Being Jamie

butch-readingI have a hard time asking for help or for directions. I like to figure things out for myself. I have a bookcase full of books on women’s studies, lesbian herstory, gay liberation, butch-femme dynamics, queer theory, and transgender rights. I’ve got another one full of cookbooks and dog behavior. But, the book that helped me the most was written by a straight, white, upper-class, married woman with children, who lives on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. It is a New York TImes best-seller. It is pop-psychology. Welcome to “The Happiness Project.”

I was not trying to get happy. I was trying to understand why I was discontent and ill at ease in my life. Why I procrastinated. The answer was on page 18. Gretchen Rubin outlined her Twelve Commandments and I got stuck on the first one, which is “Be Gretchen.”

“Be Gretchen” means to stop trying to be who you wish you were, and be who you actually are. Stop pretending to enjoy what you think you should enjoy, and acknowledge what you really do enjoy. Stop ignoring your true desires and interests, and spend your time, and money, on what you really want to do.

When I read “Be Gretchen.” I realized that I could not “Be Amy.” No way. I was not an Amy, I was never going to be an Amy. I might be able to experience happiness but it was not going to be with the name on my birth certificate. I did not want to be defined by a girl’s name. I needed a new name.

It was a fast epiphany with a slow implementation. Just thinking about re-naming myself made me happier. What kind of name would make me happiest? One that was suitable for a boy, but not silly for an adult. One that was gender neutral and would still work if I transitioned. A name that made me feel cute. Handsome. It had to fit. I had to be able to “Be” it.

Jamie works. As soon as Donna started calling me Jamie (for practice) I started smiling. Being called Jamie makes me happy. Being legally Jamie makes me happy. I still have some questions about what it means for me to “Be Jamie,” but, I can finally relax a bit, accept my transgender-ness, let my butch loose, and stop trying to be someone I’m not. I was also able to identify what makes me happy.

I am happy playing with Gracie. I am happy lying in bed with Donna. And vice-versa. I am happy at the ocean. I am happy reading Yotam Ottolenghi‘s “Jerusalem” and then cooking from it. I am happy shopping at the Greenmarket. I am happy reading “Swerve“.  I am happy listening to Joni Mitchell and Radio Tarifa.

I don’t make enough room for what makes me happy. I clutter up my time with last Sunday’s New York Times and this week’s New Yorker. I half-listen to All Things Considered while I catch-up on some blogs in the WordPress Reader. I think I should be more cosmopolitan, I want to be more informed, but, I really need to make time for being Jamie.

25 thoughts on “Being Jamie

    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I suppose my first one should be to answer my phone messages from my friends, and then to answer my email, and then to answer my comments. So “Don’t put off being in contact with people you want to be in contact with” should be at the top of the list.

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    1. Rona

      I don’t think so… I don’t like to ask for help… although if I really need it I will ask for it (unless what I need is some kind of emotional support, in which case I won’t ask for it… I’ll either get it or I won’t!). I thought it was perhaps an only child thing 🙂

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    2. Jamie Ray Post author

      Absolutely butch. Donna can ask anyone to do anything for her (including me) and she always gets what she needs. I think it is a low expectation and avoid disappointment thing, i.e. butches settle for what we have because we don’t believe we deserve help/support/assistance.

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  1. RonaFraser

    Jamie – loved the post, as usual. and “I don’t make enough room for what makes me happy” made my eyes tear up, because that is SO my problem too (she typed, while at work late… needing to go home and do a bit more work then get to bed early so she can bring her mom to an early doc’s appt…). I actually own The Happiness Project, but it is one of many books I have in an “intend to read” pile… perhaps this will be my kick in the pants to read it!

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Thank you again! Beware that the language of the book can be smarmy. I was initially put off by it (and her not questioning her privilege), but she makes many good points and they were relevant to me. One of the things I like is that she has her commandments, but she encourages her readers to make their own, and to think it through for themselves. Definitely worth reading (with caveats).

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  2. genevafox

    I recently wrote about following my own path and being true to myself. I have such a full life right now I am not sure I have time to make room for what makes me happy. I really love your blog!

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  3. Jamie Ray Post author

    Thank you! I don’t think it is possible to only do things that make me happy, but I think trying to clear out some time for them is essential. Otherwise I just feel like a chubby hamster in a boring wheel. It is sort of like trying to clean out a closet, I feel like I need to stop doing activities that I don’t really get that much out of, e.g. finishing books that I don’t like and looking through all of the Sunday NY Times.

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  4. genevafox

    I agree. I went through a period when I thought I should only listen to “newer” music. I was afraid of being one of those older people who is clueless about new music. I have been trying to finish The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets Nest for about nine months. Life is to short to read books that don’t hold my interest and music that doesn’t speak to me.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I know. One day you wake up and you don’t recognize the names of any bands. Bands you think of as new have already disbanded; or worse yet are hailed as the best bands of another era. I am embarrassed to say that I hear my new music on either WERS via the internet (a holdover from going to school in the Boston area) or NPR (hopelessly un-hip). I don’t try to keep up, but every once in a while something pings my interest. Thanks again for reading and commenting.

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  5. noelyreese

    That is an awesome realization. I am glad you found that. I know exactly what you mean. I had a lot of trouble with my journey and I was really sad and upset a lot. Once I found my name it did make things seem easier. And yes, I still have a hard time realizing what it means to be Noely, but I am trying. And it makes me happy. I’m glad for you! And I am proud of you! Big steps!

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Owning your own name is fabulous. I prefer picking out a name to picking out a label (uh-oh I can see that is going to have to be a post in the future). It is easier to be Jamie than to “be” trans*, genderqueer, butch, boi, tomboy, lesbian, queer, trans man, or any other available identifying label. Thanks for stopping in and reading and commenting.

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      1. Jamie Ray Post author

        I think that is partly why we express ourselves so much through what we wear (whether we wear it out in public or not). Cloth (and accessories) are tangible.

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  6. timethief

    Hi Jamie,
    When I read about how you felt when Donna began to called you by your true name your happiness was palpable and I was happy for you too. I love my own true name and identify strongly with it. I love to hear people say it – all three syllables – not the short version. My grandfather chose it and it was the right name for me. As for timethief, I chose this pseudonym long before there was a negative connotation associated with it. I am a cancer survivor, who has twice escaped death and I live on borrowed time, so timethief suits me too as a label but it’s not my name. It doesn’t make me beam with recognition when someone says it. Only my true name does that.

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  7. Jamie Ray Post author

    I’m glad your parents didn’t name you timethief! When I was looking for a name I kept coming up with good dog names, but not good names for me (Mango, Coco, and Yogi are great names for a dog). I’ve read a little of your history in both of your blogs and understand your desire to use a pseudonym. Your blog and your answers to people’s questions on the forums have saved me a lot of time and aggravation. So I think of you as my timesaver.

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  8. Pingback: Labels and Authenticity Do Not Mix | A Boy and Her Dog

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