Real Names

The use of the phrase 'real name' when one really means to refer to a legal name is a little annoying. It wrongly implies that those in control of the law are by extension in control of reality. Obviously, what is real necessitates nothing for what is legal, and what is legal necessitates nothing for what is real. Lawmakers are not required to be philosophers or scientists, and it is not part of their job to decide what is and is not reality. This only matters to me because my legal name does not matter much to me, but I think it is the same for a lot of other people too.

If someone chooses to use a name that is not their legal name, there is generally little reason to cross public and private by bringing it up. It is quite disrespectful to the subject, who must be using a name separate from their legal name for a reason. Doing this in a conversation or article about a performance artist, for example, moves the frame of speech away from their art and onto very personal information that does not help with any artistic message at all. It is distracting and it reduces the value of what is being talked about before and after. An artist should not be obliged to offer anything more than what they think is suitable for their art, and they should not have to suffer through people minimising their work with invasions of privacy.

Also particularly troubling are articles about transgender/ queer people who have been driven to suicide. Journalists pick at their corpses like vultures, and legal names appear with no respect for the wishes of the deceased. The reader learns nothing actually useful, and the marginalisation that lead to the suicide in the first place is pushed ever so slightly deeper throughout society. They more than likely considered their 'legal names' their 'dead names', or had hoped for them to become that.

Legal names are not 'real names'. Legal names exist for legal purposes and should really only be mentioned for legal purposes. When something else is the topic, the 'real name' can only be the name that is actually relevant to it, and I welcome the idea that this might just render the phrase pointless.

It is also slightly annoying that even when someone gets their legal name changed, their old legal name often gets published in very obvious places, sometimes immediately in a text about the person. There is zero care for the reasons that they changed their legal name, and the dislike that they may have for their old name. Sometimes this happens because people want to be actively disrespectful the person, which is the case when the original name was incorrectly gendered or otherwise unfortunate. Sometimes it is just a case of private matters being treated like fun trivia.


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