Do you have a name that you use online, one that doesn’t match your birth certificate? You probably do. And everyone who does, I think, will find something to appreciate in this essay by Epiphora about the complex ways in which a name self-chosen years ago — perhaps quite casually for some specific and limited internet purpose — can grow into a major portion of your identity:

For years, Epiphora was an online-only presence, but things changed when I started meeting and befriending other sex bloggers. Suddenly I found myself in a world in which calling someone “Girly Juice” was not only accurate, but necessary. In which you’d never ask someone’s legal name unless you were mailing them a package, and then you’d promptly forget it. I started dating a fellow sex blogger, calling them exclusively by their pseudonym, Aerie, which has become their preferred name. To them, I have always been and always will be Epiphora.

That’s when the name became truly mine. When I began forming relationships under it. When I began answering to it across hallways and saying it into microphones. It’s one thing to receive emails addressed to Epiphora; it’s another to hear the name spoken as a direct address. I still remember the rush of validation I felt when my sex blogger friends first referred to me as “Piph” and when the SheVibe crew christened me “Piphy Pants.”

She also touches on the odd double-standard that attaches to using a self-chosen name in the sex industries:

I’m always struggling to prove my legitimacy under this name. Facebook doesn’t believe me. Google+ doesn’t believe me. Advertisers don’t believe me; once they find out my legal name they start using it despite me signing every damn email Epiphora. In one particularly upsetting example, I gave an interview to Women’s Health and then was told they couldn’t use any of my quotes, as the editors don’t allow “anonymous sources.”

This is obviously bullshit, because the world already accepts aliases. Actors use stage names all the time and we don’t give a fuck. We are fine with mononyms like Beyoncé, Lorde, and Rihanna. We accept Snoop Doggy Dogg becoming Snoop Dogg becoming Snoop Lion. But with sex bloggers (and sex workers, and porn performers, and anyone else in the adult industry), thanks to slut-shaming and sex negativity and patriarchy, there’s a stigma. Our words carry no weight. We’re seen as people obfuscating the truth, “hiding” behind “personas,” whose opinions can’t possibly be trusted because we don’t have the guts to write under our “real” names. We must be ashamed of what we do, because sharing our sex lives is inherently shameful.

As all the OG bloggers used to say back in 2002 when blogs were young, there’s much more. Read the whole thing.

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