I’ve never really had a nickname that’s stuck. In elementary school, there was a kid named Gurtej who kept calling me “Al”. I hate being called “Al”. Isn’t the name somewhat anachronistic? I have nothing against the name, in fact, I attach a certain affection to it, but it’s not my bloody name. My name is, just, Aly. Three letters, two syllables, and spelt with a “y”. 

In high school, my friend circle called me “Gully” because of my last name, the volleyball team called me “Paw” because my hands were disproportionately large when I was a teen, and, perhaps most attuned, I was sometimes referred to as the “twitching brown kid”. Later in life, while working at a restaurant, I was referred to as either “Just Aly” (my name is only “Aly”) or “Brown Aly” (I self-identify as a visible minority).

To most people in the Western world, I have a “girly” name. If you see only my name, you wouldn’t be wrong in thinking that I am a woman. However effeminate I may be, I self-identify as a male, who is a man, who is a visible minority. My name is starting to pose an interesting problem: people who read my job applications think that I am a woman.

Like it or not, there is a need for males/men in the teaching profession, especially in the earlier years of education. Many students could use a male role model, and teachers are one avenue for presenting them with such a resource. I like to think that I fit this role well and want to use this position to create positive change in students’ lives.

So, we circle back to “Al”, a beloved name that I don’t identify with, isn’t mine, but one that will signify me as a man. It’s been suggested to me that I adopt the name “Al” for the purposes of my job applications, if only to get me a foot in the door for an interview. I’m really struggling with the idea of doing this.

What if this significant slight alteration to my name is the one that finally sticks? My name will be but two letters, one lonely syllable, and severely lacking descension.

Whence your warlock’s brew, Gurty?