Monthly Archives: February 2015

How I Chose My Name (And Why You Should Use It)

final rainbow

Every name has a story.

I was born with a different name than the one I carry now, in an Ohio suburb that I only vaguely remember. Growing up wild and mischievous, the intensely feminine name that I had been given made me uncomfortable. It never felt right.

That wrongness was something I thought about more and more over the years. I don’t think my parents ever noticed the discomfort, but then again, I don’t think I ever talked about it. It was just one of those things that there weren’t set words for, or at least words I knew how to express. I’m only finding them now, at 25, sitting at the computer in a body that often feels like it belongs to someone else.

As I got into high school, I started thinking very seriously about what name I’d pick, if I only got the choice. It was a hard battle, hampered by unacknowledged discomforts with my body and orientation, and I didn’t manage to settle on anything concrete during those four tumultuous years.

Time continued to pass, and what the right name for me (the one I just hadn’t found yet) was remained a mystery. Then, in this past year, I began intensive research on what two names would label my soul in a concrete, accurate way. I couldn’t keep walking in a name that made me cringe. It was bad enough being trapped in this body when the dysphoria hit. A false start or two later, I finally settled on James Avery.

James, to me, has always been confident, extroverted, and a little mischievous. James can stride into a room and join a conversation without fear. James radiates calm and humor. James is the best parts of me and the things I want most to be. James is me at my fullest potential. Every time I am called James, I am reminded of my best self and pushed to continue striving for it.

Is it any wonder I chose the name?

How about Avery, then? I like Avery because it reminds me where I came from, and to never forget the inequality women face. As a gender-neutral name, it reinforces the message that though I am leaving behind my birth sex, I shouldn’t forget what I have been through, and what women go through every day. It also keeps me from forgetting that I don’t have to always be masculine to be male.
When I pick a name with that much meaning, is it strange that I want to be called by it? And yet every day I get comments like, “You’ll always be Kim to me,” or “I’m sorry, but you don’t look like a James.” Yet if I had gotten married and changed my last name, there would be very little problem.

Why do some people refuse to call someone by a name that has meaning to them and instead insist on one arbitrarily assigned at birth? It takes people time to get used to a new name, but why do some completely reject a person’s right to define their own identity?

I think it’s because, unconsciously or consciously, the people who insist upon misnaming others realize that calling someone by a name that they chose, a name that means something to them and describes them, requires you to acknowledge their humanity. Misnaming is a way of denying someone’s personhood, and that is the worst kind of crime.

Updates and Links!

A whole herd of awesomeness has been trampling its merry way into my life, so now is the time for updates! I’ll also include some links at the end of the post for things such as my Goodreads author page and Facebook page.

Without further ado, the updates!

SIGHTINGS IN THE WILD

March:

  • 21: On March 21st I will be performing and showcasing my art at Miami LOCO Arts Festival in Miami, Arizona. For times and more information, check out the events page.

April

  • 25: My sister is getting married April 25, so I may be a bit scarce in terms of performances as that gets closer. I will be attending Wednesday open mic nights at Rogue Bar, however, so you can see me perform there.
  • ?: I will likely be performing at some point during the month of April at Bookmans in Mesa for National Poetry Month.

May:

  • 3: I will be releasing my first CD at Rogue Bar, a spoken word CD of my book Gasoline and Winter with music behind it. The talented musician Tim Allyn (Echolalia, Bad Neighbors) recorded the CD and is providing the excellent background music, and the CD release party will feature 8 local bands and my own performance. The event page will be up soon!

June:

  • 1: I will be performing at Rogue Bar with a few local bands. I’m still booking, so more details to come soon!
  • ?-20: Although there are still more details to figure out, it looks like I’ll be performing at Bisbee Pride in June (Bisbee, AZ), and doing a variety of workshops in the days or week leading up to it. Stay tuned for more information!

November

  • ?: I will be performing at Sidepony Express Festival in Bisbee, AZ. More details when it draws closer!

?/?/2015

  • When final approval for the event arrives, I will be speaking at Paradise Valley Community College’s TEDx event on “What Coming Out Has Taught Me.”
  • I may also conduct a workshop/workshops at PVCC at some point in the near future.
  • I can also be found most Wednesday evenings performing spoken word poetry at Open Mic Night at Rogue Bar in Scottsdale, AZ.

THE REST OF THE EPIC AWESOME

  • I’ve started providing manuscript design services for people for their lulu.com books. This includes formatting, proofreading, and (possibly) covers. I’m currently finishing proofreading and formatting the manuscript for a poetry book entitled “Porchlight Promises” and will be sketching the cover in the next couple days. Look for it soon!
  • I just commissioned a design for my first merch T-shirts from the amazing graphic artist Shannon Elizabeth Harden, and Tiffany Helvie will be doing the photography for my new posters.
  • I will be writing articles for a friend’s website.
  • I’m collaborating with a friend and local musician, Mista J, on a track for his new CD coming out at the beginning of 2016.
  • I may be becoming a mentor for some college students soon!

ALL THE LINKS

INTERESTED IN BOOKING ME/IN PROOFREADING OR MANUSCRIPT DESIGN SERVICES/HAVE QUESTIONS?

Email me at JamesAvery1990@gmail.com, or contact me at one of the links above.

Man

From Gasoline and Winter


I became a man the day I stopped being a boy,

not the day I first bound my breasts to ease the ache inside.
It wasn’t when testosterone hit like hope,
or the first time I kissed a girl.

I became a man the day I stopped being a boy.

I’m not a freak or fairy or a lesser man
because my body differs from yours.
My name is James, not “Miss” or girl.
I became a man the day I stopped being a boy.

How to Respond When Someone Tells You Their Body is Not Their Gender

  1. Thank them for trusting you. It isn’t an easy thing to talk about. It takes people a long time to come to terms with gender, and it’s often dangerous to bring up. Even when it isn’t, people are scared of the reactions of others.
  2. Respect their gender identity. Call them by the gender and gender pronoun they prefer, and ask them what they are.
  3. Do not tell anyone they have not given you permission to about their gender. Not only is it a betrayal of trust, but it can, again, be dangerous. Along with this you should ask if there are people who don’t know, and how you should refer to the person confiding in you when those who don’t know are around.
  4. Realize that everyone’s experience with their gender identity is different, and remember it is not the same thing as sexuality. Not everyone wants to transition, and not everyone views male and female the same way. Some people may act in “typically masculine” ways and still be female, and the reverse is true as well (Do not rely on gender roles. EVER. They are one of humanity’s worst inventions.). And then there’s the difference between gender and sexuality. Gender is the gender of the person. Sexuality relates to the gender of the person they are attracted to. Don’t assume they are interrelated in any way.
  5. Treat them the same. They didn’t become a three-armed monster bent on destroying the world when they told you about their gender. They didn’t change who they were, either. They just let you get to know them better. Same person = same treatment, outside of respecting pronouns.

It’s as simple as that.

If you wonder why this is so important, read this survey’s results.

If you wonder how I came up with this specific method, it is an aggregate of the best reactions I’ve had, the best reactions a number of people I’ve surveyed have had, and this post.

The Only Drug I’ve Never Learned to Hate


I found light inside of lyrics when I was young,
facing the darkness with words sparking from my tongue.
If those lines hadn’t spoken deep inside my soul
would there be enough of me to harmonize whole?

Drifting through memories darker than the oceans deep,
I’ve yet to know a metronome that couldn’t make me weep.
Music is the only drug I’ve never learned to hate,
melody spiraling me down the interstate.

The microphone shakes as I hold it in my hand,
but screaming aloud is how I taught myself to stand.
Stand up for others, stand up for myself;
do what is right for the world and my health.

If nightmares walk in daylight I’ll be the sunrise,
stanzas birthed in hope growing taller than the lies.
Bars an outlet for the beat, rhythm my only therapy,
I forsake alcohol for sound and let myself drown.

As I make my way home bass thrums in my bones,
knowing somehow I’ll never face the world alone.

Drifting through memories darker than the ocean’s deep,
I’ve yet to know a metronome that couldn’t make me weep.
Music is the only drug I’ve never learned to hate,
melody spiraling me down the interstate.

Call Me Gentleman

final rainbow

My little brother was the first to call me a gentleman, and my eyes lit up like electricity. I’d just discovered that I liked male pronouns, but I hadn’t yet realized what a powerful word gentleman could be. It’s more than just a word for a man. It’s praise.

My gender is still up in the air, but there’s something undoubtedly delightful about the combination of “gentle” and “man”. It implies that the typically underrated quality of gentleness in males is in fact something to aspire to, not mock. And the way it feels in the mouth as my tongue rolls out the word… It’s beautiful.

It has such exquisite meaning, too. It brings to mind holding open doors and pulling out chairs and taking the time to listen. I can’t say I’m a perfect listener, but these are things I desire to be.

Perhaps, after all, gentleman is simply an ideal that leaves us striving to better ourselves, and isn’t that why we are here? I want to be a gentleman in the fullest sense of the word: not just on Tuesdays, or with someone I love, but always.

Call me a gentleman only when I’ve earned it, but call me a gentleman.