When I started my blog, nearly a year and a half ago, I did so under the pseudonym "PortlyDyke" for a number of reasons.
First, the impetus for starting the blog was basically that I had become an obsessive commenter at Shakesville, and my comments had started to get really, really, really long (this should come as no surprise to those of you who have waded through my rants both at Teh Portly Dyke and at Shakesville -- succinct is not my middle name).
I really loved my commenter handle at Shakesville, and I kept it when I started my home blog.
The second reason that I chose to blog as PortlyDyke, rather than under my real name, was that I am a minister for a rather -- shall we say: "alternative"? -- religious organization. I wanted to keep those worlds separate, because I feel strongly about the separation of church and state, and I didn't want any political commentary that I might make at PortlyDyke to wash over into my work as a minister.
I haven't been absolute about my anonymity -- Melissa has known my true identity since I started blogging at Shakesville, and I've outted myself to a few folks that I've become close to in comment sections, virtual pubs, and chatty-chats online. If you had ever done a "select all" on my old blog template, you would have seen the copyright notice at the bottom (which I cleverly hid with white text on a white background so you would only see it when highlighting) -- and you would have known my real name. I've revealed my true name to those who have wanted to reprint blog-posts and credit me. I've linked to some of my own songs and poems. If you really wanted to know who I was, it wasn't impossible to suss it out.
Initially, the anonymity was both comforting and liberating. I felt a bit safer in the meat-world knowing that my name and address weren't exposed to a possible plethora of trolls, misogynists, and homophobes. I had a sense of being able to put my opinions out there without having a whole load of personal history attached to my name and my real world personality. I found it intriguing to see what people would make of me if I were judged solely by my words -- no attendant baggage of assumptions based on my past or my circumstances. I also found it interesting to see what I chose to reveal and what I chose to withhold.
Pretty quickly, though, the structure became somewhat limiting. I realized that there were things about me that would be very difficult to relate without identifying my offline life, and I found that the self-editing that I did sometimes decreased my ability to really connect with others that I met online.
Also, my particular ministry is all about power and responsibility, authenticity, and full integration of the self, so I was constantly in question about my real motivations for blogging psuedonomysly -- a) Was I attempting to avoid responsibility for my words? b) Was I hiding out of fear? (blech) c) Was I worried that people who seemed to respect me online would lose respect, judge, or reject me because of what I do for a living? (More on that later.)
I kept asking these questions internally and checking in with myself the whole time, and tried very hard to address them honestly. The answers were usually a) sometimes, b) sometimes, and c) often.
This summer, the whole thing got a lot more complicated for me. I took a long hiatus from blogging as I worked on my video project, and when I returned, people often asked me what the project was. I usually hemmed and hawed, and mumbled something vague and non-identifying, but occasionally I revealed myself with those I felt safe with (digging into the virtual pubs, you could find hints and cues to link me to real-world events -- evidence that a late Friday night and a few beers will, in fact, loosen my already unrestrained tongue). Sometimes, I would wonder next morning if I shouldn't have been so free with my information, but I usually comforted myself with the thought that most people don't have the stamina to read through the entire pub thread anyway.
I did start to notice something, though. I found that the constant second-guessing and self-editing required to maintain partial or complete anonymity was beginning to slow my blogging down. If I had an idea for a post, but it would require a lot of fancy footwork to tell the story well and still keep my PortlyDyke persona intact and separate, I would sometimes just bag it, because it was too much fucking work.
I talked with 'Liss at Shakesville about the pros and cons of anonymity -- about her own process with revealing her real-world identity after beginning as simply "Shakespeare's Sister", how it has impacted her life, and her writing.
The whole situation is a bit ironic for me, because in real life, I'm known for being completely outspoken about stuff that other people are uncomfortable with (sex, farting, my mental health history, etc., etc., etc.). Many and many a time I have been greeted with the Universal Sign for Too Much Information.
I find that I'm genuinely fond of my PortlyDyke persona, and don't want to lose her -- she's been Superman to my Clark Kent in some way. I would sometimes wonder if someone I was commenting with might be someone in my home-town, or who might have known me in real-life in a previous this-life incarnation (and I've had many of them). I would wonder if the ultra-liberal checker at my food coop might be a secret Shakesvillian. I loved it when Melissa and I would talk on the phone and she would still call me "Portly", even though she knew my real name.
However, the time has come for me to come out. Again.
I came out to my parents as queer when I was 24, although my mom had suspected (and even asked about it -- I lied) since I was 19 and getting love-letters from my first girlfriend. I was terrified, but it all turned out much better than I expected.
In 2000, I came out to my parents about my current work (which I had been doing for two years) -- I was less terrified, then (probably because I had a better sense of myself), but in many ways, it was much more difficult than coming out as a lesbian.
In a few more paragraphs, you will probably understand more as to why coming out about my work might be a little unnerving for me. It's actually one of the things that I've angsted about the most, as I've considered coming out on the blog. My work is of the type that some people poo-poo and scoff at, or think is so weird that they automatically discount me as an absolute nutcase (which, come to think of it, isn't exactly an unfounded assessment). I feel scared that some of my online atheist friends will now decide that I am just a silly ninny whose spiritual beliefs mean that she can be relegated to the "pay her no mind" bin.
I'm nervous about this. My hands are sweating right now. (Of course, it could just be the hot-flashes.) However, I know from my first coming out 28 years ago that there is never really a "good time" to dive off a diving board into a pool that might hold sharks or chocolate mousse -- if you wait for that "good moment", you will probably never do it.
That said, I do know why this is the right time for me -- the election is finally over, with results that I adore and results that I abhor -- but as I found myself saying in an email exchange with someone the day after the election, the truth is, I don't have much faith in elections.
I do think politics can change some things, but at the end of the day, I think that the transformational impact of individual human beings, acting in integrity, is more far-reaching than we can imagine. When hundreds, thousands, or millions of individuals act in integrity, we see the political and social tides that make big changes, but without those individual droplets, there is no ocean.
In truth, the little nigglings in my gut about straddling the philosophical chasm between anonymity and complete authenticity (a pet project of mine) have grown to rumbles as I realize just how important it is to me to be fully aligned with my own principles about showing up, taking responsibility (and the power attendant to it), and bringing the full energy of who I am to everything I do.
So here goes.
I've been cheating on you. I have another blog.
My name Carol Steinel, and I make my living as a psychic and full body channeler.
The video project I've been working on is -- wait for it -- called Psychic Hygiene, and yes, it's just as out there as it may sound.
I'm a wild, weird, wacky woo-woo babe.
There. I said it.
That's it for the gaggle. Now I'll take a few questions.
What's that? No, I already told you -- my middle name is not "succinct" -- as a matter of fact, it's "Lee" -- but you can still call me . . . . .