When I was in middle school and high school I would tell all my friends that my middle name was Rose, and after 6 years of lying to all my closest friends I started to believe that my middle name was actually Rose. It didn’t occur to me that I had been creating an elaborate lie about myself because I was embarrassed of my heritage and about my family.
Some background on Tash: When I was about 3 years old my mother and father separated, this wasn’t jarring or life changing for me because I was really only emotionally attached to Betty and my cat Montana. My father left me two important things when he moved to Lebanon – a tape I found when I was about 16, and a lifetime of crisis surrounding my cultural identity. The tape held the sound of his voice, which I had only heard for about 25 minutes once a year, and a story of struggle and divorce. This was not the easiest tape to listen to and honestly it allowed me to forgive him. The crisis however didn’t go away as fast as I had expected. I still carry that with me today.
When I graduated high school in 2008, I went on to college and decided that I would start my life over and no longer be the gothic, white girl I had been for 6 years. I decided that I would be the gothic half white girl. Through many small ice breakers in various clubs I attended I made it my goal to slip in my real middle name and shock a few people. I had never shared in a public setting in fear of being different or being recognized as ‘the other’. In my freshman year of college my roommate, who turned out to become my closest friend, was someone whom I first confided my middle name to in the new environment. I remember attempting to hide it and feeling ashamed when she asked; I felt so sure that she would accidentally give into the norms of our society and marginalize me – I thought she was going to laugh and tell everyone like it was a joke. Like my middle name was something that I choose, like my race or my ethnicity. This is why I was so taken aback when she said “oh cool”. The feeling inside my aching slightly tanned arab body was powerful. That was one of the most important interactions I had my freshman year was her reaction to my middle name – as dramatic as it might sound it will go down as one of the only times I ever felt accepted for being mixed. After being in college for a year I was confidently walking around campus introducing myself to people I met as Natasha Ibrahim Al-Rafie – in the dialect of my people I used the name as an empowerment factor. I used it as a way to make other people feel comfortable about their own cultural identity and I used it as a way of sharing my own identity story. My middle name is Ibrahim, and it is my fathers name. The Qur’an reads “Call them after their fathers. That is most just in the sight of Allah. If you know not their fathers, then call them your brothers in faith and your patrons. There is no blame on you if you make a mistake but you are accountable for what is done intentionally. Allah is Most Forgiving, Most Merciful.” [Qur’an 33:5] I am not Muslim, and I do not practice any religion – but my middle name comes from a long line of people whom accept the Qur’an as truth and it is apart of who I am.
Names are a big part of who people are, some people change their names in order to fit in, while others change them because names have meaning to them. For me my name was shameful and it changed my outlook on life until I realized that I needed to accept myself for everything that I am…
“We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.”
― Dalai Lama XIV