My Name and My Identity

Week  81 – September 30, 2021  – Truth and Reconciliation

Today is a day for reflection, the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. I was grateful to engage in the Talking Circle hosted by UNBC on Zoom. I listened to local Indigenous scholars and  community members sharing their culture and language with all those attending the event. It was beautiful to listen to Elder Audrey share her cause of bringing an Indigenous child back to their home and community… and why. I am struck by the economy of  residential schools and the power of matriarchs. I was inspired and humbled. I am so grateful to be amongst people who are committed to sharing the truth so that we can being our journey of reconciliation. What I can do is to learn, read, and listen. I need to continue to understand and unlearn the values and practices of colonization and find ways to indigenize my pedagogy and way of being. I will continue to stand beside and make space for Indigenous Peoples to ensure their voices are heard, listened to, and understood… and take action.

I feel hopeful when I see and listen to Indigenous leaders and influencers who share their vision for the future. I am  inspired by their clarity and determination. I am learning from them as Indigenous People in Canada are focused on rediscovering and restoring their culture, protocol, and language. As a second-generation Chinese Canadian, I can empathize with the disconnection of assimilation under the guise of multiculturalism, but cannot empathize with the genocide of my people and culture for the sole purpose of exploiting natural resources, the economy, and ownership of land. I was thinking it’s like somebody coming in and taking your aunty or cousin and owning them or  exploiting them for their resources. Who does that? Indigenous People have a relationship to the land and natural world. It’s a community that extend beyond the person. Think about how much is taken from the land and not restored or replaced. The whole idea of climate change must be devastating. I can’t.

As I wrestle with my identity and ethnic identity, I admire how Indigenous Peoples were able to find the stories, songs, and traditions and revitalizing the joy and meaningful experiences to reignite and reinforce who they are. Just like many generations of Indigenous Peoples, I have no language and culture. I love how they are going back to the land and elders to learn what needs to be learned to move forward. The resilience and persistence to recover and maintain their culture in addition to heal from the experiences, loss, and trauma incurred from Residential Schools  and limitations of the Indian Act is admirable and humbling. I can only learn from Indigenous Peoples, but also stand beside them to help in any way to support and understand our collective journey together seeking truth and reconciliation.

Lately, I’ve been wrestling with my identity and was asked what name would I like to use for a presentation and soon to be publication. i started life as “Alice Christine Ho” with Alice as my legal first name and Christine as my given name. Confusing and annoying at the same time for lots of reasons for many years of my life and I hated my last name Ho because it was not a “Canadian” name. It was Chinese. I just didn’t identify as Chinese…  as Alice… or Christine. I could not stand my name. To top it off, my sister’s first name is “Allison” and my twin brother’s middle name is “Christopher.” I did not feel like I had a name of my own that I liked. Admittedly, my name has been the ultimate identity killer… and to realize as a midlife adult that I was colonized by my parents to  be a “good Canadian” kills me (a little bit more). Who the hell am I?

As a young adult, I found some agency and called myself “Chris Ho.”  Yes…  I wrote a blog about it, Rebrand as Chris Ho. I was thinking in another pandemic reflection about my name AGAIN.  My name is always on my mind. I hate when organizations ask for my name… I always say, “I don’t know.” After I married, I made a huge effort to call myself “Christine Younghusband” even though I made my legal documents and graduate degrees to read “Alice  Christine Ho Younghusband.” Ultimately, I was undecided. Now in  my new independent life as an academic, I need a name that I publish with. Honestly, it took a life of its own a few years ago at SFU and started as “Christine Younghusband,” but I spent some time at UNBC rebranding as “Christine Ho Younghusband.” Now, I’m asked what name do I want to use for a publication.

I was so desperate for an answer, I asked a couple friends, put out a Twitter poll, texted my family, and asked my PLN in a DM. The poll leaned on “Christine Ho Younghusband,” my family said “Christine Ho,” and my friends said use “Dr. Christine Younghusband” professionally and something else personally (like Christine Smith or Allison Crocs). Love the humour of my friends. What resonated with me more was what some people said on Twitter…  “What name resonates with you the most?” “What name feels authentic to you?” “What name best represents who you are today?” All very good questions that brought me to a place of deep reflection. Ultimately, I am every permutation of “Alice Christine Ho Younghusband” which my PLN noted the “achy” initials. Tell me about it!!! In the end, I am all of these names.

As I struggle with my name, “Dummy Bad Boy” was on the CBC. Damn. All Indigenous Children were “named.” What a huge disconnection from one’s identity in addition to being separate from land, family, and community. I can’t even imagine. My name issues and sense of identity reflects only a fraction of what Indigenous Peoples in Canada experienced. If anything, I can empathize. And because I do, in ways of my name, cultural erasure, and colonization, I am committed to the TRC Calls to Action and finding ways to decolonize, indigenize, and create space to advocate, support, and lift Indigenous Peoples on our journey towards truth and reconciliation.