what’s in a name?

hey there….

my name is Jessica. My name toped the baby name charts as one of the top 5 babygirl names of 1999, the year I was born. Ever since I was a kid I always thought my name was remarkably unremarkable. There were always at least four other girls in my classes with the same name, and the normal form of introduction became my first name with the addition of my last initial. “Jessica R” was what I was coined and referred to through grade school. When people realized they could also use adjectives to describe me the phrase “you know, the black one” was more than popular, but that’s a different kind of post imbedded in there.

Sadly, I’ve never really felt connected to my name, a mix of disdain for its plainness and its connectedness to whiteness bread an intense desire from a young age for a name change. I would play around with nicknames in my youth, Jessie, J-Rob, Robinson even, and in recent history have settled on the name Jess. One year in elementary school I tried to get people to call me Jennifer but that didn’t really take off. It’s unfortunate that I feel such a disconnect to my birthname, given the origins and how it came about. I was named after my maternal grandmother, Jessie. A wonderful woman who I unfortunately never had the pleasure of meeting. When my parents found out they were pregnant with a girl they knew that had to honor her memory. Even as I write this, and I scan my memories of childhood I come across many instances of discomfort surrounding my name. My name is of Hebrew origin and means God Beholds, which is also rather fitting, considering my religious upbringing and rather miraculous birth. My mother was diagnosed infertile 3 years before I was born and my parents had all but lost hope of bearing children. My mothers pregnancy was celebrated by family, and church friends and once I was born during my first year, my nickname was “the miracle baby”. And what a miracle indeed. 

Upon further research, I learned my name is also found in Shakespearean literature in a play called “The Merchant of Venice” so I guess my love of literature and eventual Shakespearean obsession was predestined. ‘Jessica’s’ always seem to follow a mold. They are kind individuals who never seem to struggle to make friends and they embody femininity, sweetness and charm. And while I resonate with some of my name-sakes characteristics, the femininity is something I feel I do not always embody. My struggle with my gender identity and expression has only been amplified in recent years, and with that self discovery has come the realization that my name is just not who I am. “Jessica” might have once existed, but as I have grown, and changed, and learned more about myself I realize I am no longer her. I will continue to go by my nickname of Jess, which feels like the name of a more gender-neutral, level headed, and cool individual that I can relate to. Jess loves poetry, connecting with nature, Shakespeare and uses they/them pronouns. People all over the world and in different culture regularly change their names, choosing names with meanings that fit who they are as they grow. So let me take a moment to reintroduce myself. 

Hi. My name is Jess, it’s nice to meet you.

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