Elliot, Ezra, and most embarrassingly enough even Emmett, have been part of my array of pseudonyms as a Starbucks client. Some days even the name Evan got scribbled on the side of my cup, with the familiar siren on the other side looking up at me.
Choosing or getting comfortable with your new name can be a long battle. It can be a matter of trial and error, an internal debate over your own identity and self.
I am genderfluid. On days when Emmely becomes an ill-fitting hat, Starbucks is there to save the day. Eli is the name I choose on the days when I am not a girl.
Before settling on a name, I spent a long time languishing over the perfect name change for me. There was a fear of choosing the wrong name and a fear of people around me not embracing the change, however temporary it may be.
It is a universal trans experience. There is a struggle to settle on one name, and heaven forbid you explore different names. How could you explain to people that your self-discovery may involve some trial-and-error? How do you explain that this is just part of exploring new facets of yourself with no strings attached?? Hesitancy is a dangerous thing — it can lead to your identity being invalidated by others. Any hesitancy can give other people leeway to doubt your identity. There is pressure from the world to explain your decision at a time when you are not even sure about it yourself. And so, I found comfort in ordering coffee.
Stabucks became my stomping grounds, much to the dismay of my declining balance. It provided a small but significant way of acknowledging my identity. Each day was a new chance to try a new name out that wouldn’t need to be debated or discussed afterwards. It allowed me to mix and match names, looking for what would make me feel most comfortable in my identity. There is no permanence in the decision and no stakes involved in telling a stranger. Starbucks gave me a way to define my own identity and find comfort in my own skin regardless of everything else going on in the world around me.
A name change can be daunting. It can feel permanent and overwhelming, but it does not need to be. There does not need to be a big announcement to the masses. It can be found in small ways, and for me that is where Starbucks helped. It can provide a low-pressure way to explore your own identity without any outside pressure while providing validation to the only person that matters in this situation — you. There is no need to explain your decision on a maybe-temporary change to your friends or family. And when the idea of approaching someone with help regarding your identity can be suffocating, figuring out yourself doesn’t have to be lonely — sometimes, all it takes is a stranger to help. When in doubt, go to Starbucks.
Sometimes, you don’t need the world to accept you with a matter as fickle as the wind. You don’t need widespread appraisal, stares, or judgment — just the unknown comforting acknowledgment by a stranger you are not beholden to. Validation does not need to be a big event; it can be a private affair.
You just need one Starbucks worker to say your name the way you need to hear it.