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My Name Is

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Photo by Andy Mkosi

My name is …

I was being interviewed for a TV segment about Disability the other day and I had to introduce myself on camera (Quite a few times; things you learn in the media!) and while I was saying my name, it struck me how funny it was that this was my life. 

I grew up a very quiet and mostly anxious teenager and it didn’t help that I was going through an acne ridden ugly duckling phase. High school was tough as you can imagine. I mentioned to the interviewer how I went through high school forfeiting marks to avoid standing in front of a classroom, whether to debate or even present, so it was ironic to me that I was spending all this time in the spotlight trying to make sure that a legal matter I’m facing doesn’t get forgotten and that unfortunately requires one to constantly reveal themselves. 

That is what it feels like whenever I hear myself saying my name on record. I always say it’s amazing to me how I learnt to warm up to seeing myself on camera when I spent a long time hating myself: How Disability broke all the barriers and negative feelings I had about myself and how my disability has been unravelling in the spotlight, not by choice but by need. If I wasn’t so vocal about my Disability challenges, I wouldn’t have a community of people who are just like me. We are living through this as humanly as we can. I never predicted the manner in which disability has given me myself back in so many other ways. I can’t begin to imagine what it would be like to exist as an able bodied person sometimes. Granted I wouldn’t be telling the world about my orgasms and vibrators at every opportunity I get…the one thing I do know is that I would still be Makgosi Letimile and I would be my daughter’s mother. 

I have been a sister, a friend, a daughter, a mother, a business owner, a pleasure advocate, a comedian, a mean woman, a scandalous person and so many other things and throughout all of that, having to say my name aloud made me nervous, sometimes doubtful about myself. Funny right? Being nervous about my name… 

When we let people call us variations of our names, sometimes it’s in a positively playful and affectionate manner and sometimes we hear our names being said in rage. In those moments our names sound unfamiliar to us because we know how they are meant to sound. That is why we teach people how to say our names, so they can know how we like hearing ourselves being summoned and to reinforce that any variation of that is mostly considered disrespectful. If I’m lying, why are we always having meltdowns about our names being spelt wrong by you know who? 

In other instances, when we are in love or in lust, we let our lovers call us any other term of endearment except our names. When they say our names it feels like a personal attack. “How are you calling me Makgosi? I’m Baby!” 

I think of all the lovers from various language groups who made the effort to try and learn my name and how I’ve let a lot of lovers call me out of my name unprovoked. Letting things slide which in hindsight makes me realise why I am now so possessive about my name.  As Whitney said, “My name is not Susan!” or in my case, it’s not everything that I’m called except what it is: Makgosi. 

I was named after my paternal grandmother. I was her first girl grandchild and apparently there was a lot of drama about naming me. My parents were at odds and while my mother’s family was trying to convince her to leave my dad, my dad’s family was getting ready with a naming ceremony. My life began with conflict and this might explain why my life has felt like an uphill battle since I realised that I have to take care of myself for the rest of my life. These are shocking things to realize. I remember when I was expecting my daughter and there was a name discussion going on. All the names that were suggested to me sounded like my daughter was a mistake; in both idea and conception. When I chose her name, I imagined her having a lighter existence. I wanted her to be accepted with open arms wherever she went and I wanted her to feel loved wherever she was. Navigating the world with a shield of knowing that you matter to somebody changes how you walk in your existence. I’ve seen her walking and she sashays with so much grace even when she is upset and storming up and down the room. She is joyful and wise, always open to learning and teaching others, funny and kind with a sincerity that so many wouldn’t expect from a teenager and a smile that outshines any sunrise or sunset. Naming her Amogelang was with intention and I’m glad that in the first welcoming of her into the world, all she heard and felt was love and adoration. 

I’ve since decided to reclaim my name and be non-negotiating about how it’s said whether by myself or others. Accepting my name has brought me interesting experiences and blessings, so when I say how people call my name matters now, it’s because I realise they are naming me out of blessings. I’ve been told it’s a difficult name to pronounce and I always say to people, “I don’t mind correcting you because it doesn’t change my name however, I expect you to know it, my name is Makgosi Letimile and I’m Amogelang’s mother.” 

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