Home Affairs is always hot. Every time, every office, hot and aomehow causing a feeling of claustrophobic anxiety. I avaoid Home Affairs as much as I am able.
I changed my name. I decided to shorten it, make it a shorter more explosive version of the long undulating tale that is my name. Two words rather than six. 15 letters rather than 40.
I changed my name years ago. So when I realised that the surnames that my partner and I want to double-barrel will not legally be allowed, I took myself, already warm and anxious, to Home Affairs to have a conversation.
I have stood in the line ‘Births, Deaths and Marriage’ too many times this year and still there will be more standing, more heat, more anxiety. I stood, waiting to hear if the law could help me, knowing, that it probably couldn’t.
I stopped a woman in uniform and asked her if I was in the correct line for name changing. She said yes and then asked me what I wanted to do. I explained. She told me it was not possible.
I called Home Affairs in Stellenbosch -they pick up the phone alsmost immediately – I asked if I can change my second name and make it my surname. The answer was amazing.
I stand with the phone to my ear, a voice says to me; “ You must find an elder with this name as their surname, you must ask them if you can buy their surname and make it yours.” She tells me it costs R325 and that I must get a certified affidavit from them too.
I want to laugh at her but she sounds dead serious. I want to ask more questions but my heart is heavy and somehow, even though I am in my own home and only calling Home Affairs, there is a heat coming over me and a wall of anxiety rises high above my head.
I Facebook search my second name and find a handful of people with my second name as their surnames. I think about writing to them. I then think about how messy this country is. I feel like this is messy. Nothing about it makes sense.
I want my chosen name. Home Affairs gives me an option of writing a valid reason for changing my names. There are examples on the website, all of the examples are layered in patriarchy, none of them speak to my situation.
I am hot.
I am exhausted.
Do I not have the right to choose what name feels most right for me?
Do I not have the right as a cross racially adopted child, because of our history, to choose the names that speak me into being the best version of myself? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying, choose all willy-nilly. Social workers suggest that adoptive parents look into naming their children in the language that the child originated from. Often we have many names. Often showing the variations in our history/family.
On a completely different note though, what about children who are fathered by their mother’s fathers? Our government states that a child born without a father can take the surname of the mother’s father. This is what I understood from what was stated on the Home Affairs website. How is this real when we live in a time/ culture that we have willingly named ‘rape culture’?
How can our surnames still be coming from our parents when parents and family is changing so fast. When patriarchy is being scrutinized and naming can be a painful reminder of something unwanted/painful or misrepresenting.
I want to know that my children will have the double-barrel name that we want to give them. I want to know that when December comes and I marry the human being that I plan to create a family with, we will be double-barrel on paper and I will have the surname that I have been using for over 6years.
I want to know that I have this right. I want to trust that this can be my reality. It has to be. Nothing else will be true. Nothing else will be me. Nothing else will be fair.
This is the power of a name.