What’s in a name?

At the Oregon Coast with friends

 Psalm 138:13-14 “For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.”

Well, I changed my name on Facebook from Laura to Leo.  In case you missed my earlier post, I have come out as transgender and identify as male. Part of that journey has been giving myself a man’s name.

I remember the first time I wanted to have a male name. It was at Latino Pride in July, 2013 and I was with several of my friends, all male. Feeling good with my short hair cut and my cute outfit from the men’s department, I felt masculine energy exuding from me… and so when I introduced myself as “Laura,” it just didn’t fit.
After pondering many names, and trying some on mentally, I decided to pick a first and middle name with the same initials as my female name. One night in August I found the perfect first name: “Leo.”
Leo is Latin for lion, and I have felt a special connection with lions since childhood. In fact, there is a large poster of an African Lion (panthera leo) running towards me by my desk.
My love for lions started with Aslan, from C.S. Lewis’ series, The Chronicles of Narnia. An allegory for Jesus, the lion is a strong, loving, protector, and yet calls one to do what is right. The lion urges one to bravery and action. Much of my early faith was based on this understanding of God. The lion reminds me of God’s love and presence, and of God urging us to care for others.
In the frightening early months of my journey as transgender, I decided I wanted to be a lion and not a mouse. As an activist who hates conflict, this resonated with me.  I do want to be a lion, and I want to have a loud and powerful roar against injustice. Working for justice requires courage.  It calls for the animal energy to pounce and play, to love fiercely, and to fight tirelessly for myself and others.
My friend Patrick suggested my middle name, Channing, which means fierce wolf and church leader. This is also who I want to be as I work for inclusion and welcome in the church, so this name belongs too.
Leo Channing. I like it. 🙂

It also helps that two handsome and gifted men, Leonardo DiCaprio and Channing Tatum, share my names.  That is company I would gladly keep. In fact, I think a picture of the three of us together would be quite an appropriate way to celebrate my journey.  Don’t you agree?  

God of all, your creation is wonderfully diverse, and I am grateful to be a part of it. Be with all those who are searching for a sense of identity or belong, whether it is gender, or community, vocation or within their family.  You know us and love each of us, and have from the start, no matter where we are or what we do. Thanks, and Amen.

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