On January 29th I applied for a change to the Registry Office in Wrocław, more precisely to the Department of Rectification, Supplementation and Invalidation of Civil Registry Acts and Change of First and Last Names. I paid 37 zlotys of stamp duty and 8 zlotys for the tram fare from my home to the Office and back again.
Below there is the justification I attached to the application to change my last name.
(…) I am applying to change my last name from my father’s last name (Piskorski) to my mother’s maiden name (Zeic). I would like to justify my application by the means of the four reasons below:
1. For me, returning to the line of the mothers is a symbolic and feminist gesture. From generation to generation we lose our mothers’ last names, we keep losing them anew only to lose them again in a while. The history of our genealogy is the history of forgetting, history written by the male line, history of transferring (identity/property) from the name taken from the father to the name taken from the husband. I would like to reject this tradition which I do not like and do not respect, expressing my hope that the Wrocław City Hall will support me in this decision. At the same time I realize that my micro-gesture of returning to the line of the mothers is, in fact, a return to the line of one mother – after all, she received her name from her father. Going further back: her mother (my grandmother) said goodbye to the name Gronczewska when getting married, and my great-grandmother said goodbye to Gabrych. Here, I will quote Sara Ahmed who, in her book Living a feminist life, states: “In this book I adopt a strict citation policy: I do not cite any white men. By white men I am referring to an institution. (…) Citation is feminist memory. (…) Citations can be feminist bricks: they are the materials through which, from which, we create our dwellings. (…) Perhaps citations are feminist straw” (Ahmed 2017).
The decision to change my name is, for me, the decision to cite my mother.
2. Fate which, in fact, was not fate, but the historical policy of People’s Republic of Poland, arranged my family history in such a way that my mother’s father, Edmund, was born with a different last name – specifically: Zeitz (pronounced Tseits). The name was polonized in 1953 “due to pressure”. My mum, born in 1955, was thus the first person in the family born as Zeic. Polonizing this German name was a normalizing, normative and nativist act – one consistent with other actions of the time aimed at creating a Polish-Soviet identity. A strange linguistic hybrid was created and ever since nobody has known how to write this down. A return to this hybrid form seems to me an act well-fitted to my non-normative and socially incompatible homosexual body.
3. Fate, this time, in turn, in the shape of German grammar, provided me with one more gift, as the last name Zeic is not gendered as most Polish last names are (feminine Piskorska/ masculine Piskorski). Thus, this name makes it possible to take one more step towards a slightly more nonbinary identity, a slightly more queer identity and a pleasant liberation from the unbearability of the Polish language which genders ANYTHING IT CAN. A language that requires making a large number of linguistic contortions in order to use vocabulary that would be more neutral when it comes to gender, which, on the one hand, is good fun and a practice in mindfulness, but on the other, can tire one out. I will quote here: “How can the words not be good enough?” (The Argonauts, Maggie Nelson). Thus, it turns out that a feminist act can also be a queer act, which directs us beautifully towards intersectionality and reminds us (hopefully) that one does not preclude the other.
4. And the final reason, dear clerk person who is dealing with my application. I will quote statistics here: about 3 to 4 million people in Poland live in families who experience alcoholism, addiction and codependency, 1.5 to 2 million children are raised in such families. My decision is caused also by the simple fact that I was a part of this group, and the change of last name will make it possible to take one more step away from my alcoholic father. Which, as I am certain, will bring me a lot of joy. And perhaps it will bring some one else one more peaceful breath due to my experience becoming public. It does something to me when I read about things like that, perhaps it will do something to another person as well.
Please consider my application positively.