What’s In A Name?

It has been a long time since I have considered my pen name. I started using it back in 1999 on a newsy sort of blog to keep in touch with family and friends when I moved to Southeast Asia. It started as a joke – a reference to a character in George Orwell’s ‘Burma Days’.  One of his characters was a ‘remittance man’. A rogue who’d been sent out to the colonies by his family to stop him from besmirching the family name with his deviant behavior. He was sent a stipend or ‘remittance’ to live on, as long as he kept away.

When I started writing my first pieces of fiction, I used that name.  It just stuck. I have since published three novels and appeared in over a dozen print anthologies under the pen-name Remittance Girl.

The first time I encountered a problem with the name was when I tried to establish an account on Facebook. I had to append the word ‘author’ before they would accept it.


Three days ago, I got this:

I also got an email Google+ telling me that my name is not acceptable to them. They provided a function to lodge an appeal, and of course I did.  I included links to my blog, my Amazon author page, my Facebook account and my Goodreads author page.  I even sent them photographic copies of the table of contents where my name appears as the authors of published stories. Still no luck.

Why is this so upsetting to me? It’s just a pen name, after all. Why don’t I quite whining?

I’m not exactly sure how to express this, but Remittance Girl is over a decade of my life. She is all the stories I’ve written. All the interaction I’ve had with readers and other writers. She is… me.  She represents me identity as a writer. I can’t let her go.

The truth is, as I embark on my PhD, I have had to ‘out’ myself. Any academic writing I do on the subject of erotic fiction needs to be under my real legal name. That’s fine. I’ve resigned myself to that. But it occurs to me that this disregard for erotica authors’ choice of a pen name is a little disturbing.

Why would it be okay if I used the pseudonym of Mary Smith? Why is a pen name that sounds like a real name okay, but a pen name that is very clearly a pen name forbidden?

I chose to keep Remittance Girl because it is so very obviously a pen name. And a lot of published erotica writers do the same.  I’m pretty sure that Violet Blue wasn’t born with that name.

So this is my fight to try and keep my name. Not only because it is the name you know me by and the one I’ve written under for so long, but because having lived with it for over a decade, it has become an integral part of who I am as a person. Being forced to abandon it feels really horrible.  It feels like all these years of me as Remittance Girl are worthless, illegitimate, and disposable.

I would be very grateful if you would consider signing my petition to Google+ asking them to reconsider my appeal to keep my pen name.

Please sign it here.

  16 comments for “What’s In A Name?

  1. June 2, 2012 at 9:41 am

    Swaddled in my mother’s arms, she did *not* gaze upon me and declare, “We’ll call her Poe Von Page!” You’re shocked, I know. I really feel for you. I’ve signed, RT’d and FB’d your plea. I do hope you get to keep your name.

    • June 2, 2012 at 9:49 am

      Well, please thank Mrs Von Page for me for birthing you. *smirk* And thank you for the vote of confidence.

  2. Nicola Onychuk
    June 2, 2012 at 9:42 am

    Google should not arbitrate what is a “real” name and what is not.

    • June 2, 2012 at 9:50 am

      I agree. It kind of goes against all the freedom of expression they supposedly support.

      • June 2, 2012 at 10:10 am

        Sadly, Google+ is not about freedom of expression. They’ve stated it before that they liked Facebook’s Real Names policy because it links “real people” to their profile accounts. There was a big uproar a couple months ago as part of the Nymwars because of that. In the end, Google basically said “fuck off” if you didn’t want to use your real name.

        One reason I haven’t considered making my Google account a Google+ is because of that very thing. Obviously, t’Sade is not my real name and I apparently have been using it almost as long as you (1993ish) and I can give a ton of proof but somehow… I don’t think they’ll let it by.

        I haven’t found a social network that really works for me, besides Twitter. Diaspora *almost* got there, but then they stalled out instead of giving me the API I wanted. I like cross-posting from WordPress for bigger stuff and my Twitter client for everything else.

        I hope the petition works, I signed it of course. And best of luck!

        • June 2, 2012 at 11:36 am

          I guess we’ll see.

          I think there is a much deeper discussion to be had here on what ‘identity’ is.

          I just got my formal application to do my doctorate, and it included a form tick box for ‘race’. It freaked me out, I have to say.

  3. DJ Young
    June 2, 2012 at 9:59 am

    Google – nor anyone, certainly not a public company – hasn’t a single right to tell us who we are. There are plenty of reasons a person may not wish to use their real name, all good and valid and Google believes they are above this, somehow. They’ve done this to too many people and as a policy it is one of their most arrogant. We should not have to resort to petitions to have this corporate behavior corrected. Your identity is your most basic right and no one should be able to fuck with it. Period. That said, I’m happy to sign yours and I hope this is resolved in your favor soon.

  4. Penny Goring (@triplecherry)
    June 2, 2012 at 11:22 am

    Why don’t we all simply disable Goggle Pus. What kind of a name is that?

  5. June 2, 2012 at 11:23 am

    Hang in there and best wishes and all of us with non-traditional-format names real or otherwise, make these robots take you as you are. (My kids have two middle names, which sends the form makers into a tizzy. They’ve started wrangling with the gatekeepers themselves–“Hey, I want this certificate to have my name on it”–bless ’em.)

  6. Korhomme
    June 2, 2012 at 5:14 pm

    Signed with my real name; I didn’t like having to supply Google with my address etc. I guess they’ll spam me now.

  7. June 2, 2012 at 11:03 pm

    I really appreciate this post. As a Christian minister who writes vampire romance novels, I appreciate the importance of a pen name! Good luck working this out. I hear there is a way to register a pseudonym with Google, but you do have to use your real name to do so.

    Amber Belldene

  8. June 3, 2012 at 7:21 pm

    being from a small and close minded country town, I myself use a pen name. It has become part of me in only a short time and I at times have even caught myself glancing up upon hearing someone call out ‘Jess’. We are who we choose to be whether that be look, beliefs or even choice of name. You are Remittance Girl and I am Jess, we’ve made those names part of us. No one should have the right to refuse them to us.

  9. June 4, 2012 at 5:40 am

    I wonder how Moon Unit 2 Zappa deals with these things…

    Signed, sealed and delivered, I hope.

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