Dissertation writers, at the end of the long and arduous process, typically have to go through a final round of ritual hoop-jumping called “depositing.” Most of this involves adhering to complex formatting requirements with a care and precision that I normally associate with handling radioactive or bio-hazardous materials. The title page, in particular, has to be just so.
Because I wanted to avoid hang-ups later in the process, I sent just my title page to my school’s thesis office (yes, a whole office deals with this) in order to make sure everything complied. I was told, among other things, that I had used the wrong name. I had put “Kory Lawson Ching” on my title page, but apparently school records refer to me without my middle name, and was thus told I would have to use only “Kory Ching.”
I have to admit, this rankled me some. I mean, I know what my own name is, and while there may be many things in my dissertation that others could disagree with, I was fairly certain that the author’s name wouldn’t be one of them. I could have fought this by changing my official name with the university, but I didn’t want to get embroiled in a bureaucratic mess that would delay depositing (believe me, this is what would happen). I just wanted to be done.
So, I changed my name on the title page, but it was a little painful to do so. It’s not that I’m worried about database searches finding me, or that the shortened name is inconsistent with the name I’ve already published under. It’s that I consider my middle name an integral part of both my personal and professional identity. “Lawson” is the surname of my maternal grandparents. They had no sons, so I was given their name to carry it forward. I am proud to have done so. Because I was raised by a single mom, my grandparents were like a second set of parents for me. I identify with “Lawson” just as much as I do “Ching.” Perhaps more so.
But, of course, there are all sorts of weird politics mixed up in all this, like the privileging of male surnames in our culture, and I haven’t even touched how this aligns with my multiethnic status. In the end, it’s just a name. I guess I know who I am, despite what it says on my title page.