what it is to be bran

I had a different name at birth that only a few people know. Sometimes I forget it, and I have them remind me.


I’ve been told I was given the name Brandy later on due to the colour of my skin. I carried it for a decade plus, though I never felt it fit my persona. It seemed to fall off my tongue wrong every time when introducing myself, and I was already packing the awkward sheltered kid bit.

While developing said awkward sheltered kid bit, my mother would occasionally call me Bran. This was found to be most convenient when shouting for me to come home from playing outside with other children from my block, as I was much more likely to hear a heavily stressed one-syllable name than anything else, with all the adrenaline swarming about.

It stuck.



Bran started out as a thing between my mum and I, for aforementioned daughter retrieval purposes. For reasons I’ve yet to fully identify or explore, I decided to take it back in my late teens. That was a period of great personal change, sparked by family tragedies. I reckon a small part of it was due to being tired of having my name misspelled any number of ways — my given surname and first name both have lots of alternatives. (One problem abolished, another arrives; I’m sometimes called Bren or Brian.)

My first love knew me as Bran. It turned into a thing between myself, my mum, and those close to me, an upgrade to provisional nickname status. I didn’t make a big fuss about it if folks weren’t aware or simply forgot, because it felt private, and special.

Bran in secret, sometime 2004

The name resurfaced with some urgency in my late twenties somehow. I entered a work environment where I felt okay enough to go by the nickname, not fearing being questioned too much about a name most in my experience assume belongs to a male-bodied person. I started introducing myself as Bran, although I knew with it came questions and a need to repeat the name occasionally. “Like the muffin,” I add from time to time, as I find it’s a good way to dial up the name and spelling to newcomers.

Moving to a new state sort of meant I could reinvent myself as I pleased. I’d long abandoned the idea of moving to Philadelphia and took on my first choice of Seattle. It is here that I have attached a somewhat political undertone to the Bran name, with a slight nod to my mum due to its origins. Instead of hiding away my boyish mannerisms, I’ve chosen to embrace them in addition to the occasional streaks of femme I yearn for.


Bran out loud, sometime 2010

I wouldn’t say that I’m angry at all when people choose to call me by my full name, especially if they aren’t aware that there is a name that I feel suits me better.

There are occasions where it’s just easier to go by a more common name, places where I don’t want to open myself up to the scrutiny of strangers, and a myriad of other possibilities that I cannot predict. We’re human, we falter. I am certainly guilty of that.

I feel it’s a matter of trust. When I refer to myself as Bran in front of you, I am placing a key part of my identity that has evolved over the years into your hands. I don’t have to get into the whole story, but I’ll tell you in person if you so desire. I am far from famous but if I have made an impact in your life in any way, I hope you’ll remember my name.

bending in the wind

I’ve mostly felt celebrated because of my physical features.

Perhaps that assertion isn’t entirely fair; some have praised me for the role I play or once played in their lives. Daughter. Sister-of-sorts. Girlfriend. Confidant.

While it’s wonderful to have the attention of others, it’s frustrating having it if you’re going to be put in some sort of categorial corner incessantly. It seems silly to lament the whole thing, doesn’t it? We all do it to some degree.

I have come to recognize when certain people do it, whether consciously or not. Most of all, I am able to point out when I do it. It does make communication easier if you crave brevity, but it leaves lots of gaps as a result. The more gaps you leave, the harder it gets to fill them.

For the most part, I don’t want to be a bother, so I don’t mention that I’d prefer not to be called some things by just anyone. I shrug it off, and continue about my day.

This acquiescence may be seen as submitting, or even closeted behaviour. Be that as it may, I haven’t got the time/patience to take issue with everyone that associates words or phrases with me out of their convenience.

I am alluding to gender.

I believe I have a mid-gender crisis, and I don’t know how to convey this to people in a way that each of them (or even a good number) will understand. I’m still working it out myself.

Mind you, I said ‘mid-gender’.

Genderqueer, or even genderblind, as I told a friend tonight. Neither male nor female. Don’t want bottom surgery, but wouldn’t mind top surgery if binding gets too tedious and if I can afford it.

That’s right, surgery. I’ve thought it through that far.

Summer 2007, Los Angeles (Koreatown)

But there we are with the labels again. It all sounds so stereotypical to say ‘I don’t follow the norm’, which is why I don’t tend to say it. Saying such a thing would beg the question, ‘what is normal?’ and would you believe it, there are loads of ways one can answer. Fancy that!

All I know is that I wish to be appreciated for my non-physical traits first, and possibly forever. I also know the aforementioned is a lofty goal. It can’t hurt to attempt to communicate that, and to tell those around me that femme is an act for me, a dramatic role. Femininity is a rare dish.

Summer 2007, Los Angeles (Downtown)

I’m working hard to find a balance while staying true to my core, as it evolves and takes shape — that often starts simply keeping content with wearing the stuff I feel most comfortable in. I welcome opening up a dialogue with anyone who wishes to know more, and I feel as though I still have so much more to learn about this journey I’m currently on.

I won’t cram my non-gender down your throat if you won’t cram yours down mine. Deal?