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It was my first time being fingerprinted and I couldn’t stop giggling.

I wasn’t drunk. I wasn’t being arrested, either. I was in the police station by choice, and the man who was gently rolling my inked fingers across the regulation fingerprint-card was taking it all in stride.

“You know,” I said, “this action, when taken out of its normal context, is totally neutral. It typically has so much stigma attached to it, but it’s really nothing!” (giggle) “This is actually kind of fun!”

I don’t imagine this was a typical conversation for the policeman. I couldn’t help myself, though. I was beginning a process of transformation right there in the police station, my hand being guided by his, and I couldn’t help but be a little giddy.

Once we’d finished, I took the two cards in my ink-stained hands to the front desk, paid the nice lady her $18, and walked out of the station, one step closer to being fully me.

What is he talking about?

I’m changing my name.

For most of you reading this, there will be no need for adjustment. You won’t have to update your RSS feed or your address book. Nothing will change for you. You’ll continue to see my posts on the blog, or my musings on Twitter and Facebook. Everything will continue as it has since you first stumbled upon my writing.

But, for a few of you, and for my friends, my family, my bank, the Post Office, and just about every other institution I’m currently involved with, things are going to be very different.

You see, I’m not changing my name from Teo Bishop to something else; I’m legally changing my name from something else to Teo Bishop.

Simply put, this decision is an outward sign of my personal commitment to my spiritual and religious path. Changing my name is me owning up to the fact that the person I am when I call myself Teo is the person I’ve been at my core for all of my life, and the person who I wish to continue being. It’s not simply a commitment to being a Druid or a Pagan; it’s a commitment to being introspective, pious, inquisitive, passionate, and compassionate. It’s a commitment to nurturing my relationship with the Gods, with the Spirits of the Land, and with my Ancestors.

It’s me coming out as me.

Coming out is a spiritual experience. Whether you’re claiming a new name, being open about your gender identity, telling your family you’re a Pagan, accepting, publicly, that you no longer believe in God, or performing any other act which affirms something true about you that may have been unseen or unknown by others, coming out is willing your life to be different from how it was before. For all the magick workers out there, you recognize the power embedded in this language.

To be called by a new name, in my mind, is not to deny what I’ve been before. It’s simply to reassign my focus; to place the emphasis where I feel it truly belongs. I write these words as a cisgendered man, but I can’t help but wonder if this feeling of aligning one’s outer self with their inner self is an experience that my trans sisters and brothers could speak to.

When coming out, there’s cause to feel giddy–I think–even in front of an unsuspecting police officer. Coming out is worthy of celebration. Every moment we claim possession of our own life, our own identity, our own journey, we channel the power of creation; the power of the Divine. By being true to ourselves, we are honoring the Great Mystery, and we consent to participate in it.

Needless to say, I’m throwing myself a party once the FBI processes my fingerprints and feels satisfied that I’m not a dangerous criminal.

There are many of you reading this who have experienced coming out in one way or another. Some of you are a part of the Alphabet Community (LGBTQIA…), and many of you have come out as Pagan to your friends or family. Some of you might even be on the fence about coming out, and are seeking some words of encouragement or guidance.

I invite all of you to take a few minutes and reflect on what coming out means to you. If you feel comfortable, I encourage you to share your story here in the comment section, and reach out in support and compassion to your fellow commenters. Then, feel free to share this post with anyone who you think might have something to contribute to the conversation.

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29 Responses to I, Teo Bishop, am Coming Out as Teo Bishop

  1. Anonymous says:

    I legally changed my name back in the 90s, to disassociate myself from a father who is one of the most dishonorable men I know. (I was a Jr.) I took the older name of my family because his father is one of the most honorable men that I know. So, I know how liberating it is… because so much of how we self-identify is in the name that we use when we introduce ourselves to someone =]

    • Teo Bishop says:

      Thanks for sharing your story here, Sean. It sounds as though you experienced a rather profound “realigning” yourself. I congratulate you (albeit belated) on your choice, and I pray that you continue to reach for honor in your life.

      Blessings to you.

  2. sidhemoonwitch says:

    I legally changed my name in 2008. I chose a name that was my parents second choice for me when I was born, for a variety of reasons, but largely because I never felt like my birth name was really me, while my new name was. I do understand what you mean about that – about becoming fully yourself – and it is an amzaing experience.

    • Teo Bishop says:

      Than you for sharing this, sidhemoonwitch. I’m glad you’ve experienced this “fully becoming.”

      I wonder – how did your family respond to your change? Did they take to it right away, or did it require a period of adjustment?

  3. Brendan Rowe says:

    I have to say that I love my name. I am the only son of an only son and last of my family line. I am also an openly gay man. My father died when I was 18 months old and my grandfather was part of the WWII generation so the end of the line fell to me. I was so terrified to come out to my grandparents for this reason. They ended up being more loving and supportive than I ever could have dreamed. Some day I might try to become a father, but knowing that I still have the love of my father’s family regardless makes me proud to bear their name. I am still in the market for a Pagan name for myself, but in the meantime I’m happy just being me.

    • Teo Bishop says:

      I love your name, too, Brendan! And, I’m grateful that you shared this piece of your personal story with us here.

      (“The Only Son of an Only Son,” sounds a bit like a title to me… perhaps there’s a greater piece of story telling that you’re called to do…. just a thought.)

      I respect your connection to the power of a name and lineage. I also understand what it means to be a gay man who may or may not pass down his name. At this point, it looks as thought I’m not going to have any children of my own, and I’m beginning to think that the gifts, talents and insights that have been passed down to me are intended to be given in a wider group. For me, it isn’t my birth name that I’m carrying forward, but rather the spirit which resides in me. It feels like a worthy offering to make.

      Blessings to you and your family. I’m so glad to hear that they’ve been accepting of you.

    • Anonymous says:

      I am going to be the last of my family name as well – I am the only son of a man with two brothers, but neither of them have biological children.  And while I am grateful for my two daughters, to know that my family’s name will end with either them or me is somewhat sad. 

  4. Lupa says:

    Congratulations 🙂

  5. Chris Godwin says:

    cisgendered – “people who are not transsexual and who have only ever experienced their subconscious and physical sexes as being aligned”

    Great article!

  6. Star Foster says:

    In a way, I’m rather fortunate my mother named me Star. I get a Pagan sounding name that was legal from birth!

    Congrats Teo!

    • Teo Bishop says:

      Thanks, Star. And yes – you have a wonderful name. It is not only “Pagan sounding,” but it’s EXPLOSIVE with energy! Perfect for you, I’d say. 🙂

  7. I came out as gay and pagan in 1984, when I wasn’t quite sure what either one really meant.  My family has been and continues to be accepting of both, whether they really understand it all or not.  My biological father was pretty absent, and while he was an abusive alcoholic for the first part of my life I only briefly thought about changing my name.  For many of my family members, I’m the last reminder of him and the happy memories that go along with that.  Personally, I’m “Heartsong” inside but using that name publicly would lead to ridicule and probably some professional roadblocks I’d just as soon do without, so staying with my legal name as is makes things easier for me.

    That said, congratulations on doing what’s right for you!

    • Teo Bishop says:

      Thank you for your comment, Alan, and thank you for sharing your “inner” name with us here. While we’ve never met in person, somehow it seems perfectly fitting to you.

      If you don’t mind me asking, could you describe what it was like to feel the urge to come out without, as you put it, being sure what either one really meant? This is intriguing to me.

  8. P. Sufenas Virius Lupus says:

    I changed my legal name when I was 18.  And, a ton of people from before (and after!) are not happy about that, or truncate it, or think part of it before or after the hyphen is “optional,” etc.  I had my father’s surname name when I was born, but when my mother got remarried, myself and my older sibling started going by it instead, even though we didn’t go through legal name change paperwork, official adoption, etc.  When I turned 18, I decided I was sprung equally of the two lineages–my father genetically, my stepfather materially/financially–and thus wanted both names and a hyphenated surname.  And, it drove the one side mad (though not as mad as they were when I was going by the name that wasn’t theirs!), and annoyed the other side because it then reminded them of my dad.  I am, and will be, the only one to ever have this name which I have chosen for myself, as I’ll never have children of my own (and if I did, they’d get the surname of my mother’s maiden name, since it died out as she had no brothers, as it is a much cooler name than my own!).

    As for spiritual names–those have a history and a relevance and resonance as well…but that’s another story!  😉

    • Teo Bishop says:

      Before I begin my response, I’d love to know — how do you prefer to be addressed? P.? Sufenas? I want to make sure that I respond in a way that you feel is most appropriate.

      This is a fascinating story. I understand a bit about the complications of family politics, and I’m impressed that at the age of 18 you were so aware of yourself that you were able to make that change.

      I love that you wrote, “I am, and will be, the only one to ever have this name which I have chosen for myself.” That’s brilliant. I recognize the power in those words.

      It is such a pleasure getting to know you here. Thank you again for being a part of this conversation.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Teo – 

    I have to say, I really love your blog, and I’m glad that you had this opportunity to re-align yourself with yourself.  Its a good place to be.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Congratulations, Teo – it sounds like something that will really fulfill you… and the name suits you so well. Although that’s probably because I’ve only known you as Teo. 🙂

    The last thing I “came out” about was when I admitted to my Fundamentalist family my conversion to Catholicism (a pitstop–and a brief one at that–on my road out of Christianity). It was a really difficult and stressful time and not at all pleasant. I’m still reeling from the experience, honestly, and not willing to repeat it anytime soon. Perhaps I didn’t find it freeing because I realized shortly thereafter that I was only passing through, I wasn’t going to be Catholic forever. Or perhaps it’s because of the deep hostility of my family to… well, anything but what they already are. 

    Currently they leave me pretty much alone, because they know that Catholics mess around with candles and statuary, and since Catholic isn’t “true Christian” to them anyway, they don’t seem to notice that my practices have changed. (I don’t know why it still hurts me so much that they wouldn’t admit I was Christian when I was Catholic, as I’m NEITHER anymore, but it still does. I find that really strange.) I can imagine a time that I need or want to tell them more than that–it’s getting pretty hard to hide my changed political views!– but I’m not looking forward to it at all. 

    • Teo Bishop says:

      Thank you so much for this comment, WhiteBirch. I really appreciate the you’ve shared this part of your personal story.

      I find your parenthetical statement about the lasting hurt from being unrecognized by your loved ones to be very powerful. There’s a way in which we want our family to recognize our beliefs or practices not because we want them to be shared, but because we want the for being who we are…. whatever that is. I’ve felt this with my family from time to time.

      I’m sorry for you that your have this tension with your family, but I’m more sorry for them. They’re missing out on connecting with an insightful, kind, thoughtful person who has a rich life and a vibrant soul. You’re worth recognition, WhiteBirch, and I hope you feel that way.

      Sending blessings to you.

  11. Sonneillon says:

    I’ve always disliked my first name, so as a youth I went through a bunch of nicknames and as an adult I decided to go with my middle name.  This actually caused some unforeseen tension between my divorced parents, because it turns out my mom chose my first name and my dad chose my middle name and they viewed my choice as a vote in favor of one parent over the other.  My experience is divorced parents can be petty and unreasonable that way.

    None of my family knows me by Sonneillon, but all my friends do, and I was pretty startled to discover I respond to ‘Sonne’ in real life.  Most of my good friends know my real name but they call me ‘Sonne’ anyway.  It sort of became my magical name without me having to do anything except claim it.  So now I have trouble NOT introducing myself as ‘Sonne’, and using my real middle name feels awkward.

  12. Erynn says:

    I’m on my phone at the moment, so I can’t make a lengthy reply, but I went through a legal change of first and middle names in the early 90s and have never regretted it. My dad, who named me, was peeved but I don’t really care. My family has generally been pretty good about it. Congrats on the legal status change!

  13. […] many here saw Teo Bishop’s blog post on changing his name?  The Gods always seem to work these things out well, because this was perfectly timed for me […]