Years ago, I began developing this persona. More than half a decade has past since then, and I’ve ended up in a wildly different place than I expected to when I started.
When I created “Taylor”, all I was after was a new name to throw on when I was with clients, a few fudged details here and there (namely pretending to be single and binary), but it was important to me to stay true to who I was in the process.
I wanted Taylor to be an extension of me – highlighting my favourite attributes, slightly embellishing areas where I considered myself to be lacking; Taylor was a mask that I put on for a few hours and then took off for the bulk of my life.
“Taylor” had the confidence that I lacked, was outgoing and friendly, starting parties and stories, making life happen for me. This was a part of me that I was too anxious to express normally, but was able to through the development of my stage persona. Not only was this fun, but it also was what I feel I needed to do to succeed at work.
As my career progressed, so too did my use of my persona. It was a necessary thing, and one that I was comfortable with, but it sort of snuck up on me. I became Taylor (to quote John Green for a second) the way you fall asleep; slowly, then all at once.
I worked hard to get where I am as Taylor; I made the decision to pursue this life over other goals – no point in fighting to be a therapist if you’re just going to get fired when they find out you’ve done porn – and I am proud of where I’ve ended up. But I stopped taking off the mask at the end of the day.
I joke that “Taylor” is a more real version of me than the me I associate with my legal name. I date people for months or more before telling them my real name, I have a plethora of close friends and employers who I plan on never disclosing my actual name to.
Somewhere along the line I think the line between me and my persona became foggier and foggier until I lost track of it and only saw the pursual of something that was never supposed to consume me.
And I…don’t really like this, at least not to the degree that it’s saturated my life.
I want the separation that’s required for safety, I love putting on the hat that helps me Get Stuff Done. I don’t like that all the baristas know me as Taylor (because my personal assistant gig starts every shift there, and I met that boss through someone who knows me as Taylor). I don’t like that the place I barback knows me as Taylor (because that place hosts events that I attend where people know me just as Taylor). I dislike that the only times I hear my actual name is when speaking to my family or the doctor. I want to go back to the days when I could opt-in to use that name, instead of the opt-out that it is now, the stressful navigation of “who might I run into while here?” and “are you someone I can trust with this information?”.
Everyone I meet, I meet as Taylor now. Friends, employers, partners, everyone.
When I meet new people, I make a decision not just between what name to give them, but what version of my reality I’m willing to allow them access to.
It’s no longer accurate to say that I’m not Taylor, but at the same time, I’m not, in some ways that are important but hard to qualify. “Taylor” has become a larger-than-life truth about me, about who I am, that’s hard to untangle myself from. My problem is that I don’t know how to step back from this persona without dropping the work that I’ve fought hard to succeed at, or the relationships that are important to me.
I’ve lost sight of who I am once I let go of what I do, lost sight of who I am when I’m not “on”.
I think that’s part of why I struggle so much with being alone in my head, why I’m obsessed with occupying myself – left alone too long without a task, I start feeling disconnected from “myself” and it freaks me out.
“Taylor” was created for safety and so that I would feel like I was enough for what I was attempting to accomplish. It was a performance, one that I crafted and improved with time, a bit that I tried on and honed to suit my needs, and then reworked when necessary. I became Taylor entirely, fully, but that doesn’t fully define who I am.
Lately I’ve been working a job under my real name, which is rare. I’ve introduced myself as it hundreds of times this past month, and finally it has stopped feeling foreign in my mouth, on my ears, just in time for the job to end. It’s been a while since I’ve spent so much time “off”, and it was nice getting to see that side of me again.
I created this alter-ego to keep me safe (everyone hates a whore, after all), and I love who I get to be through it, but I think it’s time to try and reconnect with who I am just for myself, and no one else.
I wonder if I’d be in a similar position if sex (and sex-related) work was valued like other industries where people use stage names. If I could be “out” about it in all areas and didn’t need to rely on a split to help me stay safe, keep (vanilla) employment, housing, family. I wonder what the freedom to be fully open about who and what I am would allow me to grow to become – on my own terms, as me.
Hopefully one day I’ll be around to see a world where I can find out.