Transcript – Modern Technology Knows Your Name – Episode 102

ROB:

Heavy metal, heavy politics, heavy gaming, and a heavy desire to present with a clean slate. These are just a few of the things which can inspire what some people choose to call themselves.

Welcome to Modern Technology Knows Your Name.

(Opening theme music)

Hello, I’m Rob Vincent and this is the second episode of Modern Technology Knows Your Name, the podcast which looks at self-applied names and what they mean to all of us, and shares the stories of those who have named themselves.

A couple folks have been kind enough to record some conversations with me about their own chosen names, and I’m playing those for you today.

First we shall hear from Jensie. I met Jensie by way of one of my favorite podcasts, on which they’re one of the producers and performers. As it turns out, they have quite a few naming stories to tell. Here’s what we recorded together.

(Prerecorded segment begins.)

JENSIE:

I’m Jensie. I am a teacher, I teach English and drama. And pretty soon I’m going to go to Japan to teach there whenever they lift the border restrictions, which hopefully will be happening pretty soon. I am also on a podcast called Roleplay Retcon, which is how we met because you just randomly found us, which was crazy and exciting. (laughs)

ROB:

So Jensie, you’ve got a couple of names floating around that we’ve chatted about a little bit.

JENSIE:

Mm-hmm.

ROB:

Which one was first? And how did you come by it?

JENSIE:

So the first name that I came by, that I used for years was Egobrain, and… Oh, gosh, Egobrain. (laughs) So I really love that name, first of all, I’ve loved it. I feel really connected to it. But that came about, it wasn’t a super duper happy, nice story.

So when I was about 11, I started playing online video games for the first time. I started playing with my daddy, he played Diablo II and he got me into it. And at the time, I had no idea what to name my character. You know, I had never done anything like that before. And my daddy’s character’s name was “Gunrunner” because, I guess, that’s what he was into at the time.

ROB:

Sure.

JENSIE:

As an 11 year old I was more of like a “daddy’s girl,” I guess. So we both thought it would be a super cute name. If I went with “Guns Girl” as my name. While it was a super cute name, a lot of people on the internet were… not nice about it, I guess. That’s putting it pretty mildly. As a preteen, I received a lot of sexual harassment because I had the word girl in my name.

ROB:

Mm-hmm.

JENSIE:

And I played a female character, a sorceress. Gosh, I got the weirdest reactions out of people. Some people reacted in anger, and violence. Because in their mind, girls were not allowed to play this game at all, and how dare I even be in their space? And then some people were like, “why do you have the name ‘Girl’ in your name, you’re not a girl,” because girls don’t play that game. But unfortunately, there was an awful lot of sexual harassment. And I didn’t really know what to do about this. So I tried to, you know, not talk to people or play with people or anything, but it’s still.. they just, I don’t know, they just find you, like, these predators. It’s pretty awful.

So after about, I guess, two years of that, maybe when I was like 12 or 13, I decided that I just absolutely did not want any kind of male attention ever. Period. I didn’t want it. So I decided to change my name. And at the time I was a really big System of a Down fan, which, I still like System of a Down, they’re a great classic band. But when I was trying to think of a name, I knew that I wanted, at least, a gender-neutral name, but I would much prefer a more masculine-leaning type of name. And so I was listening to music and I was thinking a lot about it. And I heard, you know, “Ego Brain” by System of a Down. And I thought, that sounds like a really cool name just by itself. So I adopted “Egobrain.”

From then on, I used Egobrain as all of my primary characters and account names for any kind of online messaging board or when I started playing World of Warcraft. And then later, when I started playing, Star Wars: The Old Republic, just any kind of online gaming thing, I was always Egobrain because it felt really comfortable, and it felt safe. I never talked in voice chat or anything because, you know, I didn’t want them to know. And I am non-binary, but you know, at the time I didn’t have a word for that. I thought that I was just a tomgirl so I identified as a girl.

ROB:

Mm-hmm.

JENSIE:

Or a tomboy, I guess that’s what it’s called.

ROB:

In those days, like Diablo was a graphics and text based thing, right? Was there a voice component to that game?

JENSIE:

There was not, not in Diablo II, so I didn’t really even have to worry about it then. But when I switched over to World of Warcraft I had to worry about that, especially since like I liked doing in-game stuff like raiding. And for a lot of raids, they wanted you to use things like TeamSpeak which was understandable because it was a lot slower to type and raid at the same time, but I just didn’t like doing it.

ROB:

Mm-hmm. So for someone not familiar with System of a Down “Egobrain” is still, kind of just on its face, it’s a badass-sounding name.

JENSIE:

Yeah! Thank you. (laughs)

ROB:

Did you get any particular reactions to that name? Like, would people recognize it as a System of a Down thing?

JENSIE:

I think it’s kind of a deep cut, I guess, song. Because I think, in all of my years using that name, I think maybe two people said something about System of a Down to me. Not a lot of people recognized it as a System of a Down song which is fine with me, because I didn’t want to necessarily, you know, associate with System of a Down or that song or anything. I just really loved that name.

ROB:

Mm hmm. Yeah, there’s a lot of people who get their usernames and screennames and such from pop cultural things they like.

JENSIE:

Mm-hmm.

ROB:

You know, music or shows or whatever. And some people enjoy continuing that association, and some people just get sick of it after a while, like, “oh, you like such and such a band” and, like, (in exasperated tone) “yesss…”

JENSIE:

(laughs)

ROB:

So after Egobrain, where did you go from there?

JENSIE:

So I still do like to use Egobrain when I’m playing online games, because… (sighs) Even though the online gaming community has gotten better I think, as a whole, it’s still not a super safe place for marginalized groups. So I do still like to use Egobrain a lot with that. But now I’m in more of, like, the online sphere, I like to go by Jensiedactyl, because it’s got my actual name in it, Jensie, and I like being associated by that name, also.

ROB:

And how did Jensiedactyl come about?

JENSIE:

Jensiedactyl, that’s a much nicer one. Jensiedactyl came about, actually, when I was playing Diablo II. I met my best Internet pal then, and his name’s Greg. Unfortunately, Greg’s no longer with us.

But one day, we were just, I don’t know, being silly and giving each other cute Pokemon names, because we both loved Pokemon at the time. And his was “Gregmonlee,” after Hitmonlee, and then he gave me “Jensiedactyl” after Aerodactyl. And I just thought it was the cutest sweetest name! And, you know, it just kind of works as its own thing also, like not necessarily super associated with the Pokemon, but I just, I love it. And I started using that one more recently.

The reason that I started using it is because as Egobrain, like, it’s a really cool name, but then I’ve got creative works out there on the Internet where people know me as Jensie. And so when I show up somewhere they don’t recognize that I am the same person, that Egobrain is Jensie. And even some of my friends don’t recognize that name as being me.

So, yes, I think that people recognize that name and associate it more with me, I guess, since it has my actual name in it. But also, anytime I would be in an online area as Egobrain and then when I was more associating with my AFAB origins, or whatever, and people kind of realized who I was, it gave me a lot of, again, somewhat unwanted attention because then people would make a big deal out of like, “oh my gosh, I had no idea you were, you know, whatever.” And so this feels like less of, I don’t know, a shock or something.

If that makes sense. (laughs)

ROB:

Since you’re still doing things under Egobrain and under Jensiedactyl, what’s the delineation there? Do you have things you strictly prefer to do under one or the other?

JENSIE:

Hmm, great question.

It was like, strictly, gaming is Egobrain and then other online spheres like Discord and Twitter and stuff is Jensiedactyl. But recently I did change my Steam handle from Egobrain to Jensiedactyl, and that’s just because I was playing one of the Steam games in our Discord watch party, and I wanted for the people who were tuning into that to see me as Jensiedactyl there too. Not that I’m trying to hide the Egobrain part of me but, you know, I just want to keep those worlds kind of separated, if that makes sense.

ROB:

Sure. Do you happen to have experience going by your chosen names in person, at like an in-person event or things like that, or is it strictly the online side of things?

JENSIE:

I actually in one gaming convention that I went to I did have on my badge, I had Egobrain. And that was really cool. (laughs) But I don’t often do that, I guess

ROB:

What was cool about it?

JENSIE:

I don’t know, I just made me feel like I was combining the two worlds, you know?

ROB:

Mm-hmm.

JENSIE:

Because normally, it’s just that I’m online as Egobrain and I’m in a lot of different clans in my various games that I play, and it’s cool for them to call me Egobrain. But then when I go to a live gaming convention, for people to call me Egobrain like, IRL, I don’t know, it’s just kind of fun. It’s kind of nice.

ROB:

Yeah. Did you have to get used to answering to that name in person? Someone calls “hey Egobrain,” and you’re like, “oh! Yeah! That’s me!”

JENSIE:

Not really, not really, it’s kind of instinctual at this point. I mean, I’ve been going by it for, like, 16 years now, so… (laughs)

ROB:

If someone came up to you now and, like, “I’m gonna go online, I need to choose a handle, a username, a screen name, whatever.”

JENSIE:

Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.

ROB:

What would you recommend they consider when making that choice?

JENSIE:

(sighs)

Well, um… I mean, unfortunately for me, like, I had to hide a lot of my identity in choosing my name so that I could protect myself. So I would… like for example, with my little sister, whenever she – she just turned 15 this year – so whenever she picks online names, I’m like, it’s really important that you don’t use your actual name in your online name, which is one thing that I do in one of mine, I understand, but like, you know, I’m a pushing-30-year-old person. But, you know, to protect yourself, especially when you’re a minor, it’s really important to not have any kind of identifying information. And her name is spelled really super uniquely.

I would ask them to really just sleep on it for a couple of days, you know, give themselves some inspiration. Maybe surround themselves with things that they really like, creative things that they like, and really think about, you know, how they want to be viewed, because this could be their name for years and years, like decades. And so I think it’s important to have something that represents you really well, but represents the part of you that you’re okay with the world seeing. Because no matter what name you have, someone’s gonna say something about it, I’m sure. And that’s just with any names. You know, lots of people pick on people in real life for their birth names all the time. So I mean, obviously, you can’t just like protect yourself from that. Just, you know, have a little bit of a thick skin, I guess. Yeah.

ROB:

Yeah. And where can folks interested find more of you and your work?

JENSIE:

Well, like I said, I am on the Roleplay Retcon podcast. So you can go to RoleplayRetcon.com or, we have a Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. And on Twitter, I actually have no idea what my name is right now. I think it’s Princess Slaya, which is my derby name. (laughs)

ROB:

Your derby name?

JENSIE:

Yes. Roller derby.

ROB:

Oh! (laughs)

JENSIE:

Yeah. (laughs)

ROB:

Oh, excellent! May I ask how you chose that one?

JENSIE:

Yes. So that one came about, I went to my very first roller derby bout, and I felt absolutely in love with it. And my best friend and I went to a bar afterward, and we were just riffing back and forth and thinking about, well, “gosh, what if we actually did this?” You know, what would our roller derby names be?

And I was just sitting there and she went to the restroom, and so I was just kind of alone with my thoughts for a few seconds. And I was like: “Princess Slaya.” That’s the perfect Derby name, because it’s like Princess Leia, you know, Star Wars.

ROB:

A-ha!

JENSIE:

But then also like, it’s got some layers like, are you a princess who slays? Are you a slayer of princesses? A mixture of both? I don’t know!

So yeah, that’s how I came up with that name. (laughs)

ROB:

Very open to interpretation, that one, and still I think fits really well in the traditions of roller derby names. (laughs)

JENSIE:

Thank you. (laughs)

ROB:

Well, Jensie, this has been awesome. Thank you so much for for having this chat with me!

JENSIE:

All right. Thank you.

(Prerecorded segment ends.)

ROB:

Thank you again Jensie, also known as Jensiedactyl, Egobrain, and Princess Slaya. Once again you can find them on social media under those handles, and listen to them interfere with famous films in all sorts of creative ways on the brilliant Roleplay Retcon podcast at RoleplayRetcon.com.

Next up is a chat I recorded with a person called Anarkat, that’s “Anar” as in “anarchy” plus “kat” with a K. He is a citizen of the Mastodon server at hackers.town. Let’s point our ears toward his naming stories.

(Prerecorded segment begins.)

ANARKAT:

Hello, I am Anarkat on Mastodon. My friends know me as Steve, and also Kat. Kat is the name that I use between my friends, basically all my friends call me Kat, and Steve is the name that I used to interface with capitalism.

Anarkat came after I chose the name Steve. I was born with a name that would be derived from Steve, but no one knew how to pronounce or spell this name properly and it really annoyed me. So, I chose Steve so that no one could fuck it up.

ROB:

(laughs) So your choice of Steve was just because it was, like, the translation of your original name?

ANARKAT:

Yes. Imagine Stefan, Stephen, any way to pronounce and spell those. It was one of those and no one ever got it right.

ROB:

When did you make that change?

ANARKAT:

I never formally changed my name legally, like, on paper. But I started using Steve about when I turned 18.

I haven’t really taken on a different last name. I don’t really use my last name much, because it comes from a person I don’t really like that much.

ROB:

When you made your way online, at the point where you were choosing a handle, was it Anarkat from the beginning?

ANARKAT:

It wasn’t Anarkat from the beginning. My first interface with online communities was in RuneScape, as with so many other people, and I just had a name that was adjacent to my real name for my RuneScape handle. And in my middle teen years, I got involved with the brony scene and, as many people did, I took on an avatar. And my chosen avatar was the Doctor from Doctor Who.

ROB:

Very cool.

ANARKAT:

And this was back in 2013 when I took on that moniker and I would say I was about 15 or 16. So I took on the identity, or the avatar of the Doctor before I even changed the name that people addressed me by in general. I think that was the first time in my life where I had an identity online that was different from my, like regular identity.

ROB:

That was your first experience being able to create a persona or an identity from scratch.

ANARKAT:

Yes. And it’s actually how I met my first partner. They were active on the same forums that I was, and they made a habit of flirting with anyone who had taken on the avatar of the Doctor. And apparently my responses were the cutest, and so they chose me.

ROB:

(laughs) Excellent. Excellent use of Doctor Who as well. 

ANARKAT:

I moved on from that identity in the latter part of my time with the bronies, and in the beginning of my time with the furries I took on the name of Serendipity. And it was a very purposeful name. It had significance for me as an expression of how I saw myself and how I understood myself, because “serendipity” means good luck that was not searched for, a lucky penny that you stumbled across on the ground. And I felt that the good things in my life was a long string of coincidences that I was very fortunate to have been given.

ROB:

How long did it take you to get to the main handle that you’re using now?

ANARKAT:

I didn’t start using Anarkat until a couple years ago when I joined Mastodon and it’s sort of funny that I joined Mastodon first, because I was never actually active on Facebook or Twitter before that. I think I’ve probably had a Facebook or a Twitter account, but I never used them and the forms of interaction on those platforms never really interested me.

ROB:

How did you come to decide on Anarkat?

ANARKAT:

For a few years, I was Serendipity in the furry community, after I had moved away from the Brony community when they became very toxic and not the kind of people that I wanted to associate with. And I was Serendipity for a fairly long time, probably around four or five years. I made some dumb mistakes while inebriated that got me kicked out of the local furry community, which I totally deserved because I fucked up. And I gave up the name Serendipity after that, and for a while I didn’t actually have a chosen name.

I considered the name “Mortimer Nouveau,” but I never actually used it for anything.

ROB:

Mortimer Nouveau?

ANARKAT:

I had a very negative view of myself at the time. And “Mortimer” means death, or relating to death, and “nouveau” means new. (laughs)

ROB:

I like it!

ANARKAT:

It was very overly dramatic. I never really became very attached to that name, so I never really used it. And when I was getting into Mastodon, I needed a name and I had recently become more involved in left politics. And I still strongly identify as a cat. The furry part of me has been a strong part of me for a long time. And I’ve always had a strong affinity for cats, which is ironic, because I am strongly allergic to cats. I would love to pet a cat, but I can’t touch them. If I do I have to immediately wash my hands, or I have a bad time.

ROB:

The “Anar” part, like, do you consider yourself an anarchist, or-?

ANARKAT:

I very strongly do consider myself an anarchist. Podcast listeners won’t be able to tell, but behind me there is an upside-down American flag with a variant of the anarchy symbol on it. Anarchism drew me in as an ideal of freedom, reflective of both personal freedom and mutual responsibility to other people. Even though it’s a more recent part of my identity – identifying strongly as an anarchist – I think it’s a part of me that has been present in some form or another for a long time.

ROB:

A lot of folks who become known by a handle end up at face-to-face events where you’re meeting people or interacting with people that you know online. Do you have the experience of being able to introduce yourself in person to somebody as Kat or Anarkat?

ANARKAT:

Most of my friends – I call my close friends, people in my collective because it’s one big polycule and we’re all very close with each other – most of my close friends call me Kat, just Kat, and I started going by Kat informally a bit before I took on the name of Anarkat. But I think it just stuck for me. And I really like identifying as Kat.

When I was active in the furry community, I went to a couple conventions and introduced myself and was known as Serendipity there. I went to BLFC and a couple camping conventions that happen out in the mountains, round 150 furries get together on federally managed land to have a fun weekend in the woods.

ROB:

How would you describe the effect of the names you’ve chosen for yourself on how you feel, who you are day to day?

ANARKAT:

It feels very reaffirming for people to address me as Kat directly because I feel such a strong affinity for cats. The affinity that I feel for cats gives me a warm fuzzy feeling when people refer to me by that name, and I really like it.

There was one time when I was living in a triplex and I still went by Serendipity, and one of my friends was storing stuff in the basement of the triplex. And they came by to get some stuff and the downstairs neighbor was like, “hey, who are you?” And they didn’t know my real name and my downstairs neighbor only knew me by my real name, and so they chased him off. (laughs) Because they say “I don’t know any Serendipity who lives here, get out of here.”

ROB:

(laughs) That’s an interesting sort of name collision.

ANARKAT:

It’s a somewhat common experience, especially for people in the furry community where it’s a thing for furries to know each other only by their furry nickname, or the name that they’ve chosen for themselves. And when that identity collides with their real life, people tend to get confused.

ROB:

Yeah.

ANARKET:

Or their meatspace life. (laughs)

Another area where name collisions are sort of interesting is, I’m a little bit involved with the local kink community. And depending on where you live, they can be very secretive about their real identities because if the the weird stuff that they’re into gets out, attached to their legal identity, it could cause trouble in their careers and stuff.

ROB:

Mm-hmm.

ANARKAT:

That’s another area where it is very intentional that people are only known by their nicknames, and even though sometimes people have to ask ID from each other for legal reasons, they make it a point to not try to know other people’s legal identity, as a mutual-safety kind of thing.

ROB:

Makes total sense.

Well, this is this has been a cool chat. I really appreciate it.

Would you like to give out like where folks listening might be able to find more from you or get in touch if they’re interested?

ANARKAT:

I am on Mastodon as @Anarkat@hackers.town. You can find me, chat with me there. I have my matrix chat handle linked in my bio. That’s about the only place I like people to be able to find me.

ROB:

Kat, thank you very much for speaking with me.

ANARKAT:

Thank you very much. Have a good day and be well

(Prerecorded segment ends.)

ROB:

Many thanks to Kat! You can find him by the name of Anarkat, with a K, on the hackers.town Mastodon server. For those unfamiliar, Mastodon is an open-source alternative to Twitter which you can find more info on at JoinMastodon.org.

Those are the stories I have to share with you today, and now I’m very interested in hearing from others.

Have you taken on a public handle, screenname, pen name, or similar which is distinct from your original name? Have you legally changed the name appearing on your standard-issue identity documents? Have you, for any reason at all, decided to be called something other than the name you were first assigned as a child?

Whether your renaming was formal or informal, whether the route was complex or simple, whether you’d like to share just a couple of sentences or a detailed discussion, this program wants to tell your story about what led you to choose a new name, how you chose that name, and what being known by that name means to you.

Whether you’d like to write an email to be read on this podcast, record an audio clip on your own device to be played here, or arrange to record a one-on-one interview about your choice of name, I’m totally interested. Please send an email to “name” at modern dot technology, or go to modern.technology on the web and use the contact form there. You can also pick up a telephone and leave us a good old-fashioned voicemail at United States phone number 1-929-399-8414.

Thank you very much indeed for listening. Until next time, I’m Rob Firefly Vincent, and you know who you are.

(Ending theme music begins)

ROB:

You’ve been listening to episode 102 of Modern Technology Knows Your Name.

Get more info on this program and others we make at the Modern Technology Podcast Network on the web at modern.technology.

This music is “IAM” by Torley Wong, released Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 3.0. Find more from Torley at torley.com.  Thank you Torley!

This podcast is released under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike license 4.0, and is a production of Joyful Firefly, LLC.

Send us email at name at modern dot technology.

(Ending theme music concludes.)