I think the disconnection from culture, from home, from self—I think it feels like freedom.

People come out of the closet when they move to the US. They leave their spouses. They change their look. They leave the church. Who will stop them? And how? Family and friends and everyone who has expectations they must reach and parameters they must follow are too far away to enforce them.

Every time I’d change schools, I’d consider changing my name. Aline is deceitfully easy and hard at the same time. People look at its 5 letters, mostly vowels, and think, “Oh, I got this.” And proceed to grossly mispronounce it.

If my name were a combination of uncommon consonants, people would glare at it written down and ask how to pronounce it.

Allie, I’d think. That’s a good nickname. That can be a good change. People would have no trouble pronouncing it and I wouldn’t stand out so much. But it always felt dishonest to me. Aline has no nickname. My family would never call me “Allie.” And the nicknames people would naturally come up for me like “Leelee” and “Neenee” sounded too stupid to legitimize.

I like to think having to pronounce and explain my name to people for most of my life built my character.

A former student, Emily, made me a nametag.

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