I started going by “Dani” officially around the 4th grade. The final straw was the 1998 Drew Barrymore film Ever After. If you’ll recall, Drew’s beautiful, feisty, smart Cinderella character is named DANIELLE. My brain short circuited.
My name is Danielle Elise. My parents have differing stories as to its origins. My dad claims that he picked out both names, having been inspired by a girl in one of his high school PE classes + the mom character on Family Ties.
(I don’t believe you, Whiskers.)
When my mom took high school French class, all the students were required to pick a French name. Four girls picked “Danielle,” so they each had to pick a middle name as well. That’s how my mom ended up on “Danielle Elise.” I always liked that story. I still like that story.
But I grew to loathe “Danielle,” specifically. Because it was so… fancy? It sounded like a princess name to me even before Ever After confirmed my worst fears. And, here’s the weird part: I liked princesses! I am a baby of the Disney Renaissance, and Belle and Jasmine were my HEROES.
I just didn’t want to be a princess.
“Tomboy” was applied to me early on, but that never felt quite right either. For one thing, I really loathed athletics, despite participating in them for most of my young life. What I wanted to do was stay inside and read, or, if I was to go outside, I wanted to write poetry and play pretend. And those were mostly “girly” things, right?
I kind of liked the “boy” part of “tomboy,” though. Once I lopped all my hair off in eighth grade, there was a private little thrill that came with being mistaken for a boy. For being told that I looked like a member of Hanson. For being referred to as “Mr. Herd” at the 8th grade Beta Club induction ceremony.
My favorite books in those days were Tamora Pierce’s, and specifically the Song of the Lioness series. Alanna disguised herself as a boy, trained to be a knight, was a total badass, and still got to kiss cute people. That sounded like the absolute ideal situation. Because wanting to disguise myself as boy while still maybe wanting to kiss boys (and girls, even though I wouldn’t put that into words for many years) was a confusing sets of feelings to feel, and there was no Big Mouth when I was in middle school.
A little later, Sailor Moon would take over my life, and my mind would be totally, irrevocably blown by the Sailor Starlights.
In case you haven’t seen the season in question, the Sailor Starlights are three Sailor Senshi from the planet Kinmoku who have come to Earth to find their missing Princess. They present female in their Senshi form, but they also present as male pop idols called the Three Lights. I thought they were fabulous and perfect, and they were how I started to learn, “Oh, shit, maybe gender’s a bunch of made up nonsense?”
(I wrote fan POETRY about them, fam.)
I think “Danielle Elise” is a beautiful name, and I’m grateful for having had the opportunity to wear it. But I’m a Dani through and through, and I have been for a long time. I’m finding new words for expressing these feelings, and it’s all very exciting and scary. Last night I wore a bowtie*, and it rocked my entire fucking world, and maybe tomorrow I’ll wear a dress and lipstick, and maybe on Wednesday I’ll wear all of it at once.
I don’t have a very eloquent ending besides this: Tell me who you are. I’ll call you what you like. You are valid and beautiful. I know this is exciting and scary. You are wonderful. Thanks for reading. ❤
- Tell me where you get your bowties. I love them now.