WHITMAN
The Election of ’92
by Vin Whitman

My mother chose
My first name so carefully
She wanted me to inhabit it
Like a blithe, beautiful doll
Wanted to dress me and guide me
Rigidly through her lost opportunities
She cried and cried
At the end of Love Story
When my namesake died
And she wanted me to make that
Right for her too

My father chose
My last name recklessly
Or rather, he didn’t choose it at all
His own father killed, WWII story
In his fetal memory,
And the man who replaced the soldier
Was a charismatic, racist, sexist,
Alcoholic lout
Who gave my father (and me)
Our odd effeminate surname

As I took root and
Became a twin-blade sprout
In the family plot
My mother had trouble loving me
Because I didn’t love the name
She’d chosen for me carefully
Because I hated the body she’d
Mysteriously manufactured for my
Soul to wear

My father didn’t care
I wasn’t sure he knew my name
Or even knew I was there
Unless he was really mad

I slunk through early hallways &
Classrooms & slumber parties
Dreading introductions, dreading those
Sticky labels—
I hated saying it
I hated hearing it
My brother mocked my name and the
Body it headlined boldly
Teachers exclaimed, Oh how beautiful!
Then frowned when I raised my arm to answer
A grubby little urchin who didn’t
Fit her glorious title

I survived those years
Cognitively distanced from a name
I would’ve taken a machete to
If such abstract violence were
Allowed on this practical Earth
Then . . .

In 1992, I began to hear my name
On television, jokingly spoken on the news
Someone out there shared my name
And she was the hot rubber doll
I was supposed to be
And she was down on her knees
W/ a man who ran (and became
President)

Though she spelled hers with a “G”
And I a “J”
I could no longer slink and slither
Past my name; I had to laugh
At the jabs, the ironies,
The innuendos
Or die of embarrassment

And really . . .
It was too funny to see her
Blond and buxom, wearing it so proudly
The hyper-feminine taxonomy
I had never quite been pinned beneath

I hunched brunettishly in flannel shirts
And combat boots, a Jane Jones or
Kelly Doe, while she took my name
And showed me how to work it

In those days I clomped through college
And politely declined the professor who
Asked in front of the class, “If I give you an ‘A’
Do I get a hummer?”
And I survived that too
With more humor than I knew
I could muster

Today
I am called something new
My flashy neon pink name discarded
Today I’m who I’ve chosen carefully
Not to be
Changed my soul’s wardrobe completely
And call it only
“Me”

PHOTOGRAPH: Vin Whitman

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Vin Whitman is a writer and artist who has just begun the journey of transitioning to male after being assigned female at birth and given a very fancy name that he hated. He received an A.S in Mortuary Science and spends free time at the local cat shelter.