It’s been a week, and I have slowly started to allow this shift in identity to become more public. I have decided to change the name by which I go by. I’m not changing my name, because I’ve actually been going by my middle name – which is Stephanie.
Why? In my preteens and well into my twenties, I was known as Skwerl because I was hyper, full of energy and scatterbrained. I also was so deeply afraid of myself and committing to things that I had so much stuff on my plate to distract myself from what I truly wanted to do. It’s why I decided to go back to my real name, because I knew something was wrong when even my closest friends forgot my name was Stephanie.
It’s been about ten years, but I’m really going back to my roots for my naming identity on this one. My first name is actually Chenchira. I’ve shied away from it, dreading being called it in school because after the teacher did the inevitable pause in roll call, mouthing my name a few times before trying it out and normally butchering it, the most common thing people confused me for was a either a chinchilla or a chia pet. Besides that, Thai is a tonal language and I cringed hearing the American version of my name since I was so ashamed that I didn’t even grow up with Thai in the household because my mom didn’t want to confuse me with being bi-lingual growing up. Heck, half the time I can’t even pronounce my sisters name right (sorry, Sis!), even though it’s one syllable.
I’m processing for a big ceremony coming up in my shamanic community, and one of the things we are asked to do is really ask what part of ourselves is standing in the way of us being this manifestation of us living/expressing our gifts fully in our lives. One aspect of me that I am putting to rest, is this part of me that’s okay with having “enough”. It’s this part of me that’s okay with the status quo and just gets by with contributing and doing “enough” so that it feels like I’m making a difference instead of actually giving it my all and not settling for less until all of my brothers, sisters and siblings have equality. It’s this same part of me that didn’t even want to try and correct people when they mispronounced my first name, giving up by choosing to go by my white presenting name so I can fit in better and not have to deal with what uncomfortability my first name brings. Obviously I have grown a lot from that uncomfortability, so I feel that I can now embrace my first name in a way where I won’t mind if people mispronounce it as they are learning it. In the week of practicing with close friends and family, I find that this transition has brought more smiles as people try to remember the pronunciation, honoring my choices and reclamation of power. I have also felt a significant shift in my relationship with my ancestors, since I’m acknowledging and claiming my half Thai heritage from my moms side, when I’ve been avoiding it practically my whole life.
Names are power, and I feel like skirting around my first name in a weak hearted way for decades was my avoiding stepping into power. So I’m sacrificing “Stephanie” to the fire in exchange of the possibility of who Chenchira can become.
I’m not changing my name. I’m just changing how I identify. Chenchira is my birth name. I’m coming home.
Please call me by Chenchira (pronounced Chen-cheer-ah) from here on out. I’ll hold you with compassion if you slip up and call me Stephanie, I’ll just correct you 🙂
Thank you for taking the time to read this update. Many blessings to you and your family. May your ancestors be proud as we take new actions in this pivotal time in history.