Lessons Learned: Hello my name is…

a red and white sign that says hello my name is man.

a red and white name tag that says 
"hello my name is man."
(Lyndzi Ramos | Daily Trojan)

Man. Or rather, my name is Mẫn. But call me Man, as in the word— wait for it — “man.” Surprising, huh? Within the Anglosphere, feel free to call me Man.

What’s the origin of a name? Well, my name’s pronunciation in English comes from a core memory in my childhood, when my first-grade teacher called me “Man.” Now, as a five-year-old kid who barely spoke a lick of English, who was I to tell a teacher how to say my name? So, for the rest of my life, my name would be pronounced how it is.

But the true origin of my name comes from the word “minh mẫn,” meaning “lucid or sagacious.” My maternal grandfather gave me this name after my dad’s first name, Minh, which has the same origin. In fact, you’ve probably heard of the name Minh before (thanks, comrade Ho Chi Minh). So, my name’s akin to “little Minh” or “Minh Jr.” But I prefer Mẫn, because our names make up so much of who we are.

But how many of us have to really live up to our names? In my case, that’s especially hard, even more so when my name in English is a homonym to “man.” Growing up, before I even knew who I was, I was already living in the shadow of my own name. “Your name is Man, so you should act like one.”

But in a rapidly changing world, when the definitions of masculinity and what it means to be a man differs greatly, what kind of man did I want to be? I found myself pulled in different directions — to fit into the stereotypical mold of the Western heteronormative view of masculinity or to explore other values and stumble upon my own definition of what it means to be a man.

If you know anything about me, I am far from stereotypical, and I don’t think the terms hetero or normal apply to me, either. Carrying a name with such a heavy implication definitely got me fucked up growing up. I found myself especially struggling with my identity and sexual orientation.

Being a shy, sensitive young boy, it wreaked havoc on my mental health and self-acceptance. Years of internalized homophobia and low self-esteem aside, I was able to become who I am through great men (and women!) who taught me how to carve my own values out of the mess we call society.

I found that great men do things earnestly — whether it be building a house with nothing but stone tools, risking involuntary amputation working at an oil rig or simply sucking another man’s dick — because there is nothing more masculine than two men getting physical with each other.

So, in my soul searching, I found that there isn’t really a defined set of things that I had to do to live up to my name — I just had to find what mattered to me. And what matters to me is fostering healthy relationships, cooking yummy meals, expressing my thoughts and feelings into art and writing.

Part of why I write today is because I want to share with people that there isn’t one way to live life. The opinions and views of dead people long before us don’t matter. In the one life we get to live, we’re just supposed to let some dinosaur tell us how to live properly? Be so fucking for real. What are they going to do? Tell me off through Ouija board? I don’t think their data plan supports that anyway.

It took me so long to come to like my own name. Of course it gets annoying when someone makes a pun with my name — it’s literally a homonym, talking about low-hanging fruit (smirks) — but God gives His toughest battles to His strongest soldiers.

After coming upon the cultural heritage of my name, I’ve grown a deeper appreciation for it. Of course it’d be nice if everyone could learn to pronounce my name as it is in Vietnamese, but what can I expect from a population of people barely struggling to grasp their one and only language (laughs in American). I find the Vietnamese pronunciation more associated with home and enjoy the comfort in it when an older Vietnamese person recognizes and says my name. Except for the one time in my “The American War In Vietnam” class when my professor called me Mẫn in an English- speaking setting. I think my brain might have had a software update.

Man Truong is a rising senior writing on reflections made in life. He makes sense of a world full of different beliefs and philosophies in his column, “Lessons Learned.”