I woke up this morning and saw my friend posted a status update on Facebook saying that he’s changing his name from Ken to Alexander. While his parents gave him the name Alexander, he used the name “Ken” when he first came out in America because of a bad experience. Ken told me that he met this one guy when he first came out and when he told him that he wanted to stop seeing him this guy threatened to out him to his parents. Learning from his bad experience, he started using the name “Ken.”
I have to admit that I’ve known Ken as Ken for over ten years and it would be a bit strange to call him Alexander. But I guess I’ll get used to it.
Apparently this is not an uncommon phenomenon. When I first came out at Berkeley, I met this guy named Anthony at the clubs and later he told me that his real name was Jonathan. He explained to me that “Anthony” was his “gay name” or “party name.” Not to mention that I was in a relationship with a guy named Justin whose real name was Roger. He claimed he liked Roger better as a name.
Is this a phenomenon just for gay Asians who are scared to be outed to their family or is this a common phenomenon for young gay men in general? It reminds me of the concept of a stage name or porn name. In the porn industry, it is de rigueur to use an alias whether you’re an actor, director or photographer.
Personally, I do find using another name a bit strange these days. When I was younger, I toyed with the idea of using a nom de plume in writing. As a teenager, I used the nom de plume “Quentina De Cat” with campy fun. As an adult and a filmmaker, I’ve really grown into the name “Quentin” that my parents gave me. In fact, it was my crazy and sophisticated Aunt Bobo who suggested the name “Quentin” to my parents who then decided to name me “Quentin.” Of course, they probably weren’t aware of the famous Quentin Crisp.
But let me tell you, being Quentin hasn’t been easy. Growing up in Hong Kong, my teachers had a tough time pronouncing that name. Every morning, “Quentin” was an eyesore for my teachers on a roll call sheet from kindergarten to high school. “Can’t you just be a Ken or Michael or Paul?” grumbled one teacher I remember.
When I first started film festivals with my first feature Shopping for Fangs, journalists would ask, “Did you change your name to Quentin because of Quentin Tarantino?” They must be thinking that how could this Chinese guy have a name “Quentin?” You know what, on my birth certificate, it has my Chinese name in Chinese and then “Quentin Lee” in English.
I am Quentin Lee. Looking back, I have to say that they picked the right name for me and I’m proud of it.