I’ve slowly shifted, over the past year or so, back into the general use of my given name. Which is not Max. Here’s the truth – Max is a nickname I gave myself, in spite of what I may or may not have told anyone else about it. It’s a  riff on my surname, sure, but there are many people who have mistaken me for a dyed-in-the-wool Maxine. NOT my intention.

Many of those in the Max camp are completely aghast when they learn A) it is not my birth name and B) my birth name is not even remotely related to Max.  I was not one of the lucky Alexandra’s who could so easily be an Al or Alex or even Xander. When those folks hear my first name, they scoff at the ridiculousness that I could ever be other than Max. It is my essence, they say. I tend to agree, but…

On the flip side, those who have known me long or have been introduced to me with my more effeminate birth name absolutely can NOT even consider calling me Max.

I named myself Max in college, when I threw myself into my latent butch identity. I told a really good explanation (read: lie) about how I came by that nickname for a long, long time. But when I was ejected into the real world, it didn’t look so well on paper anymore, and the lie/explanation sounded more and more feeble. For tax purposes I stuck with my given name in the workplace, and therefore also for any acting gigs I had that paid.  When I joined the acting union in 2005, my fate was solidified – there was already a Max MyLastName in the union, and no two union members can share the same name – that’s where stage names come into play. So my birth name went down in history as my professional acting name.

And now that acting IS my profession… well, fewer and fewer people are meeting me as Max. My headshots state my given name. Folks who meet me in the theater or on set don’t know that Max exists.

My gf often asks if she should stop calling me Max. I say, don’t you dare. I think of myself as Max and she does too.

But as I’m slowly peeling myself out of this self-protective cocoon I spent a lifetime creating – the shiny fibers that were supposed to hide my true self and deflect awkward questions – I’m learning to embrace my (feminine) name again. It’s important for me, both as a grown adult, and as a butch to get down to the core of me and stop being so scared to be who I am.  So we’ll see.  I’ll always be Max to those who know me as such, but I’d like to shift the swagger of that name towards where it truly belongs – squarely on my shoulders, instead of hiding in my shadow.