Last night, I let my heart break, and I drowned in it. I asked my ceiling why. I snuck into my daughter’s room as she slept and wondered what the world could see to hate in her, enough that they would let this happen. At midnight, my husband and I toasted to the end of the world, because that’s truly what it felt like. The end.
Today, against all odds, the sun rose. And now we have to figure out how to live another day. Another week. Another four years. Another lifetime, with the knowledge that – when pressed – this country values their systemic, toxic prejudice over the lives and rights of women. People of color. Immigrants and refugees. The LGBTQIA+ community. Muslims. Countless others. Countless other human beings, that by virtue of their identities, will not have even the illusion of safety today, or tomorrow, or probably for a long time after.
I am a writer. I got into this business because I wanted to use the tools that best fit my hands to create change. Despite the horror I’m feeling today, the sadness, the shame, that conviction has only grown stronger. I have been unbelievably lucky to find a community and a home through my work, friends, colleagues, supporters that make it worth it to fight this fight every day. In my grief, and my anger, I want to renew the commitment I made when I started down this path: To write our stories. To buy them. To shout about them from the rooftops, and to read them like there’s no tomorrow.
Since the first whisper that my work might be published, I’ve been considering a pen name. I’m a very private person when it comes to personal matters, and my legal last name has never been a part of my online presence, but when it came to my work? I wanted something that was truly mine, something I chose like I chose the work I want to dedicate my life to. Nothing stuck. Nothing felt right. But I woke up this morning with an answer.
From now on, my published work and my online accounts will bear a name I’m deeply proud to be connected to. The name of a woman who sacrificed for our family, who made choices to keep her kids safe that I’m only now beginning to understand. My grandmother was born a Mejia, and with her support and yours that’s the way I’d like to be known to this community from now on.
I anticipate questions, and possibly some misunderstandings, so I’d like to be as clear as possible: This will not be a legal name change, it will be a pen name. A tribute. My grandmother has always been a force in my life, a reminder to be strong, and a reminder of what’s beautiful about the things that make me different. I’m in no way ashamed of the other parts of me, and I don’t wish to take anything that’s not mine or diminish the privilege I was born with as a biracial woman. My parents chose my first name, and they’re present in everything I do and write. The middle name Kay will stand as a nod to my husband and daughter, who share the last name Kinney. But I would like to stand with my grandmother too, and with my family – blood and chosen – that are hurting now.
I hope you’ll think of this choice as a testament to all my families, their strength, the things they’ve given to me as a writer and a mother and a human. And, of course, to the Latinx community I’ve been overwhelmingly blessed to be accepted by as we work together against old obstacles and new ones.
As always, I welcome your questions and your feedback. The way I see it, our country’s decision last night made brothers and sisters in arms of us. I will keep fighting in all the ways I fought before, I will find new ways to fight. I will be proud to stand with you, and work beside you.
Tehlor Kay Mejia