So Tell Me ... What's The Weather Like on YOUR Planet?

05 March, 2009

Now We're Grown Up Orphans

Here's an interesting little tidbit: I don't have a real name.

Not in the sense that certain people frothing about on the internet would like me to have, at least. I've been using a consistent handle online since I got an email address that had the option of letting me pick the username (and I picked something I had already been using for years) - a handle which happens to be more connected to my legal name than I am, because I have a potently dissociative reaction to my legal name.

For a while I kept my legal name in my .sig line elsewhere on the internet, until the combination of my dislike for being identified by a set of sounds that felt actively not-me and the harassment I received in my private email for being identifiable by an extremely feminine name led me to change that to initials. My current usenet provider requires a "real name", I satiate it with an initial-surname combination and post under that and the handle I have used since I was fourteen.

The name that I use in common social gatherings is more mine than my legal name (I have occasionally considered changing it legally), but it is still an aspiration, a thing I chose because it fit who I wanted to be and had sounds that suited me well. It means "jovial lady", at least according to web searches, and that seems to me to be a reasonable ambition to pursue. It is more me than any other name I have, but I am not entirely sure that it is either mine or real.

When I started up this blog, I did so with conscious attention to matters of identity; I have asked people not to link my established handle or my legal name to this space. I wanted to be able to talk freely about things for which there might be "outing" concern. (I have things on the internet under my legal name and associated pseudonym, largely discussing polyamory; I went through a period where I was vehemently out as a matter of political activism, and am content to be passively so these days for the sake of my safety and sanity.) But here I talk about kink; I talk about abuse and assault survivorship; I deal with protecting the anonymity of my partners, my family, my child. I know about Kathy Sierra; while I doubt my little World on a Slant will ever have a high enough profile to draw that level of attention, I am quite aware that I am a woman, in many ways a woman on the fringes of the vulnerable who is actively drawing attention to that vulnerability, on the internet.

So there, a double-pseud, clearly just an excuse to get out of being thoughtful and considerate or something like that. Nobody is really threatened by information about themselves being tightly affiliated to their "real names", presuming they have "real names", and I am presumed dishonest because I do not post under a legal name so unconnected to me that I have consistently forgotten to answer to it for years - and so unfamiliar to the people I'm talking to on the 'net that it's effectively an alias.




(There is a hell of a lot to be said about this thing that's being called "RaceFail '09"; I have not been saying most of it because I am totally flabbergasted and also incapable of being coherent about it. Someone who wants to get some context for it can look here at a collection of the sources that are still accessible, or this timeline of the early sequence. For those people who are interested in actually doing something about the mess, I draw your attention to this excellent post and this response. Do not neglect protecting yourself.)

15 comments:

Trinity said...

Can you tell me what happened with the outing? I pretty much ignored this while thing, as I'm pretty sure I fall on the Fail side of things according to most people. I'll defend my characters once they make it to print, thanks. :-/

But who was outed and as a what now?

Dw3t-Hthr said...

For what it's worth, I haven't seen you stomping about spraying the universe with Wite Magik Attax and claiming that everyone who disagrees with you is a sockpuppet falsely claiming offense and hurt in order to manipulate people's emotions and discredit people's careers (where have we heard that before?), so I doubt you'll fall so easily into Fail as that.


The short version: a poster operating under a long-term handle, coffeeandink, had her legal name associated with her handle by several people. (One of whom is of the frequently-stated opinion that the only reason that people use handles is to cover up criminal behaviour; the other of whom is ... indescribable.)

I do not know what her reasons for preferring to preserve some level of anonymity are; she has not disclosed them, and it's not my damn business. Knowing that she prefers it - and knowing about cases like Kathy Sierra - is entirely sufficient knowledge.

She and her supporters have pointed out that there are many people who have good reason to not want to use their legal names on the internet - particularly women, particularly minorities, particularly people who are talking about sensitive or marginalised subjects.

There has been some going back and forth about the use of her legal name, including ill-will snark and the redirecting of links to one of the posts in question to a malware site. I believe that as it stands at the moment, her name has been removed from publically accessible posts, and people are working to redistribute the google searches so that the livejournal posted under her handle is no longer associated with her legal name.

Trinity said...

"For what it's worth, I haven't seen you stomping about spraying the universe with Wite Magik Attax and claiming that everyone who disagrees with you is a sockpuppet falsely claiming offense and hurt in order to manipulate people's emotions and discredit people's careers (where have we heard that before?), so I doubt you'll fall so easily into Fail as that."

Wow. Uh, no, I just posted a couple of times defending the idea that ultimately, it's up to an author how seriously she takes others' claims of appropriation, and that she may be a git or not be but ultimately the story is hers, and the story should have what she feels it demands, whether that's squicky for others or not.

And outing? No. Bad. Just no.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

Yeah, "Wow" about sums it up.

Other high points include things like calling the WOC in one discussion "orcs", because there are no racial issues in Tolkien references, certainly not about skin colour.

Positive potential outcomes: people are committing to read books by POC, including joining a livejournal community for that purpose, and talking seriously about how to make con-fandom accessible to people who are not white (especially recognising that many valued members of the community now feel actively unsafe in con fandom).

Trinity said...

"Other high points include things like calling the WOC in one discussion "orcs", because there are no racial issues in Tolkien references, certainly not about skin colour."

The hell? Tolkien was EXTREMELY racist and it's creepy. And I say this as someone who is a longtime LOTR fan.

Trinity said...

And yeah, I see con-fandom as a whole other kettle of fish. Authors I'll defend more vehemently than many, because I don't think authors are *there* to present political messages (aside from those they intend) unless we're talking about mass media or something. I mean, it's nice when they care, but I'm not one who thinks it's required.

But cons are about community and creating it, not just the stories people are reading.

Dalandra said...

I consistently use handles on the internet, and my primary reason for doing so is, in fact, because there are scary freaks on the internet, and my legal name is uncommon enough that people might be able to find me with just my full name and country of residence. I'll not take that risk.

Also, I prefer some amount of control about who in my RL surroundings knows about things like me being pagan. I'm hardly secretive about it, but I prefer to have a bit of a feel for people first.

Fletcher said...

Uh ... wow. That's pretty bizarre. The people claiming that Everyone Must Use Their Real Name, that is.

This account is a pseudonym I've used for a while now, for the usual reasons;

a) it was early impressed upon me that one shouldn't give out one's details to strangers;

b) there are a lot of people with pathological psychology out there on the Internet;

c) there are people with pathological psychology right here in real life, some of whom I never want to hear from, or about, again;

d) It separates my "Internet persona" from my (exceedingly shy and reserved) "real persona", so that I can comfortably discuss things I wouldn't in real life;

e) My real name is un-euphonious and clunky as hell.

Revealing someone's name or contact details online is somewhere between scrawling them on a bathroom wall and publishing them as a full-page ad in a newspaper, and is /exceedingly/ rude.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

The damnable thing is that most of these people really ought to know better, but "knowing better" is an inconvenience to be dropped when, well, inconvenient.

Hi there, Fletcher; I presume you're the Fletcher I responded to on the Whatever. :)

Fletcher said...

Ayup, that'd be me. :) It pains me to admit it, but initially I thought that your nick must be Leet-speak!

Dw3t-Hthr said...

Transliteration from Egyptian is a pain in the arse. ;)

The fact that it looks like leet is a source of puerile amusement for me, though.

Darker said...

"The damnable thing is that most of these people really ought to know better, but "knowing better" is an inconvenience to be dropped when, well, inconvenient."

It seems a common fail-state on the Internet and in politics. My guess is that it's a classic illustration of "opinion is made via gut feeling; brain then grabs any/all reasons to support that decision that it can lay its cerebellum on, and thinks it's being reasoned/logical". Most often, it doesn't seem like people are consciously throwing logic/consistency out the window?

And FWIW: While I cannot say with full authority or certainty that what I call you in person is either entirely yours or entirely real, it does seem that way to me. And even if I'm wrong, I'd still say that it's at least partially yours and partially real, and growing moreso over time.

Fletcher said...

Thinking about Internet names some more, I was struck with the half-baked idea that they're vaguely similar to some (American) Indian names, at least insofar as they're chosen for oneself. Most people leave the vision quest out of it, though.

A lot of people on the Internet have this strange need for self-aggrandisement, though, so you find a lot of frankly ridiculous names. I doubt that young men coming back from the vision quest (and ha, did they have vision quests for young women?) would all name themselves Stupendous Eagle, because their parents and relatives would mock them mercilessly as a poser. Similarly for overly bizarre or humorous names. "I think you ate the /wrong/ sacred mushroom, JamFish69."

I guess that, like naming a baby, an Internet name should ideally say something intelligent about the thing named. But then again my username is Fletcher and not "Tortured Artist #4059905690", so I'm forced to defend picking things based on aesthetics as well.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

It's interesting to see the sorts of things that people pick for their names if they feel free to pick whatever they want.

There's self-aggrandisement, there's also identification-with-a-hobby ([SPORTSTEAM]fan@....), there are people who default to legal names because they don't have any reason not to, and so on....

belledame222 said...

a good jump off point is here.