But when I thought about the name Bree, something just clicked. I didn't really "decide" to be Bree; I just suddenly made the realization that, yeah, Bree is me. I sorta blogged about this before, if you recall (well, nobody read my blog at the time so it's more like a treasure hunt for an archive binger; look near the beginning since it was during my Interpersonal Communications class), about how my birth name had always felt wrong, and there was something just so fundamentally right about Bree, which made me go, "Yep. That's me. It truly is." And it is!
Yet because it's been drilled into my head for 20+ years and I still need to use it in real life thanks to my closeted status, my birth name still pops out in my mind...which causes some incredible distress in me. It's bad enough that others in real life if I did tell them would doubt it. But even my own mind is effectively saying, "You're not a girl!" And that hurts me a LOT. It's incredibly damaging to me. I don't have much self-confidence at all, so hearing that is...just not what I need. I know I am one, so being told I'm not one is something that is a truly epic punch to the gut.
I'm not really sure there's a way to describe it. It's like...yeah, I'm a girl. Things would be easier if I wasn't. But it took me a long time to accept that, yes, I am one. Sorta similar to my bipolar disorder in that it's a fundamental part of me, something I was born with, that I have to live with. Yet unlike the bipolar disorder, there's always that nagging, self-doubt which destroys me because of how damaging it is, where I break down. I really do wish I was born a girl. I desire it more than anything else in the world. It's a fact, it's not a fantasy, basically any trans individual would know exactly what I mean, but I'm sure that a fair number of them then will also understand that gut-wrenching feeling when your own mind tells you you're not who you know you are.
It's probably something that could be called a form of dysphoria, but a mental one rather than a physical one. Instead of having that sinking feeling upon seeing my body (the only time that happens is when I accidentally catch a reflection of myself naked after taking a bath/shower, because I've numbed myself to my own face and don't really recognize it as me, and am very good at projecting a self-image of having the right parts, feeling like have them even when I don't), it's a sinking feeling upon having my mind tell me, "You don't really think you are, do you?" Which fills me with a bunch of self-loathing, hate, and doubt.
It's...hard to describe. Struggles of a trans person, and probably not one most have to face. I don't know. I'd probably have to ask in the thread about it, yet (aside from the fact that I have that access issue right now) I'm not entirely sure I'd know how to ask about it in the first place. The words aren't there.
A related note is how, sadly, when someone does call me Bree, my mind isn't instantly making the connection that they're talking about me. Admittedly, this is online (obviously, given my situation), where I'm used to being called by my internet name, so being called 'Bree' is about as common as a user named "random_person435" whose real name is Steve getting called Steve rather than something like RP, Random, or Person.
Butstill, all the same, I know I am, first and foremost, Bree. So the connection should be there. Yet while I know I am Bree, it's something so rare in my life that I don't make that instant recognition. A bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy, maybe, a catch-22 of sorts: I'm not called Bree because it's not what I'm used to be called and I'm not used to being called Bree because I'm not called by others frequently enough by that name.
Solution? Well, apart from increased visibility as Bree (increasing its usage in areas outside games, because using a real-life name inside a game is confusing more often than not), which some users are already helping me with, there's something I can do which will also fix the first problem: mental conditioning.
See, my online name has fairly strong similarities to my birth name: two syllables, five letters, three of which are a, i, and n. Plus, the way I pronounced them, they both end in the sound, "ehn". Yet now, some internet friends are tacking on an extra 'a' to my internet name...which if you keep the correlation between internet name and birth-name (which I do; I often refer to real-life acts by my internet name and vice-versa), creates for my real-life name, "Brian(n)a", the legal name I am planning on taking. (Bree would be the nickname, akin to Samantha-->Sam.)
If I begin to do the same thing they're doing, that is, in my mind tacking on the extra 'a', mentally correcting myself to that every time, then it will also by proxy of internet-->real-life-->shortening, strengthen Bree as a name, and weaken my birth-name. I'm optimistic: this is probably the best I can do in real life while closeted to make an effort at change. So there you have it.
Still would be much easier if I had a real-life friend I could rely on, but sadly, I don't. Would be ridiculously easy if I could be publicly out, too, since while a fair number of slip-ups would happen, enough time would get more Brees than my birth name. Since that can't happen thanks to my bigoted family, again, this self-conditioning is about the only thing I can do to help myself right now. I'm not sure how good an idea it is, but it seems like a good one so I'm doing it.