I am Yenn: Affirming gender, affirming self

On Monday I was at work, sitting at my desk when what I can only call a flash of inspiration hit me. In less than the time it took you to read the last sentence I found my name and I knew my name was Yenn.

I think I’d better backtrack a bit. Last year I publicly affirmed that I am non-binary gender. This has been an amazing time of self discovery and reflection. My old name, Jeanette is about as gender loaded as you can get. I have had conversations with a friend called Bernadette and we both concluded our names were quite strongly suggestive of the feminine. When I came out I wondered if I should change my name. I started thinking about it but nothing worked. I concluded that I would know when I knew. And I did. The only convincing I needed when ‘Yenn’ popped into my brain on Monday was to see what it looked like written down. I tried it with an ‘e’ on the end which didn’t look right. I tried it as ‘Yenn’ and I knew I had found my name.

I considered where it had come from and realised it has a few ‘parents,’ thoughts-wise. The main thing I see is poetry. To yen in poetry means yearning, or as I see it, aspiration and personal reflection – both things I have a lot of experience of. It is also a little nod to my old, Jeanette name and it is quite individual. Written it looks strong and complete. Spoken it sounds confident and passionate. It might seem like a very quick decision but it was the culmination of a lot of reflection over the past few months.

When I knew my name I knew I also needed to tell friends. I sent a message to a bunch of close friends and emailed my parents. I said ‘I will take this gradually…’ and then realised I do not ‘do’ gradual, so on my way home from work I changed the title of my social media pages to Yenn Purkis and posted a message about why I had done this. I have experienced a lot of transphobia and trolling over the past few months so I was caught between liberation at my new me and terror that people would attack me.. Thankfully I have not had any negative responses and nobody unfriended me on social media that I am aware of, out of almost 10,000 people on Facebook and 5000 on Twitter. On Monday I spent the afternoon and evening in a state of joy. 

Yesterday I heard my name spoken for the first time, incidentally by author Graeme Simsion as I was part of a launch event for his new book. He said ‘Yenn’ and then smiled and told me I didn’t immediately look around! It takes a while I think given I am new to it as well.

I am fairly certain there will be people who will not like my new name due to its connectedness to my gender identity. There are quite a few transphobic bigots in the world, even in the autism world sadly. I have had people say ‘I thought this page was about autism, not gender’ and insist any commentary I make stays on the autism topic only. To me though, gender  diversity and autism are fairly clearly linked with so many of us being trans and gender diverse. This is not just my anecdotal evidence either, there is a lot of research evidence which demonstrates this too. I am here as an advocate for autistic and trans and gender diverse people alike and I would much rather be a visible gender diverse person if that helps others who feel they cannot come out themselves and are experiencing bigotry of self-hatred and doubt. 

I am becoming acutely aware of why it is referred to as ‘transition’ and not change. I really, really wish I could make a decision about my identity and expression and magically everything changes that needed to but it doesn’t work like that. The legacy things – writings about a gender I no longer identify with, my name changing across documents and profiles, people using my pronouns – these things really get to me. I just want it all done now. Maybe the need to wait and change things slower than I want is what my mum would call ‘good for your soul’? Not sure.

The response I have had to my new name has been overwhelmingly beautiful. People I don’t know at an event telling me what a lovely name it is, a colleague at work that I came out to giving me a card which says ‘this calls for confetti’ and has a really meaningful message that she has written, my boss telling me I have her full support and being available should I need her despite being busy, The almost 500 people who liked or reacted to my Facebook post about my new name, all the people saying ‘Hi Yenn!’ and ‘Your name is beautiful’, the organisations changing my name on their promotional material for upcoming talks.  This affirmation is so overwhelmingly lovely and was not really expected.  I keep expecting hatred and there is none, quite the opposite in fact. I really wish this was the case for everyone affirming gender.

So I am a new me. My old Jeanette name never really fitted to my mind. It feels like I was wearing a big old coat that didn’t quite fit right and was uncomfortable but it never occurred to me to take it off until I did and now I am in a metaphorical jacket that fits just right and looks good to me and others and allows me to move freely and express myself the way I want to.

I might say that these things do not come without doubts and insecurity and lots of questioning but within that there is somehow a great certainty as well.

I like my new me. This was an important week for me so I wanted to share it with you all as well. 



6 thoughts on “I am Yenn: Affirming gender, affirming self

  1. Yenn, you are perfect exactly as you are, in each and every moment and transition.
    I am so happy that you are expressing yourself as you feel you need to.
    I know that you don’t like ‘inspiration porn” but you truly inspire me, to be my self and to keep in exploring the depths of myself and the wonderful mysteries that are life and the universe.
    Don’t hold back!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Your new name suits you Yenn 😊. The oversized coat theory makes perfect sense and I have to agree your new fitted jacket sits happily about you like it was always there…just underneath. Xxx


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