Change of Name
July 4, 2012 – Today, I found my freedom.
I was viewing the episode episode where Barbara Walters and Geoffrey Canada. Both their answers changed their names. It hit me like a thunderbolt when Mr. Gates said, “They changed their names to reinvent themselves.”
It brought me back to the shame I felt growing up with a Chinese surname. When we were learning the terms ” jus soli and jus sanguines”, it was uncomfortable being asked about my citizenship since it will also reveal if my parents were married. They were not. And I was called illegitimate. That is also what is in my birth certificate.
The Chinese surname is written before the first name. There was a mix up which necessitated changing my surname. My boss jokingly commented, “I thought you were changing your surname. But it is still Chinese surname.”
I got married and the Chinese surname lost prominence, only to surface again when I applied for a passport. The issuance was delayed. The Foreign Affairs office said it is because of my foreign sounding surname. I suspect it is my Chinese sounding surname.
It was rumored that my father changed his name when he migrated. It could cause his deportation, never to come back. And I was his favorite child. I kept that a secret until today. My father has died many decades ago. I wish I had the chance to ask him why he chose that name.
My neighbor and I became US citizens at the same time. She said she changed her name to get rid of her ex-husbands memories and to assrt herself. She said her name with pride. “That is my real name,” she said. In my case, I chose to keep my married name although I have been divorced for many years. I want to have the same surname as my children.
I visited a former neighbor who is a friend of my father and told him about my US citizenship. “Did you change your name?” he eagerly asked. I said, “No.” There was so much sadness in his voice and in his face when he said, “I thought that was already our chance to use your father’s name. That is your real name.”
I have been thinking of my name for the past couple of months. I have been thinking of tracing my roots in China. I just do not know where to begin.
Thank you, Mr. Gates.