed) I had a stay alive name, and I realized how much of my identity is associated with my name. Without my name, and without the sun, I am basically a White Male. But that's not me. I am a Palestinian with Sun Kissed Skin and a name that's literally filled with praise. Who are you to take that away from me?
If you're in a similar position, here a few things you must be aware of before deciding to take ownership of your name:
1) You will get push back. There's a reason many of our names, despite being worn by possibly hundreds of millions of others, are still not pronounced correctly. White Supremacy affects us in almost every way. Preventing us from having our real names, something that holds so much of our humanity, is another way the system controls us. Not everyone will support your Self-Actualization.
2) Be Safe. Your difference is far more noticeable with a clearly foreign name. My name is so incredibly easy to recognize, but not everyone will. I was literally told today 'wow, I love unique names'. Clearly this person did not realize that I have one of the most common names in the world.
3) Set an example for others. No, I am not talking about constantly repeating your name. I am saying that you need to also be accounting for possibly not appreciating everyone's names. In a White Supremacist society we are taught that pronouncing a predominantly white name wrong is the end of the world, but if it's a foreign name then that's that person's problem. There's power to names, be a Safe individual.
People say the eyes are the window to the soul, well, sometimes, names are the windows to our identities.