Bryanna Aeon Jenkins
Bryanna is the feminine version of the name Bryan, my birth name. I kept that out of respect for my mother. We have a very close relationship. I’m the only child, raised in a single-parent household. She’s very supportive of my transition. It wasn’t easy at first, because she had to deal with the loss of a child and learn to embrace the new one who was blossoming. My mother is my greatest inspiration. Now that I’ve been living as a woman, I see how hard it is trying to navigate a male-dominated world where they just want you to be pretty. At this stage in my transition, it’s about more than pulling off a look and being recognized as female. I give myself permission to have my own opinions and speak my mind. I have to be loud—as a woman who’s black and trans—because people expect me to stay silent, to remain unseen. In the future, I’d love to get married and have a family. I’ll give my kids the space to become whoever they want to be.
Rahne Xanthe Alexander
Growing up Mormon, I was under scrutiny as the firstborn child and filled with expectations of progeny and carrying on the family name. But I knew from a very early age that wasn’t going to happen. My mom had a history of mental illness, so we had lots of medical textbooks around the house. I was a nerdy kid who loved to read, so that’s how I was able to self-diagnose in the mid-’70s. Once I read the definition for “transsexual,” I had immediate affirmation, like “Oh, there it is. I have a word for it. There’s treatment. There’s a way through.” So I made a deal with myself that I’d just hold it together until I could get out. I borrowed my last name from theatre critic Alexander Woollcott, who was part of Dorothy Parker’s circle. He was perceived as kind of asexual and the weirdo of the bunch. Xanthe comes from a great Housemartins song. And Rahne comes from a comic book. Not a favorite character; I just liked how it looked on the page. It’s distinct. Also, I like that it’s not immediately clear how to pronounce it. You have to do a little work to get to know me. Jaimes Mayhew
I was very “femmy” growing up. I wouldn’t leave the house if my barrettes didn’t match my outfit.
I wasn’t comfortable in my body, but didn’t understand that back then. Living in a small town in Colorado, I didn’t even know what the word “lesbian” meant until I was 16 or 17. These days, I make up my own vocabulary. My four best friends and I came up with the name “samesy” to identify ourselves as trans men who mostly sleep with and date other trans men. There aren’t a lot of us. We even created our own utopia called “Samesy Island” with a real map that we update every year. The island has everything we need like great health care, a free vet, a taco stand, an art museum and a sky bucket for public transportation. There are two mountain ranges for camping and beautiful beaches where a samesy could be nude and be safe. None of us really wants to live in a separatist community, but it’s fun to have an escapist exercise where we can imagine what a world built by us would be like. Tyler Vile
I was in a band called Media Pig when I was in high school. You know, a little punk rat. There are all sorts of great punk names: Alice Bag. Darby Crash. Johnny Rotten. I introduced myself as Tyler Vile and it just sort of stuck. It’s got some punch to it. No matter what I do, people are going to stare at me. It was like that before I came out—and it will probably be like that until I die. People treat you like you’re disgusting because you’re disabled, because you’re transgender, even just because you’re a woman. I’ve been called a “crippled-ass faggot motherfucker” on the sidewalk—and I actually laughed out loud. As a poet, I savor the bluntness and vulgarity in moments. For me, the name Vile is beautiful, empowering. You can’t call me what I already call myself. It’s kind of like spitting back. Merrick Moise
As a kid I used to watch a lot of kung fu movies. I became interested in Buddhism because everybody looked so calm. Around 9 or 10, I taught myself how to meditate. This practice eventually helped me
cultivate the courage to be on the outside what I always was on the inside. When I turned 40, I stopped fighting with myself. I realized I can’t be in oneness with the universe if I’m not even in oneness with my person. I chose the name Merrick to reflect my given name, Meredith. It’s a Welsh name meaning “ward of the sea.” It reflects my journey. The Buddha talks about the sea of suffering. So I’m the ward of my own suffering, the captain of my own ship. We still have incredibly high suicide rates in the trans community. Transitioning has given me greater empathy for both men and women, for anyone who can’t express the full magnitude of who they are. I think we are coming to the stage in history where humans are starting to realize how important that is. I wish it would happen sooner, but it’s life to life.
It’s life to life.